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Ballet's "elitist" image --what do you think?Ballet-bashing? or partly accurate?


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#91 drb

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 09:10 PM

..."American Ballet Company"...

Many of us are familler with the ABC version of Nutcracker. If you'd like to see what the First Fan was enjoying in St. Petersburg, it was the production by Mikhail Chemiakin. Here are photos of the ballet, including, at the bottom of the page, the two Heads of State with Chemiakin and the First Lady with Gergiev:
http://www.chemiakin...0Chemiakin.html

#92 DEMCAD

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 01:50 PM

There is one glaring omission from this debate around which the elitism of ballet and opera is unequivocal and why despite tickets being expensive sports events are uncomparable to ballet in terms of elitism and that is simply - race.

High art is overwhelmingly white, and any form of art or entertainment which is situated within society as we know and live it today and does not reflect the multi-culturalism of society and the attendent issues thereof cannot be seen as anything other than divorced from society. Apart from it, elitist.

Sadly the occasional Accosta, Anderson come across as nothing more than nods towards tokenism when the sole black face is surrounded by a field of white faces.

Sports, popular culture, music culture give multi-cultural role models and stars for children, young people and adults to aspire to. The ascension from unknown to MBA, NFL or MTV star is one wholly recognisable, the struggle to achieve relevant to the fan. There is nothing of this within ballet and sadly very little done to address this.

The black dancers who were chosen to enter the halcyon major companies, such as Ashe, Long, Douglas all had tales of frustrated ambition before leaving to join environments where race was not an issue but talent was.

Not one poster here mentioned race, because I hazzard a guess not one poster who contributed to this thread is black? (Please correct me if wrong) And until ballet addresses this it cannot be anything other than elitist.


American soccer is dominated by whites and it's not referred to as elitism. So is figure skating, hockey, Irish dance, curling and many other sports dominated by whites. People refer to the culture of ballet as being elitist for a reason. We can't ignore that.

#93 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 02:48 PM

Here's a link to a search on posts and threads that touch on race. If you can find anything we've left out, feel free to add.

http://ballettalk.in...p...939&hl=race

#94 2dds

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 08:25 AM

There is one glaring omission from this debate around which the elitism of ballet and opera is unequivocal and why despite tickets being expensive sports events are uncomparable to ballet in terms of elitism and that is simply - race.

High art is overwhelmingly white, and any form of art or entertainment which is situated within society as we know and live it today and does not reflect the multi-culturalism of society and the attendent issues thereof cannot be seen as anything other than divorced from society. Apart from it, elitist.

Sadly the occasional Accosta, Anderson come across as nothing more than nods towards tokenism when the sole black face is surrounded by a field of white faces.

Sports, popular culture, music culture give multi-cultural role models and stars for children, young people and adults to aspire to. The ascension from unknown to MBA, NFL or MTV star is one wholly recognisable, the struggle to achieve relevant to the fan. There is nothing of this within ballet and sadly very little done to address this.

The black dancers who were chosen to enter the halcyon major companies, such as Ashe, Long, Douglas all had tales of frustrated ambition before leaving to join environments where race was not an issue but talent was.

Not one poster here mentioned race, because I hazzard a guess not one poster who contributed to this thread is black? (Please correct me if wrong) And until ballet addresses this it cannot be anything other than elitist.


American soccer is dominated by whites and it's not referred to as elitism. So is figure skating, hockey, Irish dance, curling and many other sports dominated by whites. People refer to the culture of ballet as being elitist for a reason. We can't ignore that.


I was a poster on some of the threads Mel mentions.

#1 I actually have heard soccer, curling, etc. referred to as elitist or overly white, but as you mention, the commenters were themselves usually not white! Probably most in these sports activities neither noticed the lack of a black presence nor missed it much.

#2 It is very disappointing for young black dancers already having endured the scarcity of other black dancers in the training years to find out it is even worse when in pro auditions and settings. In addition, skin tone counts with lighter skinned blacks faring better, and darker more noticeably black dancers being viewed as less acceptable.

#3 Until ballet is a more pure meritocracy concerning race, the ballet world will be vulnerable to this charge. Many say the dancers are simply not out there, no interest, etc. (see the discussion Mel provides the link for). Please note the fate of Danny Tidwell a long thread on "So You Think You Can Dance" as well as the fact that the most popular (I think the younger hip people call it "viral) dance videos on You Tube includes Beyonce and two other dancers both of whom were exceptional young ballet-trained dancers. Why are they in this video rather than a ballet company you have patronized lately? The answer to this question says it all...

