Black ballerina 'told to whiten her skin to "blend in" with Swan Lake'

A black ballet dancer has claimed an instructor told her to whiten her skin to ‘blend in’ for performances. 

Chloé Lopes Gomes was the first black dancer hired by the prestigious German ballet company Staatsballet in 2018. But she told the Guardian she was the victim of racism almost straight away.

The 29-year-old claims her instructor demanded that she use makeup to whiten her skin for Swan Lake and refused to give her a white veil along with everyone else because of the colour of her skin.

The French ballerina did not speak English or German when she first went to work in Berlin, but was able to communicate with her instructor in Russian as she had trained at Russia’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet. 

She said this is why none of her classmates were able to hear the instructor’s comments.

The ballet mistress also allegedly made her pose to recreate a painting of a black dancer surrounded by white dancers.

The dancer said she told the company’s co-artistic director at the time about her teacher’s actions, and he responded saying she should never be forced to whiten her skin.

But he also allegedly said he could not do anything about it because the instructor had a lifetime contract. 

In October, the company told Ms Gomes her contract would not be renewed because they had to cut staff during the pandemic, but the ballerina has hired a lawyer to take the company on, the Times reported. 

Although ballerinas often whiten their skin for Swan Lake shows, Ms Gomes said this would be futile for her because her skin would never be the same shade as white people. 

Staatsballet released a statement on Tuesday saying they were investigating ‘outdated and discriminatory styles of performance’. 

The same statement addressed allegations that a different staff member made ‘strange noises’ in front of Asian dancers to mimic their language, and compared a Mexican ballerina to Pocahontas. 

‘The racist and discriminatory behaviour that was brought to light in our company deeply moves us … The necessary skills and tools to deal with issues of discrimination need to be worked on thoroughly,’ Interim artistic director Christiane Theobald said. has contacted Staatsballet for comment.

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