San Francisco Ballet’s Yuan Yuan Tan and Davit Karapetyan in George Balanchine’s ‘Scotch Symphony,’ 2012 (Odette’s Ordeal)
It’s a well-known fact that classical ballet companies aren’t known for their diversity. With the news that American Ballet Theatre (ABT) dancer Misty Copeland has been promoted to principal, I was curious to see just how (non-) diverse the major ballet companies are.
First, I identified the top classical ballet companies in the U.S.: ABT, New York City Ballet (NYCB), San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Houston Ballet. (I didn’t look at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet because the company doesn’t use traditional levels, as far as I could tell.)
Next, I looked at each company’s roster, looking for diversity. I decided to narrow my search to solely the principal dancers to save time. I then made a spreadsheet of my findings:
Principal Dancer Diversity at Top Ballet Companies Excel Spreadsheet
The first glaring thing is none of the companies have any Black principals at this time. (Copeland will change that when she begins her new position in August.) Every company listed has at least one principal of Asian descent, and San Francisco has two.
Here’s how the various companies break down.
American Ballet Theatre (ABT):
ABT has 15 principal dancers. Four Latino/Latina dancers make up 25%+ of the company’s diversity.
Houston Ballet has the smallest group of principals with just eight dancers. The one Asian dancer and one Latina dancer combine to make up 25% of the diversity.
New York City Ballet (NYCB):
NYCB has the highest number of principal dancers at 24. Latino/Latina dancers comprise 12%+. Though not noted above, NYCB also features one dancer of South Asian descent.
Pacific Northwest Ballet:
This company has the worst diversity score. No Black or Latino/Latina dancers, and only one Asian dancer, in a group of 12 principals.
San Francisco Ballet:
With six dancers among 20 principals, San Francisco Ballet’s Latino/Latina contingent make up 30% of that company’s diversity, the largest of the studied cohort. Though not noted above, the company also features one dancer of South Asian descent.