Despite hairstyle, ballerina will be allowed to dance - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Despite hairstyle, ballerina will be allowed to dance

It's been a week and a day since the controversy over Destini Berry's hair was first brought to the public's attention by Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi Thomas.

Monday, it appeared the dance instructor who denied Destini's dreads had found some common ground.

Action News 5 spoke with Dance Works instructor Karen Zissoff by phone. She said she is working things out with Destini Berry's family, that she is feeling optimistic, and that Destini would be able to dance at her December 12th recital with her group.

The debate all started over seven year old Destini's hairstyle.

The little ballerina has dread-locks, a style that is pulled back into a neat bun as outlined by the rules on the Dance Works web page. The hairstyle was still unacceptable to the Zissoff

Many people in the community went to the airwaves accusing Zissoff of discrimination, upset that not-for-profit Dance Works would accept federal money and forbid a child to dance because of her dread-locked hair, a style worn predominantly by African Americans.

Tax returns show the ballet studio received $44,000 in gifts, grants and contributions over a 4 year period. In 2005, Dance Works received a little more than $6,600 from the Tennessee Arts Commission. In order to get that grant they have to comply with federal guidelines, including Title VI, a part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits exclusion from federally funded programs based on race, color or national origin.

However, there is nothing in Title VI that specifically talks about hair.

Destini Berry's attorney Richard Fields said the family would not have any comment on the issue until they received a written promise from instructor Karen Zissoff.

Zissoff planned to give her that promise in writing Monday night.

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