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Evanston Resident Nolan Robinson on what it's like to be Black in the World of Ballet

“Recently, I’ve been able to meditate and reflect on my life. Whenever I get in a difficult situation, I feel like I’m doing everything but nothing is going right, I try to find the source of that feeling.

"It wasn’t long ago when I realized that there was a part of me that needed -- or felt the need -- to prove that I belong; that I deserve the blessings that I have, and that nothing was just given to me.

I think a lot of this comes from being in an art that doesn’t have very many Black people; I don’t often see Black people like me in auditions, in classes, in rehearsals. In this very turbulent political age, I can’t help but think ‘how many people think I’m here because I’m a token? How many people think that ‘someone else, someone whiter, could’ve had this spot?’

"Then I overwork myself, doing everything as well as I can, better even, to prove that this spot belongs to me … I don’t have many Black role models to look up to in this art. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘representation matters’ because it does. I’d be more confident in my place in ballet if I could see the others like more who had a place before me. The table would be more inviting if I had already saw myself at it.

"With that, this is a very expensive life; dance classes, ballet shoes, movement clothes. As a black man from a low-income household, with three siblings and a dog, ballet was something I never imagined myself doing. But look at God. I will say that I hope to be a dancer that a little black boy right now wants to look up to. I want to be for him what I wanted growing up.”

Nolan Robinson, 20, has been dancing for the past four years. He graduated from Evanston Township High School (ETHS) in 2017 and now attends Northwestern University, majoring in Theatre and Computer Science. Robinson is the creator of the original web series, "Where's Noah?" and an avid performer in Department productions.

-- Interview by Dear Evanston intern reporter Trinity Collins -- Photo Courtesy of Nolan Robinson -- Photo by Justin Barbin


Don't miss "Black Ballerina," a production of Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre and Piven Theatre Workshop. It runs through August 25 at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.

The play was written by Tim Rhoze and Stephen Fedo and stars Evanston ballerina Kara Roseborough.

For performance dates and times and to purchase your tickets.

Read Chicago Reader's review here.

You can read a short interview with Evanston's own Black ballerinas Taryn Catherine

Robinson and Erin Bates here, and here.

Dear Evanston is proud to partner with Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Dance Center Evanston, and Piven Theatre Workshop on this project.

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