For most young ballerinas, receiving their first pair of pointe shoes is a momentous occasion in their dance career. Lending a sense of otherworldly weightlessness and grace to the dancers, these ballet shoes have become an indispensable part of the art form since their first known use in the early 1800s. However, while pointe shoes allow one to perform with elegance, strength, and beauty, for young Black ballerina Kira Robinson they have also been a glaring reminder throughout her life of the lack of diversity and representation within the dance community.
“As a Black ballerina, it was really tough growing up,” Robinson tells My Modern Met. “I didn't have a lot of people to look up to, mainly due to the lack of representation in the ballet world, and most of the time I felt alone. It also wasn't uncommon for me to be one of, if not the only Black dancer in my class. I wish that there had been more representation and more POC dancers for me to look up to when I was younger, but it's okay because I hope to be that for someone else.”
Ballet pointe shoes have traditionally been offered in white and pink—meant to blend in with the skin tones of white dancers, achieving a nude look as they perform under stage lighting. In order to achieve the same effect, dancers of other skin tones have had to make adaptations. Robinson herself, like many other dancers of color, had to go through the messy and time-consuming effort required to “pancake” her shoes—what dancers call the process of covering their pointe shoes with foundation to have them match their skin tone.
However, many manufacturing companies of ballet shoes and apparel are now starting to make changes in order to reflect the true diversity that exists within the industry. Thanks to these developments, Robinson was finally able to obtain a pair of pointe shoes that actually match the color of her skin tone from the dance apparel company Suffolk. The 18-year-old posted a video on TikTok to express her excitement at unwrapping her new gear, and it quickly went viral. Gaining over 1.4 million views since it was first posted, the video has received an overwhelmingly positive response from viewers who were thrilled to see the much-needed change in pointe shoe offerings.
“For me personally, it made me feel completely comfortable and free to be myself,” Robinson expresses, revealing her reaction to receiving pointe shoes in her own skin tone. “Oftentimes I felt shy and not confident in class when I was younger because I didn't fully own everything that makes me different. My skin tone, my body shape, everything that isn't traditionally what you'd think of as a ballerina I thought was a hindrance. Now I fully accept everything that's unique to me, and I embrace them. The skin tone point shoes are an outward expression of that for me.
“I hope that the dance world will see just how much those shoes meant to me because then they will recognize how more diversity in the dance world is very much needed. More diversity, more inclusiveness, more shade options in brands and companies, more representation is crucial. The ballet world has always been slow to accept POC dancers, but I'm glad that people are starting to recognize the need for more diversity. It has been a slow process, but I'm glad that people are starting to make changes.”
Young Black ballerina Kira Robinson has been faced with a lack of diversity and representation in the dance world throughout her dance career. One of her main problems: not being able to find pointe shoes that match her skin tone.
However, companies are now making changes that offer more color options than the traditional white and pink.
Watch her viral reaction to finally being able to obtain ballet pointe shoes that match her skin tone!
@kiraelonYAYAYAY i’ll show you guys how they look on later ##fyp ##CleanTok ##blackballerina ##blackgirl ##dancer ##pointe ##pointeshoes ##suffolk ##VisionBoard ##dance♬ original sound – kira <3
@kiraelonReply to @jess.yung since everyone wanted me to put them on here’s some clips of me breaking them in!! ##fyp ##pointeshoes ##blackballerina ##ballet♬ Jake25.17 sound – 🦋Olivia🦋