Untold Stories: Black Ballerinas – Helga

As part of our #UntoldStories series, we continue to share the experiences of Black ballerinas this month.

Helga Paris Morales, originally from Puerto Rico and now based in Washington in the US, shares her story with us, touching on the lack of diversity in ballet, how blackface has ‘traditionally’ been used in the art form and the challenges she’s faced along the way.

She shares the challenges met and the responsibility she holds as a woman of colour in her industry. “Ballet has a very specific history, that is very white, very classist”, explains Helga, “In general, the aesthetic of a ballerina has a certain type of look, that favours colour schemes and people with lighter skin tones, and not those with darker skin.

There have been moments throughout her career where Helga has questioned her own position within the classic history of ballet and whether she and her ancestry fit in.⁣

“I think every black ballerina goes through similar experiences, just like black people around the world in general experience colourism”⁣.

In ballet, the name given to the company of dancers is a corpse de ballet, the idea being that everyone looks the same. Helga believes she holds a responsibility within her art form to shine a light on “redefining what this ‘same’ is”.⁣ “Being a person of colour enviably makes you stand out in this world” and with ballet descending from a very white, classist history, Morales speaks out about personal accounts of challenges faced throughout her career. ⁣

“When you get costumes and they have mesh that’s supposed to look like your skin colour – and it works for everyone else, and you’re the only one who looks bad” it can be very disheartening. ⁣

However, the rising talent refuses to “stand out for the wrong reason” or let these setbacks get her down, drawing strength and personal growth from each experience. ⁣

“Hopefully in the future, when the baton is passed towards me, I can make some changes and make it more inclusive”⁣.

You can follow Helga on Instagram here.


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