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Black British Ballet

Adam James

Ethnic heritage: British (Biracial)

Year of birth: 1964

Training: Royal Academy of Dance, Royal Ballet Upper School

Ballet career: Adam James received a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Dance until the age of 16. Once completing his studies, he auditioned for the Royal Ballet School and attended the Upper School in 1981, for which he also received a full grant. He was treated very well and spent three years studying there.

James knew he would not be employed by British ballet companies because he was black, so in 1984 when Dance Theatre of Harlem came to London, he attended company class. At the class, Arthur Mitchell invited Adam to train and work with the company in 1985. He stayed with his cousin in New York, at a ‘horrible’ YMCA, and also with Malcolm X’s daughter.

During his nine years at Dance Theatre of Harlem he toured across the USA and travelled abroad to Moscow in 1988; Paris, Italy, Spain, Egypt, and South Africa where he met Nelson Mandela. He returned to the UK in 1994.

You need to make sure you find something to enjoy every day. It’s great to have ambition and plan ahead, but you never know what is around the corner and the better you feel mentally and physically in the here and now, the more it makes you resilient to face future challenges. Something I wish I had thought more of at times. Dancing is amazing and great; but it doesn't define you.
- Adam James