Written by Leah Asmelash, CNN

After legendary ballerina Misty Copeland known as out the Bolshoi Theatre for its use of blackface in performances, the theatre informed Russian state-run media that it could proceed the apply regardless of the criticism.

The talk began earlier this month, when Copeland — recognized for being the American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal dancer — posted a photograph of two younger ballerinas with the Bolshoi Theatre, set to carry out the traditional ballet “La Bayadère,” a tragic love story set in India.

The issue? The 2 dancers are posing in blackface.

Copeland, who just isn’t part of this manufacturing, wrote, “And that is the truth of the ballet world” because the caption on Instagram.

Vladimir Urin, the director of the theatre, told state-run RIA Novosti that the theater “won’t be included in such a dialogue” and reiterated that the ballet had been carried out in the identical approach for a few years.

‘We will not proceed to make excuses,’ Copeland says

The response to Copeland’s put up has been combined. Some criticized Copeland’s determination to put up the photograph of the younger ballerinas, opening them as much as on-line hate, somewhat than blaming the theater itself.

“that is so so so fallacious and this does not make it okay however have in mind the women dressed like this could know higher however they do not,” stated one commenter whose phrases had been posted on Copeland’s Instagram web page. “and have additionally been pressured to decorate like this and put on this make-up due to the corporate. the individuals in energy on the Bolshoi have to be taught that is fallacious.”

“I am bored with giving the oppressors the good thing about the doubt,” Copeland wrote on Instagram in response. “They must be uncovered, known as out, educated and extra. I’ve lived within the ballet world for 25 years. I’ve silenced myself round ‘them,’ and made them really feel comfy and suffered in silence. At 37 I really feel prepared and free to cease.”

“That is put up going ship individuals to a toddler’s web page,” stated one other commenter. “Not solely is she a toddler, she is a Russian youngster. Folks may be brutal on-line and a toddler should not be topic to an onslaught of hostile feedback. Certain, that make-up seems ridiculous, however….what’s the proportion of Africans dwelling in Russia and of that quantity, what proportion could be ballet dancers?”

Copeland wrote in reply, “We will not proceed to make excuses for many who select to not see what’s in plain sight and that’s the reality and actuality of so many brown kids being shot every day, and seen as adults. I do not condone bullying however classes must be had.”

Others have defended the manufacturing, saying the usage of blackface is critical for the efficiency, and that Copeland is taking an American drawback and making an attempt to use it to Russia.

Blackface had an extended historical past in theater within the former Soviet Union

Leah Feldman, a professor on the College of Chicago who research theater and the previous Soviet Union, stated in an e mail to CNN that there’s a lengthy historical past of blackface in theater throughout the previous Soviet Union.

“It is a sophisticated difficulty,” she wrote. “Nonetheless, I am strongly of the opinion that, significantly in Russia’s present local weather of rising intolerance, blackface practices can’t be decoupled from types of racism.”

Copeland has lengthy been outspoken about issues of race within the ballet — particularly lamenting the methods black individuals are informed their hair, pores and skin coloration and physique sorts do not match the ballet.

“At 7 years previous being a black lady of their college they usually’re being informed by their academics ‘you do not belong right here, your pores and skin is the fallacious coloration, your ft are too flat … we will not work along with your hair,'” she told CNN in 2018.

She additionally informed CNN that the ballet world “does not actually have a good time or have ladies of coloration.”

That is one thing she has actively labored to alter, via issues like mentoring applications and by being outspoken about the issue.

Concerning this incident, Copeland wrote on Twitter, “I get that it is a VERY delicate topic within the ballet world. However till we are able to name individuals out and make individuals uncomfortable, change cannot occur.”

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