Chloé Lopes Gomes, the first Black female dancer at Berlin’s ballet Company Staatballett accused the institution of racial harassment. In an interview with the Guardian, she said was always made felt that due to her skin colour she did not fit in at the institution.
A French citizen, Lopes joined Staatballett in 2018 as a corps de ballet member. During this time she claimed that her ballet mistress constantly subjected her to racial abuse. According to her, the company’s managers also failed to take any action, even after filing several complaints. When Lopes was forced by her teacher to ‘whiten’ her skin by putting water powder, she approached the management and received temporary support. However after the then artistic director Johannes Ohman left the company, things got worse for her.
Lopes in her interview expressed how proud she felt after joining the ballet company as the first female Black dancer but the happiness slowly faded. ” The day after my audition the ballet mistress told a fellow dancer of mine she thought it had been a mistake to hire me because a black woman spoils the aesthetics. This same woman spent the next two years discriminating against me,” she said.
She was also denied a veil by her teacher. Lopes said, ” ..she laughed and in front of everyone said: ‘of course I can’t give you one; the veil is white and you are black’. I felt so humiliated.
Staatsballett later fired her stating Covid-19 as a reason but according to Lopes, her race played a bigger factor in that. The current interim director, Christiane Theobald has expressed how she got aware of the situation this year in September and she was “deeply shocked”.
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Hinting at the issue Chloé Lopes, in an Instagram post, said, “Our careers depend mainly on the ballet masters, we are with them all day long in the studio, they are the ones who coach us, they are the ones who give us the opportunities to evolve or not within a company. Their power is undeniable, it is very easy for them to abuse dancers with impunity. Ballet institutions must embody values of tolerance, acceptance, equality, and respect. It is their responsibility to protect their dancers. Unfortunately, I have experienced racism, but many dancers around the world are psychologically abused and prefer to remain silent for fear of being fired. I feel privileged to have made this vocation my profession. However, our well-being, human rights, and dignity must come first.”