Dancer is compensated after being told to ‘whiten up’

Dancer is compensated after being told to ‘whiten up’


norman lebrecht

April 23, 2021

From Gramilano:

The Berlin State Ballet has agreed to pay compensation to its first and only black dancer Chloé Lopes Gomes after she exposed racism in the company, and also to renew her contract.

The labour court ordered that the French ballerina should be awarded €16,000. She said that a ballet teacher had told her to apply white powder for Swan Lake, said that she had been hired only because she was black, and told a colleague that “she thought it had been a mistake to hire me because a black woman spoils the aesthetics”.


More here.


  • John borstlap says:

    This is one of those crazy dilemmas resulting from racism and wokism. How important is the skin colour of a dancer in the context of a ballet? May it be a theme of consideration? And when is such consideration racism?

    From a purely aesthetic point of view, to have a corps de ballet of whites with one black among them, creates a need to give the black a special role, simply because of the exception he/she makes in the whole. If the choreography requires unity of aesthetic effect, you should have either everybody black or white, or – a lesser effect – 50/50. A unified corps of blacks with one white would also invite for some special role for the exception – all from a purely aesthetic point of view. All of this is NOT racism….. it all depends upon the nature of the choreography.

    Why not make use of the dancer’s skin colour? Again, it depends upon the choreography and such ideas are NOT racism.

    You cannot exclude aesthetics from a choreograpohy because of racist possibilities, you have to avoid racism by using the right choreography and use dancers’ ethnicity for the best possible effect, also aesthetically.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      I wonder if we should not look further than the colour of somebody’s skin. Perhaps we should question whether that plays a role in what is aesthetically pleasing or not. Can we seriously not just enjoy the ballet? The choreography? The music? The dramaturgy? Apols for the diatribe . . .

    • Excellent comment! How about Barbara Bonney singing the rôle of Bess in “Porgy and Bess?”

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Racism reared its ugly head at the Berlin State Ballet, and was slapped down due to the bravery of Chloé Lopes Gomes for speaking up against it.
    Brava, Chloé!!!!
    The article also mentioned racist comments aimed at Asian and Mexican dancers.
    What the hell is going on at the BSB? Were there any firings? The article linked to was too short and lacked details.

    • Joyce says:

      Fragile people like her continue to gravitate towards stages built and run by white people as if there are no better theaters in the world.

      One never hears of white performers being discriminated by black theaters that hire them as well. Correct?

      Surely exceptional people like her can find plenty of other venues built and managed by those who are non-white to perform in that are equal.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        Separate but equal? Really? Do you also hope for a return to “whites only” and “coloreds only” drinking fountains and lunch counters?

        • More DIVERSITY please! says:

          She should try more diverse venues in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, Venezuela, Africa, Cuba, Pakistan, Spain, Egypt, Greece, Japan, China, N and S Korea, etc. that also have high caliber venues.

          We certainly don’t hear enough diversity across the global spectrum on this blog. The same old stages are a bore.

        • Oren Blume says:

          Many blacks continue to demand separate but equal status. They don’t want whites, Jews, Hispanics, Asians, gays in “their” clubs and organizations.

          Here’s a prescient one by a self-indulgent A level race baiter

          Go see how you’re received by the Pan African Council and the like ‘Mr. Knowitall’!

      • Willis Kegan says:

        Good to note that discrimination does not ever occur from black run institutions against whites.

        Perhaps this dancer should have chosen more wisely and simply sought out another prestigious venue. She was chosen and PAID in the first place so her claim of racism is baseless.

        People on SD don’t seem to grasp that not everything was created by white people and don’t know of ANY other theaters of the same caliber. Very isolated commenters predictably attempting to poorly conflate their ideology with lack of world knowledge and dim acuity.

        Believing everything white is ‘best’ remains the bane of the Left particularly after CHOOSING a white male to serve as your ‘oppressive leader’. Democrats certified that it is THEY who create ‘systemic racism’. They passed over women, gays and an Indian who always stands BEHIND the man in charge!

      • Ever seen a white soprano aa Bess in “Porgy and Bess?”

  • J Barcelo says:

    Wow. Hard to believe something like this is still happening. I hope to live long enough to see world where a person’s skin color doesn’t matter. I’ve always thought people in arts are more open and tolerant. There are always exceptions, but I would think that anyone working in Berlin of all places would be more tolerant and accepting.

    • In classical ballet, aesthetics are as important as artistry. This is something that has now “contaminated” the classical music world, where looks are given too much importance by promoters and (philistine) audiences.

      In a (classical) corps de ballet, a ballerina’s physical gifts, insofar as they are needed to create very specific visual harmony and lines, matter a great deal. Thus, she cannot be too tall, too short, too thin, too bulky, and skin colour can become a concern, whereas in solo variations, skin colour is of no concern, and only the skill and artistry of the dancer are what count. These artistic concerns have nothing to do with racism.

      The remark I would heavily criticize, and it does sound racist, is the statement about her being “hired only because she was black;” that statement is absolutely unacceptable, and the ballet teacher should have been heavily reprimanded for it.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Ah, the money always fixes it. Compensate me or I’ll trash the joint.

    • BRUCEB says:

      Or, the management ignores the problem until it costs them money.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      There are labor laws and non discrimination laws in Germany. If you want to avoid being sued or “trashed”, you simply have to follow the law. These laws apply to car makers and bakeries, but also to universities and opera houses. It is not rocket science.

      They broke these laws and now they have to pay a fine – is that so difficult to comprehend? Or to appreciate? Or do you really want to live in a society where the boss can insult and denigrate his underlings any way he wants, with no consequence whatsoever??

  • I wonder if the dancers they had before always the same shade.

    • John Borstlap says:

      In the twenties there were 3 ballerina’s at the Mariinski who mysteriously had one leg in a different colour.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    A decade ago there was a film “Black Swan” based around Swan Lake . And of course the (unrelated) book of the same name by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

    This is quite ignorant behaviour in Berlin – “spoiling the aesthetics” and so on !

  • PianistW says:

    If bad taste comments like this one end up in Europe with cash compensation for the “victim” we are going to see an increase in fake demands.

  • Lyle Ericsson says:

    Yet another offended, oppressed, affirmative action hire who ends up costing an employer much more than they’re worth.

    Then people like her get even more upset ruminating over why they end up un-hirable and broke.

    • La belle plus voix says:

      It might be interesting to learn when you last saw her dance, and on what basis you make that judgement. If she is good, then her treatment is reprehensible; if bad, then it smacks of social engineering.

  • Sharon says:

    Would the same ballet have a problem with having a white dancer dance Othello?

    I believe that the American Ballet Theater and the Rockettes did not have a Black dancer until the 1980s for the same reason– “aesthetics”.

    Fortunately the New York City Ballet was a pioneer in integration. Jerome Robbins strongly supported the US mid twentieth century civil rights movement and Ballanchine, who was so interested in dance “aesthetics” that he visited art museums to get ideas for his choreography, saw beyond race and chose to focus on the aesthetic of the quality of the dance performed.

  • BigSir says:

    How often are Porgy and Bess white? Less often than a swan is black, I would guess. So quite whining, put on some make-up, give back the cash, and be grateful for this asymmetry in hiring.