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Janet Rolle has just made history as the first Black CEO and Director of the American Ballet Theatre. A former ballerina herself, Ms. Rolle is a contemporary of Beyoncé, and her new position breaks barriers in the white-dominated ballet dance industry.

Ms. Rolle’s new role puts her at the forefront of the ballet world, which has long been criticized for denying opportunities for dancers of color. In fact, one Black dancer, Chloé Lopes Gomes, referred to the ballet industry as “primarily white and elitist” in an essay. 

Previously, Ms. Rolle was an associate producer for Beyoncé, as part of Beyoncé’s barrier-breaking turn as headliner of the world-famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Ms. Rolle also produced “Black is King,” an iconic complementary piece to the live-action version of The Lion King. 

Meanwhile, the American Ballet Theatre is thrilled to have Ms. Rolle on board as the new director and CEO. “She is brimming with ideas to lead ABT into the next decade, all while respecting Ballet Theatre’s history and legacy,” said Andrew Barth, chairman of the company’s Board of Governing Trustees. “I am confident that Janet’s accomplished background in business operations and development, strategic partnerships, and brand management will be a tremendous asset.”

For her part, Ms. Rolle credits her own history in ballet and dance as providing her with the necessary credentials to lead the dance company. “Through dance, I learned how to be a professional, the value of discipline and technique, and my love for the creative process. These lessons have always been at the core of my professional life and work,” she said in a statement. 

She continued, “It is, therefore, a singular privilege to be entrusted by the Board to preserve and extend the legacy of American Ballet Theatre, and to ensure its future prosperity, cultural impact, and relevance. To come full circle and be in a position to give back to the art that has given me so much is a source of unbridled and immense joy.” 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...

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