Ebony Williams

Ebony2.reffinery071514revlon_26228Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Even if you don’t recognize Ebony Williams’ face, you definitely know her moves. She was one of the two dancers putting a ring on it behind Beyoncé in her iconic “Single Ladies” video. Since then she’s been stockpiling dance credits to add to her already-robust résumé, which boasts names like Rihanna, Ciara, Jason Derulo, Fergie, and Jennifer Hudson.
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When she’s not busting onstage with the biggest names in pop music, Williams is making influential waves with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, the company she joined 10 years ago as its first black female dancer. Known for her versatility and otherworldly maneuvers in both hip-hop and classical ballet, Williams’ fearlessness transcends genres. Let’s get some pop-and-locks in with those pirouettes, shall we?
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Ebony3.reffinery071514revlon_25901Photographed by Ben Ritter.
A dancer by choice
“At one point, I quit dance all together. I wanted to be a normal kid for a while, be a cheerleader, gain a lot of weight, and meet boys, all of which I couldn’t do as a dancer. But, then I needed to let dance take control of my life again, and it reminded me of how much I loved it. Dancing felt forced in my childhood. The second time, it was my choice.”
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On ballet’s diversity issue
“Being black is one of those things that’s very talked about in the dance community, especially now. There are not a lot of us, especially if it’s a classical company. Usually, you only see one onstage with Snow White beauty queens. I had wanted to be a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl for so long, so it’s sad for me now to think once upon a time I was afraid to embrace who I was. Becoming who you are is all about hard work, dedication, loving yourself, and not giving up. Don’t let the doors close just because someone said no. You bust the door down and keep going for what you want.”
How my dancing is different
“Hip-hop came naturally to me, but ballet did not. It was a huge challenge and that’s why I wanted to do ballet so much and why I continue to put on my pointe shoes every day. I like to put myself in difficult positions and make them look organic but also distorted at the same time. I’m very animalistic and tall, so I move as if I’m a beast. To add a little booty pop to an arabesque, why not?”
What inspires me
“A lot of young people motivate me. They ask me to be their mentor, and it’s pretty awesome. They don’t realize they inspire me as much as I inspire them. I see how fearless they are because they don’t have the worries of the world on them. They’re just moving and going with the flow because they don’t know what’s out there yet. That’s what I have to remind myself and tap into, because as you get older, you get fearful of things you’ve experienced.”
When it’s important to say no
"Why would I choose to be one thing when I can do it all? I once turned down going on tour with Beyoncé, because it was important for me to stay with Cedar Lake, my dance company. You just have to know when to let go. I've completed almost 10 years here, but there's no reason for me to close that chapter of my life when I'm still challenged and growing every day. Plus, I learned to walk on stilts for a performance, which I've never done before! Opportunities will come around again — and it did. I've worked with Beyoncé many times after that. Things will always come around full circle.”
How I overcome stage fright
“I want to do my best to the point of shakes. Then, I get onstage and all of a sudden there’s a moment of calm and silence that I have within my body, and then I feel like I’m at home. I don’t see faces; it’s almost like a screen in front of them. I want to give them a part of me, but just enough without being overbearing and also just enough that I’m not hiding. When I’m dancing, I’m in the moment, and I want to live in the story so I can carry the emotions.”
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Ebony4.reffinery071514revlon_26267Photographed by Ben Ritter.
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Clover Canyon top, Kelly Haafe and Lydia Frantz skirt, Oscar de la Renta wedges, Jennifer Loiselle earrings.
Photographed by Ben Ritter; Hair & Makeup by Katie Mellinger; Styled by Laura Pritchard.