Chloé Lopes Gomes, the first black ballerina at Germany’s leading ballet company, who spoke out about the racism she experienced within the company has won €14,000 ($19,000) in compensation and a contract renewal.
The 29-year-old French dancer, who joined the Staatsballett Berlin in 2018, began legal action against the company after it did not renew her contract in October following her complaints about institutional racism.
In an interview with the Guardian, she said she faced reoccurring racial harassment from her ballet mistress over two years. She said the ballet mistress told a fellow dancer that it had been a mistake to hire Lopes Gomes because “a black woman spoils the aesthetics, refused to give her a white veil for a performance of La Bayadére “because you’re black”, and told her to use white makeup to color her skin for “Swan Lake.”
“I told her I would never look white, I am black. She told me I’d simply need to use more powder,” Lopes Gomes said.
The company denied her dismissal was racially motivated at the time, saying it was due to “artistic reasons”, the New York Times reported.
It also issued a statement saying it had a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and racism and had begun an investigation.
On Thursday Apr. 22, Lopes Gomes received financial compensation and a contract renewal to stay with Staatsballett until the end of the 2021-22 season in an out-of-court settlement.
“Yesterday it was a small victory but a huge step for the ballet world,” Lopes Gomes wrote on Instagram. “After 8 months of fight we finally found a compromise even if it’s sad to have gone through all of this. I realised that even if I feared the consequences, speaking out was the best thing to do. I encourage everyone to break the silence.”