Dancing up the ladder: Three talented black dancers join the Boston Ballet
The Boston Ballet’s newly-announced 2017-18 company roster represents 15 different nationalities, including three new African American dancers, Daniel Durrett, Chyrstyn Fentroy and Tyson Clark. The increasingly diverse company continues to make strides in shaping a new, more inclusive, ballet. “It’s wonderful to be working with the Boston Ballet as a black dancer,” Fentroy says. “The company should look like the community watching it.”
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A Los Angeles native, Fentroy joins the Boston Ballet with roots in her mother’s instruction and a résumé boasting the Dance Theatre of Harlem. In 2015 she was featured on the cover of the “25 to Watch” issue of Dance Magazine and in 2016 she received the Princess Grace Honoraria Award in Dance.
Fentroy was raised by her white mother and taught that her skin color was an asset, because she would stand out in talent and color against the other dancers. It was only when she joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem that she began to notice the politics of race in the industry. “That’s when I became aware of how important it is to be an African American dancer, and how it could change someone’s life to see someone like me on stage.”
Daniel Durrett began dancing at the age of three in his native city of Cincinnati, Ohio. He soon was spotted by the Cincinnati Ballet’s Artistic Director Victoria Morgan and awarded a scholarship to the Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy. For Durrett, race was a motivating factor. “I slowly began to realize that I had to keep working and keep pushing because there weren’t a lot of African American dancers out there,” he says.
Tyson Clark is a Somerville native joining Boston Ballet II, the ballet’s second company. After training — with the Mary Flynn Dance Studio in Somerville and the Gold School with Project Moves Dance Company in Brockton — he began training with the Boston Ballet. He also received the Princess Grace Foundation Dance Scholarship Award in 2016. Artistic Director Chair Mikko Nissinen has expressed a love of promoting from within when able, and after a lot of hard work, Clark has danced his way to the company stage.
With one of the most diverse companies in recent years, the Boston Ballet is poised for a memorable season, and the new dancers say they are looking forward to an exciting and challenging year. Fentroy encourages young black dancers to keep the faith. “If you really love what you’re doing, just keep going,” she says. “There will be hard days, but it’s worth it. Keep going.”