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Raven Wilkinson Passes Away

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Raven Wilkinson, who died 19 December 2018 aged 83. Wilkinson was a pioneer for African-American ballerinas, having danced with the celebrated Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo throughout the 40s and 50s. Wilkinson travelled with the company even into the American South, a hotbed of intense racism at the time, despite threats and attempts to seize her by the KKK. Company members shielded Wilkinson for as long as possible, but she was eventually forced to leave the company. She then moved on to the Dutch National Ballet, and finally the New York City Opera. (You can read more in my Spotlight article on her:

In 'Les Sylphides'

Wilkinson also famously acted as a mentor to ABT Principal Dancer Misty Copeland, who shared in a post on Facebook: 'I wouldn’t be here without you. There’s no Misty without Raven, and I’m forever grateful to have known you. As my champion, mentor, representation, friend, honorary grandmother and ultimately the missing link who gave me purpose, and the ability to see what my responsibility, future and legacy in ballet could be... You will be with me every single time I step onto the stage.'

Wilkinson presents flowers to Misty Copeland at the curtain call of ABT's 'Swan Lake'

Wilkinson herself, in a recent interview, gave this advice to young ballerinas: 'In the darkness and the futility of the moment you have to get up and keep going, put one foot in front of the other. It's only in trying and keeping going that you achieve. You can't expect that it's all going to happen for you just because you're out there pointing your toes nicely. You have to open your mind and heart, and you must believe in yourself and have faith and hope.'

In 'Les Sylphides'

Ms Wilkinson will rightly be remembered as a legend of the dance world, and, I am sure, will be sorely missed.

- Selene

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