Solange Makes History at NYC Ballet

Solange Knowles gave us “A Seat at the Table,” but now she’s taking her own at the NYC Ballet, and making room for us in the theater to watch.

The multi-hyphenate boasts a variety of creative works as singer, songwriter, actress, choreographer, visual artist, and performer. But now, she can add Ballet composer to her list–and pioneer at that, as she has become the first African-American woman to compose a score for the New York City Ballet.

Technically speaking, she is the second black woman to compose a commissioned score for the NYC Ballet, behind Lido Pimienta in 2021. Pimienta was the first Afro-Colombian to have written an original score for the company, but Knowles safely holds it down as the first African-American woman to do so. Either way, it still sounds like a whole lot of black excellence happening at the NYCB.

Courtesy: Instagram/solangeknowles

Knowles was named Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year in 2018, and awarded the 2022 NYU Global Trailblazer Award for Creative and Artistic Excellence in March of this year in response to her expansive portfolio of visual art. Hence, it comes as no surprise that she’d continue to grow and expand her creative range. She’s no stranger to fine arts, as some of her album showcases have been staged at prominent art institutions like the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and the Elbphilharmonie in Germany, to name a few.

The original score, ‘Villanelle for Times” debuted at the annual Fall Fashion Gala in New York on September 28th, as a part of “Play Time,” choreographed by Gianna Reisen, who made history herself at 18 years old as the youngest person ever to choreograph for NYCB. The piece was performed by the City Ballet Orchestra and a soloist from Solange’s ensemble and is heavily influenced by bold jazz flavors and a blend of fashion and dance.

(Courtesy: Erin Baiano)

She initially dreamed of attending Juilliard to study dance, but her current triumph proves true the power of a dream deferred not denied, because she pirouetted into a full-circle moment; back in the space as a contributor but in a different way–a way that shatters glass ceilings and opens doors for generations to come.

Knowles now stands at the beginning of a long line of black women who will take up space in ballet. Like many spaces in this world, ballet was slow to accept Black people, with Black women especially being underrepresented. But like many other Black women who have constantly excelled in spaces not originally intended for us, Knowles and her score serve as a reminder that there are indeed no boundaries to being black and creative.

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