Dreadlocks spin heads at ballet - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Dreadlocks spin heads at ballet

A 7-year-old ballerina named Destini is getting back-up tonight after her instructor barred her from performing in a dance recital because of her hair.

Ballet has its roots in the royal court of the Italian Renaissance. Hair locks were first worn by Egyptian royalty. Now, they are at the root of a hairy debate in Memphis. "It has nothing to do with what you can or cannot do. That is within the spirit. Please don't tell me it's within the hair," exclaimed morning radio personality P.A. Bomani.

He is talking about a Wendi Thomas editorial in Sunday's Commercial Appeal. It describes how Dance Works Director Karen Zissoff decided Destini Berry's bun was unacceptable, and barred her from a December 12th ballet recital.

Monday, Mid-Southerners sent a flood of letters to the editor supporting both sides of the issue.

Classical Ballet Director Pat Gillispie studied at the same school as Zissoff, the Royal Academy of Dance. "On the stage you want to look neat, but no there is not anything that says this is what it has to be. In a company the director will tell you what he wants. When they're here, I tell them," said Gillespie.

15-year-old Ayana Fletcher-Tyson has been with the company nine years. She wears braids, which different than locks, but she has her own opinion about Destini's dilemma. "I think it was unfair to her because she's only 7-years-old and I think most people accept the hair like that in a bun." She hopes other girls will continue to be encouraged to pursue the art of ballet.

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