Ballerina's reaction to pointe shoes matching her skin tone goes viral

REBECCA ANDERSON
·4 min read

Changes in the dance world are keeping Kira Robinson on her toes -- and she couldn't be happier.

Recently, Robinson went viral on TikTok for posting a video trying on new brown pointe shoes that matched her skin tone.

Robinson, an 18-year-old freshman ballet major at the University of Oklahoma, said the feedback has been incredible.

"I received a lot of comments on my TikTok about how representation is super necessary in the dance world and how a lot of people don't have that or see that often," she told "Good Morning America."

For the last two years, Robinson has had to "pancake" -- a term used for blending makeup foundation to match a specific skin tone -- her pointe shoes. She said the weekly routine can be both costly and time consuming.

"Sometimes it's frustrating and annoying, but it's just how it is," she added. "The dance world is slow to accept POC (person of color) dancers, and I've just had to deal with it and do what I need to do to perform."

The TikTok post, which shows Robinson enthusiastically opening and trying on her new Suffolk-brand satin brown pointe shoes, has garnered nearly 500,000 likes and hundreds of encouraging comments.

"I was ecstatic when I realized Suffolk was releasing new shoes," she added. "I've been wearing pink ones ever since I was a young girl, but when I heard they were creating brown ones, I couldn't believe it. I knew I had to grab a pair."

PHOTO: Kira Elon Robinson, a freshman and ballet major at the University of Oklahoma, is pushing for change after a TikTok video of her receiving brown pointe shoes went viral. (Karen Robinson)
PHOTO: Kira Elon Robinson, a freshman and ballet major at the University of Oklahoma, is pushing for change after a TikTok video of her receiving brown pointe shoes went viral. (Karen Robinson)

Like Robinson, many dancers of color have expressed their frustration with the lack of inclusive apparel options available on the market. Well-known dance apparel brands, such as Capezio, have made company-wide changes in the last year, offering pointe shoes and tights in darker shades.

"I think we are seeing more diversity in products because of the Black Lives Matter movement," Robinson said. "A lot of people were fed up with companies' lack of effort in diversifying their brand and it has taken a long time to see that change. Many have signed and sent petitions to ballet brands to create more colors in their products, and Suffolk was one that heard our plea and started making those changes."

Suffolk Pointe Shoe Co. said it started offering brown satin pointe shoes in fall 2020. A bronze satin was released in 2000.

"About two years ago, we started to see a shift in demand as dance teachers began to change their dress codes," said Keri Suffolk, director of the company.

"For generations, the demand was almost exclusively for pink satin pointe shoes as class dress codes dictated a black leotard, pink tights and pink pointe shoes," Suffolk continued. "Professional dancers have been able to pancake their shoes for quite a while, but for a performance, even professionals must wear what the artistic director or choreographer has determined to be the look they want for the piece. Social change in several forms has challenged many to ask why dress codes and costuming choices are limited to pink shoes only."

PHOTO: Kira Elon Robinson, a freshman and ballet major at the University of Oklahoma, is pushing for change after a TikTok video of her receiving brown pointe shoes went viral. (Prestige)
PHOTO: Kira Elon Robinson, a freshman and ballet major at the University of Oklahoma, is pushing for change after a TikTok video of her receiving brown pointe shoes went viral. (Prestige)

As more dress codes and costuming requirements change with the times, dance apparel brands are jumping on board and acting quickly to meet the demand.

"Dance reflects the creativity and humanity of our society and pointe shoes should reflect artists of all colors, rather than limit or exclude," Suffolk said. "We are hoping these additions are just the beginning, and that dancers of the next generation will never know being limited to only one color option for their pointe shoes."

PHOTO: Kira Elon Robinson, a freshman and ballet major at the University of Oklahoma, is pushing for change after a TikTok video of her receiving brown pointe shoes went viral. (Alexandra Troy)
PHOTO: Kira Elon Robinson, a freshman and ballet major at the University of Oklahoma, is pushing for change after a TikTok video of her receiving brown pointe shoes went viral. (Alexandra Troy)

Robinson said she is very proud to be in a place where she can motivate others during Black History Month and commended the modifications that are taking place in ballet. She also hopes to be a role model for young dancers who want to follow in her footsteps.

"When they see me in brown tights and pointe shoes, it can be inspiring for them," she said. "I hope that people will look up to me and realize there can always be a brown ballerina on the stage."

Ballerina's reaction to pointe shoes matching her skin tone goes viral originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com