Diversity and Inclusion

The School of American Ballet (SAB) considers the artistic representation of cultural and racial diversity as essential to the art form.  As a premier training academy whose graduates are poised to join and ultimately head dance organizations worldwide, SAB recognizes its responsibility in creating a community that embodies equity and inclusion through its behaviors, policies, and practices.  SAB believes that it must be proactive in ensuring access to its auditions and training, as well as in providing the necessary financial, developmental, and social support for qualified students of all backgrounds.

SAB’s Diversity Initiative first launched in 2012 with the intention of bringing more dancers of color to professional stages.  Since then, the School has experienced significant changes in the student body which has inspired deeper organizational learning for all members of the organization in regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  No longer an initiative, the School’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is now becoming a lived-priority of the organization and its members.

Since 2018, SAB has been one of twenty-one ballet organizations participating in The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet.  This important effort is led by Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dance/USA, and the International Association of Blacks in Dance and is described as “a collaborative learning community and cohort committed to achieving diversity and inclusion in professional ballet.

Recruiting and Outreach

Meet the Dancers portion of community lecture demonstrations

The School of American Ballet believes that it can best influence diversity in ballet through seeking and training a racially diverse student body prepared to enter the professional dance world. The Recruiting and Outreach Department works to support this mission and is committed to expanding access to SAB’s programs to students from all backgrounds.  For the 2019-2020 Winter Term, SAB’s student body is composed of 45% self-reporting students of color.

Community Performances

SAB’s free lecture-demonstration, The Beauty of Ballet, provides a child-friendly introduction to ballet for family audiences in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem, and Queens. In performances presented annually since 2009, SAB faculty member Katrina Killian and SAB’s advanced students demonstrate the principles of classical training and perform variations from well-known ballets, offering children and families the opportunity to connect with the world of ballet right in their own backyards. SAB is pleased to partner with Aaron Davis Hall, Queen’s Theater, Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, and Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture to present The Beauty of Ballet in 2020.

Community Auditions

In 1998, SAB expanded recruiting for the Children’s Division by offering free Community Auditions to children aged 6-10 at neighborhood sites in Harlem, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Chinatown. These annual spring auditions have led to a marked increase in the diversity of the student body.  For example, 74% students of color who auditioned for SAB’s Children’s Division for the 2019-20 Winter Term auditioned at a community location.

National Audition Tour

The National Audition Tour provides SAB with the opportunity to audition serious ballet students from around the country for its annual Summer Course and Young Dancer Series.  To increase the number of applicants of color who participate at these auditions and subsequently enroll in its programs, SAB has increased communication with local teachers and schools, as well as collaborated with alumni who maintain significant ties to diverse dance communities nationwide.

Student Life

Student Life at SAB is committed to fostering a welcoming, inclusive environment for students in all divisions. The Student Life staff considers ‘diversity’ to be an umbrella term designating an abundance of scales on which students, faculty and staff may differ from one another, and is dedicated to promoting conversation and awareness about these differences.

As a part of SAB’s commitment to the health of its student body, faculty, staff and students are required to participate in professional development and programming that address topics of diversity, inclusion, and empathy. Programming includes:
  • Professional development for faculty and staff, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace as it relates to SAB’s mission and goals.
  • New Student Experience’ Programming: a series of workshops for new Intermediate and Advanced students that covers topics such as inclusivity and leadership.
  • Personal Enrichment Program: a series of workshops for students in all divisions that cover topics such as identity, implicit bias, microaggressions, and empathy.
  • Mentoring and networking experiences for students of color through conferences and symposiums with partnering organizations.
  • Student Life and Residence Life Professional Development, with explicit focus on topics of identity, equity, and inclusion.

Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity & Inclusion

2019-2020 SAB Alumni Advisory Committee

The School of American Ballet’s Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion was formed in 2015 to provide essential support and guidance for the School’s Diversity Initiative. The Committee is comprised of alumni of color with significant ties to the professional dance world who have been invited by SAB’s leadership to serve in this consultative role.

The focus of the work of the Committee includes, but is not limited to, national outreach, the building and strengthening of alumni networks, and diversity programming for current SAB students.

2019-2020 Alumni Advisory Committee

Aesha Ash, Founder of The Swan Dreams Project, Ballet Instructor/Coach and Pilates Instructor; SAB’s 2018-2020 Visiting Faculty Chair; former New York City Ballet corps member, former soloist with Béjart Ballet Lausanne and Alonzo King Lines Ballet

Debra Austin, Ballet Mistress, Carolina Ballet; former New York City Ballet corps member; former Zurich Ballet soloist, former principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet

Darius Barnes, Broadway Performer in Mean Girls; Past Broadway shows include Memphis, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark; Cinderella, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Kiss Me Kate, former member of New York City Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Metropolitan Opera

Hinton Battle, Director, Choreographer, Producer, and Tony Award Winner; former dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem

