Ballet shoes in colours that match black and Asian skin tones are being made in the UK for the very first time.
Up until now pointe shoes have always been pale pink, nude or cream in colour, but in a step forward for diversity they will now be made in a range of darker shades.
The move is part of a collaboration between professional company Ballet Black and dance shoe design and manufacturing company Freed of London and has been “over a year in development” according to the Ballet Black website.
In the past, due to the lack of shoes to match their skin colour, black or Asian dancers were forced to ‘pancake’ their shoes, which means covering them in foundation or powder.
According to Cira Robinson, senior dancer at Ballet Black, this process can take “up to two hours to complete and require up to three coats of expensive make-up.”
“Having a shoe made to fit my skin tone is an absolute dream that I never thought would come true,” she said.
“Pancaking has been the way of the dance world for years and to think that colouring my shoes and ribbons to match my skin (since we don’t wear ballet tights) gives me a different sense of liberation that I can’t quite put into words. I am very pleased, to say the least.”
Although ballet shoes created for women of colour have been available in the US for more than a year, this is the first time they will be handmade in the UK.
Ballet Black hopes that the darker coloured shoes will encourage more British children to get involved in ballet and show them that the discipline is accessible to everyone.
“I am beyond delighted that Freed have launched these two new colours,” Cassa Pancho MBE, founder and artistic director of Ballet Black said of the release.
“Although it may seem like a very small change to the outside world, I believe this is an historic moment in British ballet history and another step forward for culturally diverse dancers across the globe who wear the iconic Freed brand of shoe.”
The progressive change has been met with approval from social media too.
“Thank you so much for this pinnacle change. As a mother of a young black dancing student this makes my heart sing. The struggle with ‘nude’ colours are very real,” one user wrote on Instagram.
“Well done (if belated by a few decades!),” another agreed.
“Fantastic colours. Well done for taking this step!” a third user commented.
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