Ballet Memphis works to diversify dancers

By Staff | September 27, 2018 at 4:09 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A nationwide project is now helping bring more diversity to dance in Memphis. The Equity Project is a three-year partnership that supports the advancement of racial equity in professional ballet companies. Ballet Memphis is one of the companies joining the movement.

“Kind of having an unfiltered look at what are the true abilities and capacities for these black dancers who sometimes have been through the best schools but have not been given the opportunity,” said Amelia Thompson, Director of Development for Ballet Memphis.

Thompson said the initiative took root as members of Ballet Memphis attended the annual International Association for Blacks in Dance conference over the years.

“Where you have either conversations about what it really means to encourage and hire black dancers and also auditions for men and women in the field,” Thompson said.

The project is an ensemble of ballet organizations from Los Angeles to Harlem. The artistic director at Ballet Memphis is excited about The Equity Project but said it has always been her goal to have the company of dancers represent the city of Memphis. This holistic approach, according to Thompson, is designed to break down industry-wide barriers and intersect systems of power and privilege.

“Leveling the playing field of having a conversation across all of these ballet companies to find out where are we when it comes to inclusion,” Thompson said.