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From Misty Copeland to Janet Rollé, Black visionaries are making historic moves in ballet and diversifying the art form in the process. Amongst those charting trailblazing paths is dancer Jonathan Batista who made history as the first Black principal dancer at the Pacific Northwest Ballet, KGW8 reported.

This marks the first time in the ballet company’s 50-year existence that a Black person will take on the highest-ranked role. The appointment is one of many career milestones along Batista’s dance journey. The Rio De Janeiro native trained at the English National Ballet, The Royal Ballet School, and the Miami City Ballet. In 2013, he joined the Boston Ballet’s corps de ballet and three years later became a soloist at the Cincinnati Ballet.

In 2017, he served as the principal for the Oklahoma City Ballet and four years later became a soloist at Pacific Northwest Ballet. He’s graced the stage in productions that include George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake, and Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. The decorated dancer has won several medals for his artistry.

Batista says the historic appointment is exemplary of the importance of representation and hopes his path inspires young Black children to pursue careers in dance. “This is a moment for us,” he shared in a statement, according to the news outlet. “Being the first Black dancer in 50 years of Pacific Northwest Ballet, this is a moment for young Black boys, young Black girls, that want to dance, that want to see themselves on that stage.”

His appointment comes as there is a need for more diversity in ballet. Research shows less than five percent of ballet dancers are African American men.


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