In June 2020, Scottish Ballet published the article ‘Black Lives Matter' in solidarity against racism. In October 2020, we followed this with a commitment to outline how Scottish Ballet is addressing anti-racism in ballet. It shared our aim of becoming a more visible, active ally to people and organisations who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to anti-racism, and reflected on areas that we, as a company, can progress or improve on.

One of our commitments is addressing and removing racist stereotypes from ballet, including reflecting on our own repertoire.

We have looked again at our 2019 production of The Snow Queen, and we believe there is an opportunity to better represent Gypsy, Roma & Traveller (GRT) culture within this work.

Since August, we have been consulting with Davie Donaldson – a Scottish Traveller and Founder of Conyach and Progress in Dialogue. He works to increase awareness of GRT cultures, and the challenges facing this community in promoting antigypsyism.

Through this consultation, we have increased our understanding of the origin and history of GRT communities and the impact of their representation on stage and screen. We recognize that we can make a valuable and positive contribution by including and promoting authentic characters in our work.

Audiences will see some changes in the portrayal of GRT characters from The Snow Queen who feature in our festive feature film The Secret Theatre, and there will be further changes next time The Snow Queen returns to the stage.

  • We now broadly identify the costumes from within The Snow Queen as historically reflective of a specific Roma community deriving from Eastern Poland.
  • We have introduced changes to costumes and props to incorporate specific crafts and trades that are important to this community and their context within the story (e.g. tinsmithing, horse bridling and basket making)
  • We have paid specific attention to the knotted ‘Dikhlo’ worn by the men to give further authenticity to their costumes.
  • We have made choreographic adjustments to better portray the married status of the Fortune Teller, Mazelda, and her husband Zac, including a re-evaluation of choreographic movement which could be interpreted as being overtly sexually suggestive.

‘I’m delighted that Scottish Ballet have taken steps to ensure more meaningful representation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) cultures within their work. It’s important that organisations respect their role in challenging the stereotypes of GRT communities, and it’s great to see Scottish Ballet taking the lead. ’

‘Ballet has traditionally been seen as a non-welcoming space for GRT communities – I’m hopeful that the commitment to diversity and inclusion from Scottish Ballet will see this change. The stage should reflect our society, and it’s great to see a renewed dedication to equitable access and meaningful inclusion for a future generation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller performers.'’

Davie Donaldson, Scottish Traveller and Founder of Conyach and Progress in Dialogue

As well as continuing to make artistic changes, we are undertaking staff training to embed cultural awareness of Gypsy, Roma & Traveller communities across the organisation. We are also planning an extensive engagement programme to proactively welcome audiences from the community to experience and help shape our performances, films and workshops in future.

We will continue to work in consultation with community leaders and partners, and will remain open and transparent, as we journey to align the whole organisation in the practice of anti-racism.

‘Our ongoing consultations with Davie Donaldson and his organisation, Conyach has given us a better understanding of GRT culture and through this work we are aware of how much more we can do to ensure young people from GRT backgrounds are represented and included in our work.’

Christopher Hampson, CEO/Artistic Director