For the first time in their career, black and Asian ballet dancers can get pointe shoes that match their skin tone

By Colleen Kratofil
November 12, 2018 11:54 AM
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Fashion and beauty brands have been gradually redefining what the term “nude” means by expanding their ranges of neutral shades of foundations, shoes, lipsticks and underwear to match a more diverse range of skin colors. And now another industry is taking a huge step forward with more shade-inclusive products. For the very first time in the history of ballet, there’s a pair of pointe shoes that were made to match black skin tones.

For the last 200 years, baby pink, a color that compliments pale skin tones, was the only hue of shoes created by pointe shoe artisans. But thanks to Freed of London, one of the largest supplier of pointe shoes, black dancers will have access to slippers that match their skin tones for the first time in their careers.

The ballet shoe brand teamed up with Ballet Black, a U.K.-based professional ballet company for dancers of black and Asian descent to create the very first pair of pointe shoes for black, Asian or mixed-race dancers. The shades “Ballet Brown” and “Ballet Bronze” join the iconic pink satin pointe shoes in Freed of London’s product lineup.

“Finding your skin color in a ballet shop, it’s something very special,” Marie-Astrid Pence told the BBC. “You have the feeling that you are a part of the industry of dance and you have the feeling that nothing is impossible.”

Before this line of dark-tone slippers launched, dancers would have to “pancake” their own shoes to darken the color with foundation that matched their skin tones.

“Pancaking your shoe is kind of a tradition, it’s just a ritual I think, but again it’s a tedious ritual, it’s a messy ritual,” senior artist Cira Robinson told the BBC.

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Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre, talked about the racist history behind the sport in a 2015 interview with The Telegraph.

“Yes. I don’t think there’s any way around it,” she says about the racist undertones. “That’s the way it was structured and built. George Balanchine [the choreographer and “father” of American ballet] created this image of what a ballerina should be: skin the colour of a peeled apple, with a prepubescent body… So when people think of ballet, that’s what they expect to see, and when they see something different, it’s ‘wrong’ .”

Thanks to dancers like Copeland, professionals at the Black Ballet company and this new collaboration with Freed of London, they’re making significant steps forward in redefining the brand’s message.

To get a pair of these handmade pointe shoes, costumers can email shop@freed.co.uk.