Accomplished ballerina Copeland pays homage to her predecessors and contemporaries in this roundup of Black ballerinas.
Copeland introduces this collection from her perspective as someone who was simply a proud Black girl growing up but whose identity became more complex when she became a professional dancer. The list of Black ballerinas included here features those who played a role in Copeland’s journey, whether they never met, had only one encounter, or enjoyed an ongoing relationship. Copeland aptly points out that biracial and light-skinned women are overrepresented in this list, as they are in the dance world, with colorism being an additional barrier for darker-skinned dancers. Among these talented, dedicated artists, whose birth years range from 1917 to 1998, patterns emerge: exclusion from the White world of ballet; perseverance; international travel for opportunities; giving back to their communities; and leaving strong legacies within the dance world—sometimes documented and sometimes not. Each ballerina’s ink–and-watercolor image appears with a quote of hers on a full page facing a page of densely set, small, gray text summarizing her dance career and personal connection to Copeland. Barnes’ gorgeous illustrations of these strong, graceful dancers are enough to keep readers turning pages. With each story, the landscape of an underappreciated community of dancers of color grows wider. The perspective of an insider to this world intensifies the intimacy and interest.
This slender volume accomplishes a great deal.(Biography. 11-16)