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The Pacific Northwest Ballet made history by naming Jonathan Batista as its first Black principal dancer, reports KUOW.

Of the 46 dancers at the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Batista is one of nine dancers who identify as Black.

"It is such an honor to be in this position," Batista said. "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.”

Born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Batista grew up being involved in dance classes, sports and martial arts. In an interview with the Seattle Medium, he expressed his gratitude for his parent’s vision of keeping him involved in the arts.

“I think my parents were very smart in this sense to really place me everywhere, to place me in every activity, I always had to study and do things and their hopes were that I would identify myself with one of these things,” he said. “And ballet is about discipline. You have to really be invested in order for you to become a ballet dancer, a professional ballet dancer, you have to invest all your time in your being, your mind, and your body. And once I started traveling and communicating with people, I think that is when I fell in love with ballet. It was the people, and the community that was important to me.”

Although dance may not have been his initial calling, Batista said that dance found him. Eventually, he was offered a scholarship to study ballet. Four years later, he was offered a scholarship from the U.K.’s English National Ballet School in London where he studied for three years.

In his ten years as a professional dancer, he’s performed at the Miami City Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Boston Ballet and the Cincinnati Ballet, where he was often the only Black dancer.

Since coming to the Pacific Northwest Ballett, Batista has danced leading roles in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (Cavalier, Candy Cane); Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces; Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven; Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette (Tybalt); Crystal Pite’s Plot Point; Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake (Prince Sigfried); Twyla Tharp’s Brief Fling and Waiting at the Station; and Robyn Mineko Williams’ Before I Was.

His new position as a principal dancer is not the first time he's been appointed to the role. Previously, he was the principal dancer at the Oklahoma City Ballet, but, according to Batista, his images and likeness was kept secret for “marketing purposes.”

Batista said that being selected as the highest-ranking ballet dancer in the company is a tremendous accomplishment for himself 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," he said.

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