Misty Copeland calls out Russia's Bolshoi Ballet for blackface. They refuse to stop.

"It is painful to think about the fact that many prominent ballet companies refuse to hire dancers of color and instead opt to use blackface."
2018 American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala
Misty Copeland attends the 2018 American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala at The Metropolitan Opera House on May 21, 2018 in New York.Roy Rochlin / Getty Images file

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A Russian dance company will not stop using blackface, despite a wave of criticism directed at them earlier this month when ballet dancer Misty Copeland posted about the practice on Instagram.

Copeland, who in 2015 became the American Ballet Theatre's first female African-American principal dancer, posted a photo of two teen dancers from Russia's Bolshoi Theatre posing in head-to-toe black makeup.

"It is painful to think about the fact that many prominent ballet companies refuse to hire dancers of color and instead opt to use blackface," Copeland wrote on Twitter. "I get that this is a VERY sensitive subject in the ballet world. But until we can call people out and make people uncomfortable, change can’t happen."

Bolshoi Theatre director Vladimir Urin told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency that the ballet the dancers were a part of, "La Bayadère," had used the same costumes and makeup for years.

"The ballet La Bayadère has been performed thousands of times in this production in Russia and abroad, and the Bolshoi Theatre will not get involved in such a discussion," Urin RIA Novosti, according to the BBC.

Some had criticized Copeland for posting a photo of two teens, and others said she did not understand Russian ballet culture, but many applauded her for shining light on a racist tradition. Her original Instagram post from last week had more than 65,000 likes on Wednesday afternoon.

"Bravo to the great @mistyonpointe for using her global platform to highlight a racist practice rooted in long-standing cultural habits," writer Michael Eric Dyson wrote on Twitter. "This is the only way it can be addressed! Thank you @mistyonpointe for your courage, clarity and conscience!"