© 2014 Christopher Charles McDaniel

Passion, Power, and Perfection

Ballet is perfect! However, no one person has attained the level of perfection ballet calls for. But, that’s what makes it interesting. To me at least. Knowing that you’re working toward something that really isn’t tangible makes the work mean so much more.

Since I began teaching ballet, for Lula Washington Dance Theatre in a more full time position, I’ve noticed an increase in my love for the technique. I admire the cleanliness of execution, the clarity in placement, and the science of correcting something and watching it evolve. This passion for perfection makes my job harder, and makes my students want to strangle me! But why settle for anything less than perfect? I learned this from Mr. Arthur Mitchell.

Often times people ask me why black ballerinas aren’t seen more often. This frequently asked question makes for a debate that goes on and on. I respond this way: I am committed to helping develop the best dancers I can. Giving them the best technique possible, whether they’re black, white, green, or blue! From there the hope is that the powers that be (artistic directors) reward contracts accordingly.

While teaching I refuse to allow shortcuts, and I demand 100% at all times. It’s our job as teachers to do more than just come in and give a class. We should be prepared going in, and have a plan that will help take our students from one level to the next. Constantly pressing forward. We must also put our personal affectations aside and only teach the pure and unadulterated technique. When we incorporate our own “isms” we do our students, and the ballet technique at large a disservice.

Looking at the recently revealed POINTE MAGAZINE cover, I am flooded with so many emotions. The main one being pride! I feel proud of the women on there, I’m proud to say I know these women, and I am proud to be able to show my students that it IS possible! I have tangible evidence that yes, you can become a ballerina, yes, you can be of various colors, and yes, you can be on the cover of one of the biggest ballet publications being celebrated for your diversity and commitment to excellence!

I’ve known Ashley Murphy since I was about 13 years old. Not once have I seen her slack off in her work ethic. I’ve watched this beautiful girl blossom into such a sensational artist with a versatility that sets the bar high for all ballerinas. In this ever changing world, ballet should be evolving, and it is. Within that evolution the commitment to pure technique must remain prevalent, and this is why Ashley, along with several other Dance Theatre of Harlem ballerinas, has always been one of the ballerinas I use as an example for my students.

Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s so much more encouraging for young people of color to see someone who looks like them, doing the very thing they aspire to, And being celebrated for doing it well! This is the beginning of a beautiful waltz into the right direction. Congrats to the 3 stunning ladies gracing the cover, and kudos to Pointe Magazine for making it happen!

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