Ballet Shoes For Black And Asian Dancers Released In UK For First Time

Pointe ballet shoes in colours that match Asian and black skin tones are being made for the first time in the UK.

For women of colour, practising ballet used to mean having to paint pointe shoes to match their skin tone, as the shoes were only available in variations of pale pink, cream or nude. The process called “pancaking,” involves applying foundation or powder to the shoes.

But now dancers won’t have to spend time on the matching process – as dance shoe design and manufacturing company Freed of London has begun selling pointe shoes in bronze and brown in partnership with dance company Ballet Black.

The release of the new colours, according to the Ballet Black website, comes after “over a year in development.”

“The Freed of London ethos has always been to develop shoes to meet the needs of each generation of dancer and these new colours continue to reflect this,” it reads.

And Ballet Black founder and artistic director Cassa Pancho called the release a “historic moment in British ballet history.”

Although ballet shoes created for women of colour have been available in the US for more than a year, this is the first time they will be handmade in the UK.

Previously, dancers who had to rely on pancaking were also forced to buy shoes more frequently – as the process led to the pointe shoe “becoming soft and boggy,” according to Ballet Black senior dancer Cira Robinson, who has been with the company for 11 years.

Despite her long career in ballet, Ms Robinson told the BBC that she never thought she’d find a shoe that she could just put on and go.

“I never thought that would happen,” she said.


French dancer Marie Astrid Mence also explained the rarity of finding ballet shoes in a colour that matches her skin tone prior – and the feeling now that she can.

“Finding your skin colour in a ballet shop, it’s something very special,” she said. “You have the feeling you are part of the industry of dance and you have the feeling that nothing is impossible.”

The progressive change has been met with support from other dance companies as well – with a spokesperson for The Royal Ballet telling The Independent: “This is great news. We welcome this development from Freed and the latest addition to the range.”

Ballet Black was founded in 2001 as a ballet company for international dancers of black and Asian descent – with the goal of eventually seeing a “fundamental change in the number of black and Asian dancers in mainstream ballet companies.”

The shoes created by Freed of London are available to order now.


Written By: Chelsea Ritschel

First Published 05.11.18:

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