Breaking Barriers: The Debut of the Dewdrops


Breaking Barriers: The Debut of the Dewdrops

Words by Guidelle Desinor

Images Courtesy of Erin Baiano and Rachel Neville

In the world of ballet, tradition often reigns supreme. Now, with broken barriers and conventional narratives challenged, Alexandra Hutchinson and India Bradley sit at the forefront of a new age in the art form. The two black ballerinas have made history with their performances as Dewdrop in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, causing a pivotal shift to take place that paves the way for diversity and inclusion to increase within the classical dance. Raised in Wilmington, Delaware, Alexandra Hutchinson's journey into dance was nurtured mainly by her supportive parents since they enrolled her in ballet at the tender age of three. As Hutchinson reflects on her career, she remarks, "I’m grateful that my parents pushed me, I’m really happy that they saw something in me in terms of artistry." The encouragement and early commitment to the art form created a solid foundation for her lasting dedication to ballet to thrive.

For Hutchinson, the journey to mastering ballet was no small feat. Years of early skill and technical training were critical to helping her conquer the demanding art form. Her natural athleticism also gives her a unique affinity for dance. “I’m not what a traditional ballerina looks like but being athletic is a strong suit of mine– it allows me to move just as gracefully as anyone, even though I have these muscles,” she states. Soon enough, Hutchinson began breaking personal records as one of the only girls to jump as high as the boys in summer school and later in her company at the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Hutchinson’s unwavering determination prepared her for the challenges ahead. Still, the competitive dance required more from her. She began guest performing and showcasing in principal roles, crediting moments like her time as a Sugar Plum Fairy as an experience that helped her grow immensely as a dancer. The technical skill of using emotion throughout the choreography proved to be exceptionally tricky. She reflects on her growth saying, “It was pointed out to me early on in my artistry as something that could use some work, as I mature…I try to find more ways to move emotion throughout my body, not just through my face.”

Unsurprisingly, the exhilaration of performing on stage is a feeling Hutchinson treasures deeply. She describes her love for ballet—stating, "I love the feeling that I get when I’m onstage, rehearsing and going through the process of building to the point of showing my work through the performance." Naturally, this fuels her ambition and constantly drives her to achieve new heights in her career. She remarks, “There’s always more work to do, the idea of finding my artistry is something I’ve gotten a lot better at, I love that there’s no right or wrong.”

With being exposed to very few dancers of color in her early years, Hutchinson looks up to iconic black ballerinas that came before her such as Akua Parker, Misty Copeland, and Virginia Johnson. Despite their influence, the lack of representation remains a staggering issue within the art form. "I think it’s been a challenge for me in the past because I was one of three dancers of color in my school in the early 2000s in Washington, D.C. I didn’t have representation so I remember questioning if I was in the right field or the right direction," she recalls.

Such issues made breaking through the conventional glass ceiling that much more sacred. Being the first black ballerina to guest perform after India Bradley's historical debut as the first Black ballerina to portray Dewdrop in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, was a monumental milestone. Reflecting on this achievement, she expresses a mutual camaraderie between her and India, saying, "It was cool having to perform after her because I was worried about feeling like I was infiltrating, it was nice to have someone in a similar situation."

As Hutchinson explores herself artistically, she remains focused on the journey ahead. "I’m always working on my confidence, and because I’ve had so many achievements, it’s hard to stop and look back— I always want to strive for more. I want to continue to push myself to do challenging roles because I know it won’t be forever," she explains.

The extraordinary legacies of Alexandra Hutchinson and India Bradley leave an indisputable mark on ballet, inspiring future generations of dancers to pursue their dreams relentlessly. We anticipate that these historic performances will push the boundaries of representation and illuminate the limitless potential in the art of dance.