Lisa Skinner says her two daughters, 9-year old April and 10-year old Brooke, were banned from the school’s production of “Black Nutcracker” because they chose to wear their hair in braids, although they were instructed not to.
The Uptown Dance Academy does a yearly performance of the Black Nutcracker for its annual fundraiser and the Academy students are the featured performers of the play. ”I feel bad I can’t participate just because of my hair,” April tells PIX11. The girls have been going to the academy for three years, under the tutelage of teacher and founder of the school, Robin Williams.
It’s always been the rule that the dancers must secure their hair in a bun for their own safety, Skinner says this year, her daughters were told ‘no braids’, even if it’s tied up in a bun. “She said to me if they show up in braids to the ‘Black Nutcracker,’ they will not be permitted to participate,” said Skinner. ”They were expelled from the school because I would not adhere to this ludicrous policy and she said to me then I will send you a refund of your ticket purchase money.”
On the Uptown Dance Academy website was a statement from Uptown Dance Academy Founder Robin Williams
I, Robin Williams have never ever during my 50+ years in dance told Black girls their braids are not beautiful.
We have performed the Black Nutcracker in Harlem and the Bronx for 25 years at the Apollo, Aaron Davis Hall, Oberia Dempsey Theater and other venues. As a Ballet Academy, our policy has always been that students wear their hair in a bun for classes whether it’s braided or not. However, for a Traditional Classical Ballet Production, our policy has always been for all the dancers to wear their hair in an unbraided classical ballet bun.
For our Photo Day, June, and Summer Recitals students are allowed to wear their hair in any style they want as long as it isn’t dangerous for acrobatic stunts. Extremely long or thick braids and beaded hairstyles are definitely dangerous for young trainees while turning and flipping.
Uptown Dance Academy has trained students to be adaptive to all professional training programs. Most professional dance schools require you to wear buns for training and especially for performances. In classical ballet, the hairstyle is expected to be the same for each female.
Parents were not told they couldn’t perform if they wore braids, they were told they cannot perform if they don’t follow policies.
As luck would have it, Alvin Ailey invited the girls to watch a show on Christmas Eve!