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Black British Ballet

Timeline

It’s important to understand the achievements of black dancers in British ballet in the wider context of what was happening elsewhere in the country at the time. British society has changed in so many ways since Caribbean people first arrived to help rebuild the mother country after the Second World War.

This timeline cannot begin to cover all of the significant events in black British or ballet history, but we hope it’s a place to start.

Society

Ballet

1940's

1946
Berto Pasuka & Richie Riley (Jamaica) form Les Ballet Nègres, Europe’s first black dance company.

1948
The Empire Windrush brings a group of West Indians to Tilbury Docks, Essex.

1950's

1952
Les Ballet Nègres closes due to lack of funding.

1952
Elizabeth II becomes Queen.

1956
Christian Holder (Trinidad) trains at Laura Wilson’s studio (formerly with the Ballets Russes) in London.

1959
Kelso Cochrane from Antigua is murdered by a group of white men in Notting Hill.

1960's

1963
Bristol Bus Boycott, where people protest the ‘colour bar’ policy that bans non-white staff.

1965
Patrick Williams (Trinidad) auditions for the Royal Ballet School and is rejected because he is black.

1965
Race Relations Act outlawing discrimination on the ‘grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins’ in public places.

1966
Christian Holder joins Joffrey Ballet, New York after training in London.

1966
The first Notting Hill Carnival takes place.

1968
Enoch Powell gives his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech against immigration.

1969
Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook found the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York.

1970's

1970
Richard Majewski (British/African American) joins Béjart Ballet in Switzerland after training in the UK.

1971
The Mangrove Nine are acquitted of inciting a riot at the Old Bailey.

1971
The Immigration Act gives Commonwealth citizens the right to live in the UK.

1975
Vincent Hantam (South Africa) joins Scottish Ballet after training at the Royal Ballet Upper School.

1976
West Indies cricket team win their test series against England, in England.

1977
Julie Felix (Britain/St Lucia) joins Dance Theatre of Harlem, and rises to the rank of soloist.

1978
Viv Anderson becomes the first black footballer to play for England.

1979
Greta Mendez MBE (Trinidad) becomes the first black female to join Scottish Ballet.

1980's

1981
New Cross fire kills 13 young black people at a house party, in a suspected arson attack.

1981
Riots against police brutality across the UK, in Brixton, Chapeltown, Handsworth, Moss Side and Toxteth.

1981
Moira Stuart becomes the first Black female newsreader on TV.

1984
Darren Panton becomes the first black male to attend the Royal Ballet boarding school at White Lodge in Richmond.

1985
Riots in Brixton over the police shooting of Cherry Groce and in Broadwater Farm over the death of Cynthia Jarrett during a police search.

1986
Brenda Edwards MBE becomes the first Black female to join London Festival Ballet (ENB).  

1987
The first black UK MPs are elected in London, Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant.

1990's

1991
UK census was the first to include a question on ethnicity and showed that Black Londoners numbered half a million people in a city of seven million, with the total Black population of the country being 890,727.

1992
Adam James tours South Africa with Dance Theatre of Harlem, meeting the recently freed Nelson Mandela.

1993
18-year-old Stephen Lawrence is murdered in a racist attack.

1995
Shevelle Dynott becomes the first dancer to graduate from Chance to Dance to the Royal Ballet School.

1999
The Macpherson report finds the Metropolitan Police institutionally racist.