Thousands sign petition calling on brands to create more inclusive dancewear

Black ballerinas matter.

Thousands sign petition calling on brands to create more inclusive dancewear
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
Video byZoe Moore
June 10, 2020, 1:26 PM

Following the unjust deaths of black people in America, a mirror is being held up examining racial inequalities across many sectors -- including the world of ballet.

Many are highlighting the disparities that exist in finding inclusive dancewear. Thousands of people have signed an online petition, started by Megan Watson of Penn Hills, Pennslyvania, calling on retailers who sell dance apparel to widen their offerings.

Traditionally, ballet slippers are made in pink and beige tones, but dancers of color are calling for deeper tones that are more reflective and flattering on people of color.

Briana Bell, 18, has been dancing her entire life and participated in the Dallas Black Dance Academy and the DC3 Repertory dance ensemble.

Briana Bell, 18, has been using her platform to encourage dancewear brands to create more inclusive apparel.
courtesy of Briana Bell

The recent high school graduate used her social media platform to amplify the lack of inclusive dance clothing available and told "Good Morning America" that it has been always been a struggle for her to find nude-toned apparel that closely matches her skin tone.

"Only recently have efforts been made in the way of tights, leotards, ballet flats -- but pointe shoes are far behind," said Bell. "Out of all my numerous pairs of tights that I've acquired over the years, I can honestly say only one or two match my skin tone and I got them this year."

"The vast majority of dance stores both online and not, only offer a very limited selection of tan or brown tights and leotards," she said.

In a Twitter post featuring photos of ballerinas painting their pointe shoes brown, Bell pointed out how black dancers often have to buy cheap makeup foundation to "pancake" their ballet shoes to match their skin tones.

In 2016, dancer Ingrid Silva released a video demonstrating how to "pancake" ballet shoes by dyeing them.

One U.K.-based college student, Amy Mullen-Brown noticed the petition and amplified it in an Instagram post which has since gained the attention of over 289,000 people.

"This is something I have always been extremely passionate about," Mullen-Brown told "GMA." "I have danced since I was two and always believed that dance is for everyone and no one should be discriminated in any way because of the color of their skin."

"This issue is especially poignant now during the Black Lives Matter movement as many more resources are being shared and it's about time everyone is treated as equals."

One dancewear company, Bloch, publicly stated it would add more shades to its product line, after being cited in a petition that had over 169,000 signatures.

"Whilst we have introduced darker shades into some of our product ranges, we can confirm we will be expanding these shades into our Pointe shoe offering which will be available in Fall this year," Bloch wrote in a recent Instagram post.

"As a black dancer who has recently started doing pointe this past year, this issue bothers me deeply so I can only imagine how dancers who've been doing pointe for multiple years or even professional ballerinas feel," said Bell. "Having to go through multiple pairs of pointe shoes a week and break them in is already taxing, but having to pancake them on top of all that ... it's ridiculous and could be avoided."

Bell told "GMA" that she hoped the latest petition will push all dancewear brands to make changes to their inventory. "Something like this that seems so small and insignificant is only one of many other struggles black dancers face daily," she said.

"Many white people have commented and messaged me that they never thought about this issue because it seems like something that shouldn't be an issue at all because all the resources needed to make this disappear are well within reach," Bell adds. "So once again, why in 2020 are we still fighting this battle?"