Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2018

Department 1

Africana Studies


In June of 2015, Misty Copeland became the first black woman promoted to a Principal Dancer in the American Ballet Theatre: a prestigious emblem of the institution of ballet, which is historically almost exclusively white. This stands in stark contrast with American sporting institutions like basketball and track and field, in which black athletes have achieved prominence. The immediately logical explanation is the financial inaccessibility of ballet to black Americans who live disproportionately in poverty and prefer athletic outlets where specialized equipment and one-on-one training are not required. However, this paper will present a second explanation for the persistent inaccessibility of ballet to black bodies. Where white hegemony is historically content to exploit black bodies for athletic advantages, ballet is a form of art before it is a conventional sport, and its rigidly white idea of beauty is considered an art worth preserving rather than a competitive landscape worth widening.


Written for AFS 250: Block Bodies in American Sporting