There are few instances where the world can truly connect over a similarity; a common form of communication that we can all comprehend. The only language that everyone can understand, no matter your background, your present, or your future, is art. While the performing arts industry is designed to be one of the most equal and diverse communities, the lack of inclusivity among celebrated performers is unacceptable. In 1920, the first person of colour was allowed on the Broadway stage. In 2022, the conversation about racial equality are still needing to be discussed. Instead of shying away from it, we should be acknowledging the faults in the system and facing them head on. Having uncomfortable conversations is the only way to create change.

At its core, performing has developed from so many cultures that, instead of celebrating, we have cast aside. Arguably some of the most influential performers on the development and current practice of tap and acrobatics, the Nicholas Brothers, are so unfortunately forgotten by dancers around the world. Yet Bob Fosse, a name that everyone recognises, modelled his first act after these African American brothers. Why do they receive merely a fraction of the remembrance and recognition in comparison? The iconic character Betty Boop was modeled on Black jazz singer and flapper Esther Jones, but many don’t know this.

The foundations of what we know to be performing comes from all ends of the earth, yet what we see on stage is a dismissal of its roots.

The foundations of what we know to be performing comes from all ends of the earth, yet what we see on stage is a dismissal of its roots. The reason for pointing this out is not to harp on the mistakes of the past, but to use those examples of discrimination to inspire a future of inclusivity.

For young people, there is such power in seeing yourself reflected onto the stage or the screen, yet so many children of colour do not have this luxury. The inequality on stage discourages young performers to enter the industry because they do not see themselves succeeding, creating a paradox of destruction and therefore a lack of progress. In order for this to change, we must break the cycle. This is a huge motivation for me and so many other performers of colour, and while we have a long distance to go, changes are slowly being made.

POC stories are being told, and incredible performers are proving that they deserve a place on stage. Shows such as Tina, Get Up Stand Up!, Hamilton and The Lion King are embracing the culture surrounding their music and stories, creating culturally rich and moving stories. The West End cast of My Fair Lady is an example where diverse performers star in a traditionally “white” musical, yet their race nor ethnicity hindered the show. In fact, Amara Okereke’s Eliza Doolittle was a wonder to watch, and the ensemble lit up the stage with their talent. Progressive casting is a necessity for the evolution of the performing world, one that is ever-changing and adapting, and My Fair Lady has proven this.

As well as performances, there are so many differences to be made away from the stage, so many conversations to be had and so much knowledge to share. The power of language and education is one that will greatly improve the diversity crisis in our industry as well as others. TIRED Movement founder Stacey Green is doing just that, and has created her movement – Trying to Improve Racial Equality in Dance – where she works with drama schools to help inform both students and staff about the change that needs to happen. In addition to gaining the support of many performers of all races and working with institutions to break the cycle, she has also created a dance wear brand for people of colour: SHADES. The work that she is doing is influential; by getting to the root of the problem by working with schools to ignite change, she is leading the way for other performing arts institutions to follow.

Being a part of Project Dance Company has been such an honour for me because I feel that we are making a difference. When participating in the productions, not only do I feel the joy of doing what I love and working with incredible talent both on and off-stage, I can also feel the hope that a young Asian girl may see me on stage and decide to follow their dream. The company have already begun making such impactful shows, the most recent being Growing Pains which I was honoured to partake in. Sharing a story of refugees and teenagers connecting is a beautiful reflection of how the industry should be, and I could not be more proud of the show we created.