Film: “Pointe Black”

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Nowness describes Pointe Black as “a no-holds-barred portrait of a ballerina finding form in a white-privileged world.” Pointe Black, directed by Antonia Luxem, centers of the professional trajectory of Marie-Astrid Mence, a ballet dancer (born in Paris of Martinican heritage) and her struggles with racism, body shaming, and bullying.

Marie-Astrid Mence has been a member of Ballet Black since 2014—a seminal dance company formed of Black and Asian performers who astound audiences with displays of balletic beauty and power. Mence’s journey to becoming their Senior Artist, however, had a turbulent beginning in her hometown of Paris. In this documentary profile directed by Rebecca Murray, Mence narrates the uncomfortable truths of her life as a ballerina and her struggles in an industry that fails to see past her skin color.

“This film highlights racism, body shaming and bullying,” says the director, who uses the omnipresent ‘nude’ pointe shoes as a stark visual metaphor for the limited opportunities Black dancers are given. “It runs through a rollercoaster of emotions, but we discover a beautiful, strong and talented lady.” Using prose and pirouettes, Mence deftly illuminates her experience, from adolescence to adulthood, of perfecting her skills in a white-privileged art.

Murray’s interest in this conversation began when she was training as a ballet dancer before becoming a filmmaker, and she noticed how homogenous her classmates were. “I noticed my peers were predominantly white and I felt the importance for change, inequality and diversity within ballet,” she says, “as there is and forever has been a limited amount of opportunities for black dancers.”

“This documentary is an eye-opener to the ballet industry and the lack of support for diversity,” says Murray, whose short reaches a denouement when Mence finally dons pointe shoes made for her skin tone. “Ballet is a very competitive art but everyone, but no matter your skin color or sexuality, everyone should stand an equal chance.”

For original article, see https://www.nowness.com/story/pointe-black-marie-astrid-mence-rebecca-murray

The uncomfortable truth of being a Black ballerina
Nowness, November 13, 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg1UzZnpeWw

Follow her here, https://www.instagram.com/marie_astrid_mence.

Also see:

Marie-Astrid Mence, dancer at Ballet Black
Freeda En, August 21, 2020
https://www.facebook.com/freedaeng/videos/marie-astrid-mence-dancer-at-ballet-black/325423715464570

Interview (in French):
Marie-Astrid Mence, danseuse professionnelle, victime de racisme : “J’ai quitté la France car je ne correspondais pas à ses critères”
Apolline Merle, FranceInfo, 12 janvier 2021
https://sport.francetvinfo.fr/marie-astrid-mence-danseuse-professionnelle-victime-de-racisme-jai-quitte-la-france

Play: ‘Rising’
Culture Mile, November 27, 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=585vUGujd9s
‘Rising’ explores our longing for human connection alongside our relationship with space during a locked-down world. Directed by Antonia Luxem, it features Marie Astrid Mence (Ballet Black) with Maxine Kwok (First Violin, London Symphony Orchestra) performing a new composition by composer Darren Bloom.

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