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Meet 11-year-old Charlotte Nebres, the first Black ballerina to lead the New York City Ballet’s production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” as the young heroine, Marie.

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The production reached a landmark that it hasn’t seen since its start in 1954. Back in 2007, The New York Times published an article, “Where Are All the Black Swans?” which discussed the lack of representation for Black female dancers. According to the story, since the 1970s, City Ballet has primarily had just one Black female dancer at a time.

Similar institutions also have recently celebrated diversity milestones. In 2015, Misty Copeland became the first Black female principal at the American Ballet Theater. Charlotte was six at the time and recalled being inspired by one of her performances.

“I saw [Misty Copeland] perform, and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” Charlotte told The New York Times. “When I saw someone who looked like me on stage, I thought, that’s amazing. She was representing me and all the people like me.”

Charlotte is a student at the School of American Ballet, which is the associate school of New York City Ballet. The school has been working on diversity and inclusion among its student population. Over the past seven years, 62 S.A.B. students have become City Ballet apprentices; of those, 21 identify as nonwhite or mixed; and of those, 12 refer to themselves as black; four of them are women.

NYC Ballet is also making strides in diversity. The production will experience it’s most diverse cast with other leads, Tanner Quirk (her Prince), who is half-Chinese; Sophia Thomopoulos (Marie), who is half-Korean, half-Greek; and Kai Misra-Stone (Sophia’s Prince), who is half-South Asian.

Charlotte’s mom recalled speaking with her daughter after her “Nutcracker” audtion: “With that poker face of hers, she said, ‘Well, I’m Marie,’ And I just thought, oh my goodness – they really did it. I couldn’t believe it.”

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