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Ballet shoe maker goes viral for offering an inclusive shade range for dancers of color

Claudine Varela
Nov 14, 2018
11:22 A.M.

A ballet shoe company is making headlines for manufacturing ballet pointe shoes for dark-skinned dancers.

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Gone are the days when ballet shoes were only made in one shade of nude- one that favors light-colored skin. Today, thanks to Freed of London, mixed-race and Black ballerinas can delight in darker shades of nude ballet shoes to match their skin tone.

The brand collaborated with Ballet Black, a professional ballet company for black and Asian dancers to create these iconic pointe shoes. They developed the colors “Ballet Brown” and “Ballet Bronze” to complement darker skin.

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Prior to the birth of these new tones, dancers of color would take it upon themselves to “pancake” their shoes with foundation to make them darker. Ballet Black’s senior dancer Cira Robinson told BBC,

“Pancaking your shoe is kind of a tradition, it’s just a ritual I think, but again it’s a tedious ritual, it’s a messy ritual.”

She revealed she would use up to five tubes of foundation a week, applying them on 12 to 15 pairs of shoes. Each pair took 45 minutes to complete.

The reason behind these efforts is to achieve a seamless line from her leg to the tip of her toes, an illusion that’s necessary in ballet.

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Though Freed of London is currently making waves with its inclusive efforts, it isn’t the first company to venture into the territory. As early as 1970, Capezio began producing brown ballet shoes. Last year, Gaynor Minden offered to take orders for the production of “cappuccino” and “espresso” colored shoes. However, they were made of elastomeric plastic material which wasn’t very popular with ballerinas.

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With the birth of Freed of London’s new shades of ballet shoes, it paves the way for a more inclusive ballet industry. According to Marie Astrid Pence of Ballet Black,

“Finding your skin color in a ballet shop, it’s something very special. You have the feeling that you are a part of the industry of dance and you have the feeling that nothing is impossible.”

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