This marks the first time a Black person has held the title in the organization's 50 year history.
By Candace McDuffie Published October 11, 2022 Jonathan Batista has made history by becoming the first Black principal dancer in the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Last year, he became part of the organization as a soloist. In an interview with KUOW, he says that having the highest rank as a ballet dancer means a lot for both him and the Black community:
“Being the first Black dancer in 50 years of Pacific Northwest Ballet, this is a moment for young Black boys, young Black girls, that want to dance, that want to see themselves on that stage...It is such an honor to be in this position. It also is a moment where I think, ‘Wow, it took 50 years for [a] Black man, for [a] Black person, to become a principal dancer.’”
Batista originally hails from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and has performed with companies from all over the world. Often, he is the only Black member of the company. The Pacific Northwest Ballet, which is based in Seattle, has a total of 46 dancers—only nine of them (including Batista) identify as Black.
Prior to joining the company, Batista was with Oklahoma City Ballet for 4 years. He is a graduate of English National Ballet School. In addition, he has studied in summer intensives at The Royal Ballet School in London, UK and Miami City Ballet School.
He has also performed with legendary companies such as Cincinnati Ballet, Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada.
The late Kabby Mitchell was the first Black man to join Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1979. He ultimately became a soloist. Kiyon Ross Gaines, who was his successor, joined in 2001 and retired in 2015 as a soloist. Laura Brown was the first Black woman to join the company back in 1980. Amanda Morgan also joined in 2017.
By Candace McDuffie PublishedOctober 11, 2022