When you think of ballet, you don't often think of Black men. Being one of the most competitive sports, we often find it hard for our Black people to thrive in it. In general, people experience a lot of hurdles while reaching their shot at greatness but it's often harder for people of color. Gabe Stone Shayer is a Black male ballet dancer and a "Soloist with American Ballet Theatre" in NYC. Gabe has performed for many dignitaries, including the President of Slovakia and President-elect Dr. Joseph Biden on the Vice Presidential visit in Moscow and is a regular dance partner of the remarkable Misty Copeland. Gabe is currently on a mission to share his perspective as a Black male dancer, how he is redefining masculinity and changing the narrative of Black men.
While in COVID-19 lockdown, Gabe thought about his grandmother who is Ghanaian. He decided he wanted to learn more about his culture and heritage. In doing so, he started to seek information about Ghana and its people. After doing research and finding a school that teaches ballet in Ghana, Gabe reached out to the school to see how he could share his learnings, and create a space for our people to express themselves and seek their full potential.
How did your journey begin?
I began my journey in Philadelphia, at the age of 3. I was already taking dance classes amongst many other activities. My grandmother would speak Ga (a Ghanaian language) on the phone and I would dance around her to the cadence of her speech.
Being a Black male dancer in the art of ballet, what challenges have you faced and overcome?
As a Black male in ballet, I’ve had to fight twice as hard to be considered average and a hundred times over to be called extraordinary. I’ve continually been type casted and judged by the misconceptions that surround my ethnicity. In turn, many career changing decisions were made to my detriment as a result of an unsustained judge of my character.
What motivates you to continue and grow?
All I’ve ever wanted to do is create art, connect with humans, and discover new and innovative ways to reflect humanity back at itself through the lens of my artistic medium. Advocacy has now been added to my motivation list.
What has 2020 taught you about yourself and achieving your dreams?
2020 has taught me that nothing should ever stand in the way of creating and connecting. I will always try to find a way...
Please share with us how the CHANEL partnership came together?
I had sat next to Yana Peel (Chanel’s international arts and culture director) at numerous ABT events, galas, and studio visits. I reconnected with her with the help of ABTs Executive Director and gave her my pitch for PAS DE DEUX.
What can we expect from you and the CHANEL project?
I hope that people will be inspired to think of new ways to create as well as new ways to exist. We all had to change our approach to our artistic mediums, and in turn, I think everyone involved learned about their own capabilities. Limitations are relative.
As you think of Gabe, always remember his brand is filled with Innovation, intrigue, and discovery as well as elegance, style, and culture. You can find Gabe on Instagram.