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Berlin State Ballet announces anti-racism training for all employees

BERLIN. The acting director of the Berlin State Ballet, Christiane Theobald, has announced anti-racism training courses for all employees. Background are allegations of a dark-skinned ballet dancer. "I am sorry to see that there is a busy person at the Berlin State Ballet who has had to endure a very stressful situation for them over a long period of time and the situation could not be resolved beforehand," said Theobald to the Berliner Tagesspiegel on the weekend .

In addition to the training, she also sees a need for a “Code of Conduct”, that is, rules of conduct for the opera. “I could imagine that such a code of conduct would be an addition to employment contracts. It would also be important to me that we now implement compulsory further training for ballet masters."

The ballerina Chloé Lopes Gomes criticized racist practices at the State Ballet last week. She had to put on white make-up for a Swan Lake performance and a photo shoot, she complained in the RBB. Once a ballet master handed out white veils for a rehearsal, but she didn't get any, the artist reported. “Because”, the trainer said with a laugh: “You are black.” Lopes Gomes was the first dark-skinned ballet dancer at the State Opera.

"The problem is the institution, the tradition"
The incident with white make-up happened in 2018 under the direction of Johannes Öhmann. According to the Tagesspiegel, this had clearly spoken out against "whitefacing". According to some minority representatives, this is an equivalent of "blackfacing", which is classified as racist. However, light-skinned ballet dancers also use white make-up.

The group "Black Lives Matter" finally persuaded Lopes Gomes to make the events public. She made the decisive decision when her contract with the State Ballet was not renewed.

The ballet master has apologized, Lopes Gomes told the paper. But that is not enough for her. "For me, it's just the tip of the iceberg," she emphasized. "The problem is the institution, the tradition." There are still people who see ballet as a white, elitist art form. "I hope that other dancers will now feel encouraged to stand up for their rights."

Trying to catch people's attention
Since a few days, Gomes has been trying to reach several journalists and groups to tell her "huge story". It is always peculiar, to say the least, that serious accusations of racism are mostly taken to the media, but not to the court.

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