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Black Ballerina Told to ‘Rub the Black Off’ in Russia

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By Daphne R

Precious Adams, an 18 year old ballerina who hails from Detroit is soon to become the first African American ballerina to finish at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography in the spring. But while attending the ballet school affiliated with the iconic Bolshoi Theater she has had to face persistent discrimination.

In an interview she shares her experience of a typical day at Bolshoi Ballet Academy. A group of young ladies would gather in a practice room waiting to be inspected and selected for parts in the Academy’s 240th anniversary celebration featuring superstars and ballet students from around the world.

A female instructor enters the room, looks the girls over, criticizing whether they are too heavy, too skinny or just not the right look. She steps to Precious and asked curtly, ‘What are you doing here?’ Then she asks her to leave the room. Although Precious has a pretty slender frame she doesn’t look like the other students because she is black.

Precious is no stranger to being left out of shows because of the color of her skin. In fact, she had one instructor tell her to ‘try and rub the Black off’ so that she could look more like the fairer, paler girls in her class, a look the directors favor for shows.

‘Precious said, ‘Some of the teachers know in the back of their minds that it is unfair, because they know that I can do what these other people are doing just as good if not better than them. Teachers have tried to vouch for me before, but of the almighty voice says it’s not right – it doesn’t look right – then whatever they say goes.’

Precious began ballet lessons at the tender age of 5, and by 9 she had joined the studio of Sergei Ravevsky not far from home. Later, she moved away to study and develop her talent in Toronto, New York and Monaco before winning a scholarship to study abroad in Russia at Bolshoi Academy in Moscow. The scholarship was awarded for her to study Russian and ballet during a summer intensive program. School tuition is approximately 680,000 rubles ($21,000). The school currently has about 20 America students.

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Daphne R is an experienced marketing and communications professional that provides social commentary, self-help, tips, and reports news of events that matter to African Americans.