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Dancewear Giant Capezio Will Finally Offer Pointe Shoes in Darker Skin Tones

On pointe

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 13: Michaela DePrince performs 'Giselle' with the English National ballet at the Coliseum on January 13, 2017 in London, England.

Change is happening and more and more companies, leaders, and people are finally listening to the voices of Black Americans and allies demanding they be better. And one place where said change has been long overdue is in the world of ballet, where setting the “default skin tone” of products to white has been an ongoing symbol of entrenched racism.

For years, many BIPOC ballerinas have had to use makeup and other methods to make their pointe shoes match their skin tone. In many dance classes, “pink” tights and ballet slippers are required. For many non-white dancers this is a constant form of microaggression that emphasizes how they are “other” in the ballet world. It sucks.

 

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Dancers have had enough. Even with a few brands offering shoes that matched their skin tones, it was still a struggle that did nothing to address the needs of the dancing community. This week, amidst the protests and uproar, dancer Megan Watson started a petition demanding that the dance brand Capezio, “one of the largest and most well-known suppliers of ballet pointe shoes,” carry shoes to match all skin tones.

Dancer Briana Bell shared the petition and brought attention to the issue as well:

That petition was launched on Sunday, and gathered nearly 320,000 signatures. On June 10, Capezio responded and agreed that they needed to change and would immediately begin to offer pointe shoes in a range of colors. CEO Michael Terlizzi made the statement: “As a family-owned company, our core values are tolerance, inclusion, and love for all, and we are committed to a dance world free of bias or prejudice,” Terlizzi said. “We support all dancers’ dreams to express themselves through [the] beautiful art of dance.”

This is a much-overdue move for the company. While it’s nice to see how effective petitions and press attention can be, it shouldn’t have required 320,000 signatures for Capezio to get there. Like Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens announcing today they will stop locking up Black beauty products, we must highlight why these issues have gone on so long without redress. It should not have taken a national tragedy and a now-international movement against police brutality and racism to prompt a company to create dance shoes in shades that represent its community. This just shows how much systemic racism is entrenched in our country, businesses, and common practices like a cancer.

It is great that these things are changing, but it is still saddening and depressing that it took this long and a movement this huge to make that happen.

(via WBAL, image: Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.