Criminal acts of violence, like those that killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, highlight the insidious illness of racism in America. These are not isolated incidents. They are a gruesome reminder of the hate, discrimination and injustice that exists in our nation today.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre embraces diversity in our organization and stands in solidarity with Black artists, students, donors, board members, patrons, friends, neighbors and the entire Black community in the fight for equality. Black lives do matter.
We are renewing our commitment to the pursuit of racial justice and equity. The work before us is crucial and PBT stands accountable to our local communities of color and to the international dance community to do this work. We dedicate ourselves to fostering an inspiring, accessible and equitable environment that embraces and gives voice to individuals of all backgrounds, races and life experiences.
As a member of the national Equity Project, PBT is committed to the advancement of racial equity in our company, our school and our entire organization. PBT’s Equity Transformation Team is finalizing a five-year plan of action to improve racial diversity and equity throughout PBT. We will continue to provide updates in the weeks, months and years to come. Below is a brief summary of some key initiatives:
- Programming – PBT pledges to further highlight the art and voices of dancers and choreographers of color. Our partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center has always been a centerpiece of our seasons, and we will continue to foster this ongoing commitment to presenting culturally relevant work at the AWAACC. BNY Mellon presents Here + Now, originally scheduled for March 2020 and rescheduled for April 2021, features the works of three Black choreographers, including PBT Artist in Residence Staycee Pearl, sponsored by Arts, Equity & Education Fund.
- On Stage – The art we present on stage should be a reflection of the community we serve. Through long-term artistic planning and a focus on inclusivity in our company and choreography, we will bring to the stage works that embody the passion and diversity of Pittsburgh.
- Hiring and Recruitment – PBT will complete an overhaul of recruitment and hiring policies for administrative staff, artists and board members in the interest of increased equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Training of Young Dancers – PBT School’s Community Youth Scholarship, now in its seventh year, builds a pathway to training, performing and participation early in a student’s ballet education, and is renewed annually to support ambitious students through the entire PBT School program.
- Dialogue – PBT’s Equity Transformation Team is now meeting weekly for open discussions around our responsibility to our community and our art form, with over 75 PBT artists, staff, teachers and board members in attendance. The team has renewed our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in all facets of the organization.
- Organizational Training – PBT artists, faculty and staff will participate in several organization-wide diversity, inclusion and antiracism sessions each year. The first of these sessions occurred in March, with a second planned with local experts for late June.
- Community Engagement – PBT is committed to increasing the reach and impact of our education programs in the community, introducing students in the Pittsburgh area to the joy and self-expression of dance. To connect students in PBT’s community programs with PBT School, we will be introducing the Bridges program, intended to “bridge” participation in PBT’s community classes to enrollment at PBT School and further dance training.
- Public Spaces & Promotional Materials – PBT will prioritize inclusivity in our public spaces – such as the lobby and parent waiting areas of PBT Studios – through artwork that reflects our diverse organization and community and greater efforts by staff to ensure students and families of all backgrounds feel welcome. We will incorporate the same inclusion into our marketing materials, choosing photos and words that echo this commitment to creating an environment that values diversity.
- MoBBallet – an organization dedicated to preserving, presenting and promoting the contributions and stories of Black artists in ballet.
- From VISITPittsburgh, a list of Black-owned businesses in Pittsburgh to support. There are many more not mentioned on this list that you can find by searching the Cocoapraeneur database.
- The State of Black Pittsburgh 2019 – a panel conversation aired by WQED featuring PBT Company Dancer Victoria Watford.
- A list of additional educational antiracism resources.
We acknowledge the difficulty of the work to be done to dismantle racial inequity in dance and to uphold the values of equity, diversity and inclusion for all. We are committed to doing that work and keeping the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion open. The arts have always provided a pathway for change, expression and self-actualization. Art is not a distraction from the message of justice; it is an integral part of what moves and heals the world. We embrace this responsibility as we examine and expand our own role to advance racial equality in society.