Pacific Northwest Ballet names its first black principal dancer

SEATTLE, AP — While celebrating 50 years as a ballet company, Pacific Northwest Ballet is making history.

“It’s a moment for us,” dancer Jonathan Batista told KUOW while describing how he felt about becoming the first black principal dancer in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s history.

Newly promoted Batista joined the organization as a soloist last year and says rising to the highest rank as a ballet dancer last month means the world to him and the black dance community.

“Being the first black dancer in 50 years of Pacific Northwest Ballet is a moment for young black boys, young black girls, who want to dance, who want to see themselves on this stage,” Batista said.

Originally from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Batista has performed with companies from the UK to Canada, sometimes as the only black member of the company.

Batista says he’s grateful to make history with his promotion to principal dancer in Seattle.

“It’s such an honor to be in this position,” he said. “It’s also a time when I think, ‘Wow, it took 50 years for a black man, a black person, to become a principal dancer. “”

The Pacific Northwest Ballet has a total of 46 dancers in its company. Batista is one of nine who identify as black.

Additionally, Cecilia Iliesiu and James Kirby Rogers were also promoted to principal dancers.