Kira Robinson’s reaction to receiving ballerina shoes that match her brown skin went viral, and could possibly invoke big change in the ballet accessory business.
The 18-year-old freshman ballet major at the University of Oklahoma recently went on TikTok and posted a video of her unboxing and trying on new brown pointe shoes.
Robinson says that for the last two years she had to “pancake” her dancing shoes, meaning she had to blend makeup foundation to match her skin color. She says the weekly routine was both time consuming and costly.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating and annoying, but it’s just how it is,” she added. “The dance world is slow to accept POC (person of color) dancers, and I’ve just had to deal with it and do what I need to do to perform.”
Keri Suffolk, director of Suffolk Pointe Shoe Co. says her company began offering brown satin pointe shoes in fall 2020.
“About two years ago, we started to see a shift in demand as dance teachers began to change their dress codes,” she said, according to Yahoo.
Suffolk added: “For generations, the demand was almost exclusively for pink satin pointe shoes as class dress codes dictated a black leotard, pink tights and pink pointe shoes Professional dancers have been able to pancake their shoes for quite a while, but for a performance, even professionals must wear what the artistic director or choreographer has determined to be the look they want for the piece. Social change in several forms has challenged many to ask why dress codes and costuming choices are limited to pink shoes only.”
“I was ecstatic when I realized Suffolk was releasing new shoes,” Robinson said. “I’ve been wearing pink ones ever since I was a young girl, but when I heard they were creating brown ones, I couldn’t believe it. I knew I had to grab a pair.”
Robinson’s viral TikTok post has gained nearly 500,000 likes and hundreds of encouraging comments. “I received a lot of comments on my TikTok about how representation is super necessary in the dance world and how a lot of people don’t have that or see that often,” she told Good Morning America.
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The viral video exposes the frustration many dancers of color have with the lack of inclusive apparel options. Yahoo reports that well-known dance apparel brands, such as Capezio, have made company-wide changes in the last year and offered pointe shoes and tights in darker shades.
“I think we are seeing more diversity in products because of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Robinson said. “A lot of people were fed up with companies’ lack of effort in diversifying their brand and it has taken a long time to see that change. Many have signed and sent petitions to ballet brands to create more colors in their products, and Suffolk was one that heard our plea and started making those changes.”