As I write this, I’m sitting in my bed, bantu knotting my hair. Typing out this blog is my way of giving my arms and wrists a break.
A lot has been written about natural hair in the professional dance world, from the three Alvin Ailey dancers who shared their natural hair routines with Essence in February, to the viral images of dancers rocking their curly tresses. I, myself, have been fortunate to find companies and opportunities that embrace my Blackness and my hair. During one of my most recent shows, I proudly rocked a curly frohawk, and got so many compliments on it.
But there have been other incidents, too. Times where I’ve been othered and made to feel as though my hair isn’t appropriate. Times where I’ve heard stories about my peers’ hair struggles regaled to me as we reapply lipstick and jam bobby pins into our already throbbing scalps.
The dance world has made slow, incremental strides toward embracing Black hair. But days like the night before a show, when I was told to make my puff look like more of a ponytail to match the non-Black girls in the company. Or the times I felt obligated to straighten my hair or wear extensions to achieve a long ponytail or bun. Or worse still, when I hear and see incidents of non-Black women wearing cornrows and bantu knots as a way to “look crazy” or “stand out,” when hair styles that would get me a side-eye or reprimand from so many directors are helping other people get jobs.
These are the things that let me know that the struggle isn’t over. That Black dancers still have a lot of fighting to do before we are seen, the way our white counterparts are.
And to that I say, let’s get ready to rumble.