To rise as a brown ballerina can at times be a daunting and strenuous task that seems closer to Tchaikovsky’s tragic swan lake fairy-tale than a promising reality but even this notion of impossibilities can be broken and shattered like glass because despite barriers, the infinite possibilities of success does exist. Defeating constant barriers and shattering the glass ceiling is exactly what Executive Director and Dance Teacher, Robin Pitts is doing for all the brown ballerinas and dancers who dream to pointe their way to dance’s biggest stages. As the owner of the prestigious, Dancemakers Studio in Prince George County, Pitts has been a force in dance- teaching young girls the technical skills required to be considered into national competitions and premiere troops.
” I want any girl who wants to dance to be able to follow her dream through the space and learning environment that I’ve created. Their dreams are valid,” shared Pitts. We are in a remarkable space where Misty Copeland, Michaela DePrince, Ashley Murphy and Ebony Williams are breaking barriers everyday and cementing their place in an art-form that has historically not been as welcoming or open to Black girls and women. Still there is a lot of work to be done and even the women at the top are not immune to the ugly racism that plays into such a beautiful art-form, To shut-up and dance is not an an option for Pitts she is attempting to close the gaps through teaching, mentoring and instilling an unbeatable work ethic within her students. Get to know this dance changer in our exclusive Pynk interview below.
Name: Robin Pitts
When did you fall in love with dance I fell in love with dance at the tender age of 7. I begged my mother to register me for dance class. My Mom was hesitant because my older sister had taken dance and did not like it. My mother thought that I was only interested because my sister was in class. She wanted me to have my own identity but it was actually me who had a true love for dance
What inspired you to open up your own study:
It was actually my Dad who was the TOTAL inspiration. I was working at a dance studio teaching dance. I gave my heart and soul to the students (I was very young). I would choreograph routines for dance competitions and the kids would win. I didn’t realize that I truly had a talent but my Dad was watching in silence for years. As time went on, I graduated from high school and college still teaching. One day, I came home from and took a nap. I asked my Dad to wake me up so that I could get to class to teach. When he woke me up from the nap he turned to me and said its time for you to open your own…. I was stunned. I said “Daddy, how do you do it.” He said “we will do it together.” I began to teach class in my parents basement. My Dad provided the start up funds and the rest is history.
What is it like for Brown girls in ballet?
A brown dancer ……They have to train harder and command attention. To be honest there are not as many opportunities for brown dancers as others.
What are the obstacles?
One of the main obstacles is educating the parent. Parents sometimes don’t understand that dance education is a long term financial investment. Also, the process of training a dancer requires a lot of rehearsal and class time.
How do you keep your students motivated and inspired?
We encourage the students to be better than there last performance or the last class. When the kids master a skill we celebrate. The kids help each other. We instill the fact that we are family… Dance Sisters and Dance Brothers.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Believe it or not one of the most memorable times happened at a dance competition. We were at a national dance competition. The competition was tough. We were the only brown group that was technically trained like the others… I was standing behind stage with our dancers… I guess I was worried… I felt a tug on my leg. I looked down and realized that one of my dancers was trying to get my attention. I looked at her and she said to me “Don’t worry…. we got this.” In that very moment, I knew that they GOT IT! They understood that although obstacles are against us we can RISE TO THE OCCASION WITH STYLE, GRACE, PERSEVERANCE AND HARD WERRRK! Did I mention …WE WON THE COMPETITION!!
What have been some hurtful things?Wow, I’m not sure if I can define it as hurtful because its made me so STRONG! Often times, as an African American “Brown” leader we do not receive the same respect from the community/peers as others do. Our product can be the absolute best but it is still questions. This is not hurtful its FACTUAL!! It pushes me to PUSH HARDER!
What do you wish you could change about dance?I wish that brown dancers were recognized on the same platforms as others. Additionally, I wish that more brown dancers would be technically trained so that they would be top contenders.
Where do you see dance/ballet going?
If we are able to break the barriers for brown dancers, I believe that more opportunities will be available for dancers. Additionally, it is our hopes that more federal dollars will be ear marked for students who are interested in dance/performing arts. Hopefully, we will have a reality show to bring national attention to brown dancers.
photo header of dancemakers by Rachel Elkind