Nearly sixty years after Arthur Mitchell became the first black male ballet dancer in a major company (New York City Ballet, 1955), and thirty years after Bill T. Jones formed his own dance company, the number of Black (and Asian) ballet dancers worldwide still remains starkly low.
In 2012, Olivia Goldhill and Sarah Marsh wrote in The Guardian, “Classical ballet celebrates pale princesses and fair swans. It’s a world where dancers cake their limbs in white powder, and where performers with darker skin don’t always feel welcome.”
Tyveze Littlejohn, who grew up on Jacksonville’s Westside, understands this feeling all too well. As a student in the 6th and 7th grades, he auditioned for LaVilla School of the Arts, without success. While he had always gravitated to dance, he had received very little actual training up to that point. Not only could his parents not afford the cost of lessons, or the other items needed, they fundamentally didn’t believe being a ballet dancer was a masculine enough profession for their son.