In the brief time she’s spent as a reality star, Traci Young-Byron has received quite a bit of criticism for her unorthodox and often harsh teaching style. Young-Byron may be strict, but she’s also willing to stick up for her dancers when she feels they are being mistreated.
In addition to developing a new generation of talented young dancers, Young-Byron is committed to eradicating skin-color discrimination from the world of performing arts. She faces an uphill battle, as viewers learned during tonight’s episode of Step it Up.
The discrimination drama began when Young-Byron invited fellow NBA dancer Jordan Krinke to her studio to scope out a few dancers for Victoria Velvet’s next big music video. Young-Byron claimed to trust Krinke’s judgment, but once she learned that a few of her strongest dancers didn’t make the cut, she made her displeasure known. At first, her protests seemed to be little more than the favoritism that remains a constant theme on Dance Moms. However, fans of Step it Up quickly realized that there was far more to this issue than Young-Byron’s favorites missing out on a good opportunity.
As Young-Byron — and several unhappy Step it Up fans — noted, Krinke primarily selected dancers with lighter skin. In doing so, she passed up several of the Young Contemporary Dance Theatre’s most talented students. Krinke initially claimed that height played a major role in the decision-making process, but Young-Byron quickly poked a hole in that argument. She went on to complain about how often dancers with dark skin are passed up in favor of less-qualified, but lighter-skinned competitors. Skin-color discrimination prevented Young-Byron from taking advantage of multiple opportunities, and the last thing she wants is for this ongoing societal problem to harm her YCDT students.
As adamant as Young-Byron seemed about representing the darker-skinned dancers of YCDT, viewers only witnessed a small slice of the drama. While tweeting about the episode, Young-Byron admitted that she was far harder on Krinke than viewers suspected.
Fans did not need to see the entirety of Young-Byron’s confrontation with Krinke to know that she had her dancers’ best interests at heart. Several fans took to Twitter to voice their approval for Young-Byron’s advocacy.
There’s nothing easy about being a member of the YCDT, but at least these dancers know that Young-Byron always has their back, especially when she suspects that discrimination is keeping them from reaching their full potential.