Anne Raven Wilkinson was a pioneering black ballerina who broke down barriers and overcame incredible challenges during her career. Born in New York City in 1935, she began studying ballet at the age of five and quickly showed a natural talent for dance. Despite her early success, she faced racial discrimination from an early age and was often required to wear lighter makeup to perform on stage.
In 1955, at the age of 20, Wilkinson joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, becoming one of the first black ballerinas to dance with a major ballet company in the United States. While touring in the South, she was subjected to the realities of Jim Crow laws and was not allowed to eat in many restaurants or stay in certain hotels because of her race. At times, she was even forced to sleep in the back of the bus or in a funeral home because there were no hotels that would accept her. Despite these challenges, Wilkinson continued to dance with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo for six years, performing in major productions such as "Swan Lake," "Giselle," and "The Nutcracker."
After leaving the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1961, Wilkinson danced with several other companies, including the Dutch National Ballet and the New York City Opera Ballet. She continued to break down barriers as one of the first black ballerinas to perform with major companies in Europe and the United States. Throughout her career, she inspired future generations of dancers and paved the way for greater diversity and inclusion in the world of ballet. Her story serves as a reminder of the discrimination that many black artists faced during the mid-twentieth century and the perseverance required to overcome such obstacles.
Raven Wilkinson's ballet legacy reminds us of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the arts. Unfortunately, racial discrimination is still present in the world of ballet today. At our company, we are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the arts by offering a range of products featuring black ballerinas and ballet.