Kareen Camargo, Faculty member, Miami City Ballet School and New World School of the Arts; former member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Miami City Ballet

Anthony Carr, Dancer, Choreographer, Actor (credits include Hairspray (film), Justin Bieber’s “My World” Tour, Missy Elliot Promo Tour; SAB’s Boys Program alumnus

Darius Crenshaw, Broadway Performer in The Color Purple, The Phantom of the Opera, Motown the Musical, Hello Dolly!; former member of New York City Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, LA Opera, Opéra de Toulon; TV and film credits are The Last Five Years, Rent Live

Heidi Cruz-Austin, Co-Director, DanceSpora Dance Company; faculty at Muhlenberg College, Temple University and University of the Arts; former dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet and Ballet X

Maurice Brandon Curry, Executive Artistic Director at Eglevsky Ballet; former dancer with Carolina Ballet, Kaleidoscope Dance Company, Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal, and DancEllington

Duane Cyrus, Associate Professor of Dance, University of North Carolina at Greensboro; former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Martha Graham Dance Company

Sandra Fortune-Green, Artistic Director, Jones-Haywood Dance School, Inc.; former dancer with The Washington Ballet and the Capitol Ballet Company

Kiyon Gaines-Ross, Director of Company Operations, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Program Manager of PNB’s Next Step Choreographer Showcase; Resident Choreographer, Ballet Arkansas; former soloist with Pacific Northwest Ballet

Robyn Gardenhire, Founder and Artistic Director, City Ballet of Los Angeles; former dancer with Cleveland Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The White Oak Dance Project, Karole Armitage

Gladisa Guadalupe, Artistic Director, Cleveland Ballet; former principal dancer with Ballet de San Juan, Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas, The Cleveland-San Jose Ballet, The Cleveland Ballet

Craig Hall, Ballet Master, New York City Ballet and faculty member, School of American Ballet; former New York City Ballet soloist

Francesca Harper, Artistic Director, The Francesca Harper Project, Artistic Director of the Movement Invention Project, Choreographer; former principal dancer with Ballet Frankfurt and member of Dance Theatre of Harlem; former Broadway performer in Fosse, The Producers, The Color Purple

Gen Horiuchi, Executive and Artistic Director of Saint Louis Ballet; former New York City Ballet principal

Aaron Jackson, Faculty member, The Washington Ballet School and The Dance Institute of Washington; former dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Washington Ballet

Damien Johnson, Faculty member, The Washington Ballet; former Senior Artist with Ballet Black

Jermel Johnson, Principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet

Andrea Long-Naidu, Faculty member, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet; SAB’s 2017-2018 Ford Foundation Visiting Faculty Chair; former principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem and New York City Ballet corps member

Joseph Malbrough, Lecturer in Dance, Purchase College and faculty member, Ballet Academy East; former principal dancer with Chicago City Ballet, Ballet Chicago, and L’Opera de Lausanne, Switzerland

Steven Melendez, The Hiland Artistic Director at NDI New Mexico; former principal dancer with New York Theatre Ballet, former principal dancer with The Vanemuine Theater, Estonia and international guest artist

Monique Meunier, Assistant Professor of Ballet, University of California Santa Barbara and Balanchine Repetiteur; former Ballet Master and Director of Trainee Program at The Washington Ballet; former New York City Ballet principal

Renee Robinson, Freelance Artist; Lecturer Theatre Studies, Yale University; former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Henry Seth, Freelance Artist, Ballet Instructor, and Coach; former New York City Ballet corps member

Margaret Severin-Hansen, Principal Dancer and Founding Member of Carolina Ballet, Artistic Director of the Ruth S. Shur Summer Intensive, Assistant Director at the Triangle Academy of Cary, N.C., faculty member School of Carolina Ballet

Leyland Simmons, Ballet Instructor and Resident Choreographer at Harlem School for the Arts; Choreographer; former dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Ailey II

Eric Underwood, Movement Director and Choreographer; Model with Purple and Elite Models; former soloist with The Royal Ballet

National Visiting Fellows

The School of American Ballet (SAB) established the National Visiting Fellows program in 2015 with the intention of cultivating relationships with teaching professionals from around the country who are committed to training students from diverse backgrounds. This aids in our effort to build partnerships with dance institutions around the country and investigate potential strategies for national development. Since it began, SAB has awarded fellowships to over 25 teaching professionals across the United States and continues to maintain relationships with past Fellows. Beginning in 2018 and in partnership with past Fellows, SAB implemented National Outreach programs in Atlanta and New Orleans with free masterclasses and teacher training workshops for local students and dance educators.

Artistic Directors’ Coalition for Ballet in America

Following the murder of George Floyd, a group of leaders in the classical ballet and dance fields began meeting regularly to discuss and address how to instigate positive and lasting change within our art form. This collective, the Artistic Directors’ Coalition for Ballet in America, has turned a critical lens on their organizations and has been working since June 2020 to evaluate practices, policies and biases, to brainstorm and share, and to listen and learn from one another.