Meet the teen who wants to become the first Hijabi ballerina
Australian Stephanie Kurlow is training to become the first professional ballerina to wear a hijab, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Kurlow and her family converted to Islam in 2010, and the teen initially stopped training as her hopes of ever making it to the big leagues were smashed due to her dress code requirements. But after seeing Misty Copeland become the first black ballerina to earn a spot as a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater and Noor Tagouri deliver the news as the first anchor to wear a hijab on American TV, the teen decided she too could break down barriers.
"[The hijab] is a part of who I am, and represents the beautiful religion that I love," Kurlow told the New York Daily News. "I believe [it] covers my body, but not my mind, heart, and talent."
A majority Christian country, just 2 percent of Australians identify as Muslim. As Australia's 40-year-old Racial Discrimination Act does not protect its citizens on the basis of religion, Muslims have increasingly become the targets of both verbal and physical assaults, according to a November report by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Women are particularly vulnerable, as wearing a hijab makes their religion visible.
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Kurlow told the Sydney Morning Herald that she's faced criticism on both fronts, from Australians who believe that her hijab will prevent her from being taken seriously and from Muslims who believe that dancing is forbidden in Islam (religious scholars have different interpretations on this point).
Despite the naysayers, Kurlow wants to take her dancing to the next level and has started a crowdfunding campaign to afford full-time training at a professional ballet academy.
"I want to encourage everyone to join together no matter what faith, race or color," Kurlow wrote on the crowdfunding page. "I believe I am here to inspire and motivate youth who feel isolated or disengaged due to labels and restrictions, to pursue their dreams no matter what." At publishing time, Kurlow had raised more than $2,000AUS of her $10,000 goal, which she says will pay for a year's worth of tuition, supplies, and competition fees.
Kurlow's goal is ultimately to open a performing arts academy for kids like her, with specialty programs that take religious beliefs into consideration.
"I will provide for our future generations a chance to express and heal themselves and others through the magnificent art of performing and creativity," Kurlow wrote.
Stephanie Kurlow isn't the only one making history in the ballet world:
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