Janet Rollé makes history as the first CEO of the Black American Ballet Theater

Janet Rollé, formerly CEO of Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment for five years, will be the new CEO and Executive Director of the American Ballet Theater. Her role takes effect on January 3, 2022, and her hiring marks the first time a person of color has run the company.

Rollé credited her mother, an immigrant from Jamaica, with laying the foundations for her career, taking her to her first dance class at the age of 8.

“Through dancing I learned to be a professional, the value of discipline and technique, and my love for the creative process. These classes have always been at the heart of my professional life and my work,” Rollé said in a statement. declaration.

She continued, “It is therefore a singular privilege to be charged by the board with preserving and expanding the legacy of the American Ballet Theater, and ensuring its future prosperity, cultural impact and relevance. To come full circle and be able to give back to the art that has given me so much is a source of unbridled and immense joy. “

In her role in Beyoncé’s company, Rollé was credited as an associate producer for the singer’s iconic performance as the first black woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. She also produced “Black Is King,” an award-winning visual album that accompanies the 2019 live-action remake of “The Lion King”.

Rollé was also executive vice president and chief marketing officer at CNN Worldwide.

Andrew Barth, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the company, said Rollé was perfectly positioned to lead ABT, given his training in dance and his experience as an executive.

“She’s brimming with ideas for leading ABT into the next decade, while respecting the history and legacy of the Ballet Theater,” Barth said in a statement. “I am confident that Janet’s accomplished experience in operations and business development, strategic partnerships and brand management will be a tremendous asset. “

The hiring of Rollé is a big step for the ballet world, which has long been criticized for its ostracization of black dancers in particular. ABT’s first black principal dancer Misty Copeland was one of the harshest critics, telling CNN in 2018 that the ballet world “doesn’t really celebrate or don’t have women of color.”

“At 7, being a black girl in their school, and their teachers tell them ‘You don’t fit here, your skin is the wrong color, your feet are too flat … we don’t. can’t work with your hair, ”Copeland said.

Chloe Lopes Gomes, another black ballet dancer, made similar comments about the ballet world. In an article this year for CNN, Gomes wrote that racism is institutionalized in ballet around the world, calling the art form “predominantly white and elitist.”

“I’ve heard over and over again the damaging stereotypes that black dancers aren’t flexible enough or don’t have the right feet, or Asian dancers aren’t expressive enough,” Gomes wrote. “Ballet is still designed for white dancers, right down to the shoes and makeup that we wear. Nude-colored ballet shoes for black dancers did not exist until 2018.”

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