PS I apologize to patrons of the particular contemporary ballet company that does include one of the dancers (the Boston Ballet trained one!) on the "Single Ladies" video. You do patronize her company and you know who you are. By the way, the director of this company is both non white and not from the United States! This atypical company director does have a much more diverse group of dancers than most US companies. Also please note the contemporary/classical distinction. These dancers' early ballet training included typical classical and neoclassical training (full scholarship to SAB summer for the other young lady who is not the Boston trained one). I rest my case.

#95 Hans

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 10:55 AM

I could not find the SYTYCD thread, so I must ask, to what fate of Danny Tidwell are you referring? Was it the fact that he didn't win the competition?

#96 2dds

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 09:08 PM

:unsure:

I could not find the SYTYCD thread, so I must ask, to what fate of Danny Tidwell are you referring? Was it the fact that he didn't win the competition?


No Hans, my concern was not where he placed in the competition.

The fact that Tidwell was in this competition at all should have been a red flag, and to some it was. I haven't been able to track what was during that time a long discussion, not just of the contest itself, but of the fact that a former ABT dancer with an apparently bright future wound up in this forum.

I suspect we will just have to agree to disagree yet again. Maybe someone better at navigation on Ballet Talk can locate this discussion. (Thank you in advance).

I did notice that a search under Tidwell's name on this site produced several threads where he is mentioned in discussions updating his current 'work,' going back to his ABT days, and everything in between (including SYTYCD). Maybe the longer discussion was on the sister board: Ballet Talk for Dancers.

I wonder what you thought about the two classically trained dancers (flanking Beyoncé) who landed in the commercial dance video?

PS Beyoncé sang at the pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, and an inaugural ball the following evening. Her performance in the recently released feature film "Cadillac Records" has also received decent reviews. Let's hope the dancers were well paid. I suspect they were.

#97 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 11:49 PM

American soccer is dominated by whites and it's not referred to as elitism. So is figure skating, hockey, Irish dance, curling and many other sports dominated by whites. People refer to the culture of ballet as being elitist for a reason. We can't ignore that.


Elite: That would be the starting point. Race: something else. As a kid I was taught that the "old elite" was promoting "racial discrimination". The result: Only those with money-(whites)-would be having access to the private ballet academies. When everything turn all the way around, the majority of the white "elite" disappeared-(strangely, not from the ballet circles)-but the black population started to have total access to the ballet academies. Money wasn't an issue anymore...it was/is free. Endurance and skills were to be the signs of the new elite. Hip Hop elite is very well known, and is not dominated by whites. I don't think a class which ceased to be legally separated, and reduced to the same economical status of their former servants would be still considered as an "elite", even the lighter color of their skin. If something, being part of an Elite now in the Cuban Ballet Circle would be to kill yourself and offer your soul to Mme. Then she will let you in some more intimate circle...(Please note that I'm talking about a very geographically specific aspect of this broader discussion)

#98 innopac

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 12:26 AM

The fact that Tidwell was in this competition at all should have been a red flag, and to some it was. I haven't been able to track what was during that time a long discussion, not just of the contest itself, but of the fact that a former ABT dancer with an apparently bright future wound up in this forum.


Are you thinking of page 5 of this thread "Race, Culture and Ballet"?

#99 Hans

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 09:07 AM

I haven't spoken to Danny since our KAB days, but as far as I know, it was his own decision to leave ABT, and also to do the reality show, so I'm afraid I don't see the problem...?

#100 2dds

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 11:54 AM

I haven't spoken to Danny since our KAB days, but as far as I know, it was his own decision to leave ABT, and also to do the reality show, so I'm afraid I don't see the problem...?


I don't know Danny Tidwell, but understand you are trying to gently let me know there is not racism lurking around every corner. I take your point.

I do think however, it is unfortunate that a dancer like Danny or the young ladies in the video too often become lost to the ballet world for whatever reason. Even if it is by their own choice, sometimes a wiser, older, and experienced mentor can make a big difference. Here is where the scarcity of role models may be relevant.

Being colorblind will ensure the attrition of such dancers. Only extraordinary effort beyond "business as usual" will ever change the status quo. As I have said many, many times, I truly am not about assigning blame. I am about making positive changes, and discovering what these might be. Are there effective, creative ways to prevent or minimize the departure of promising dancers of color (especially African-Americans) from the overwhelmingly--possibly even increasingly--homogeneous world of ballet?

I continue to believe only by going the extra mile in an open-minded and even a creative way, a firm commitment, and possibly pro-active (even preferential) treatment will ultimately make a difference against the inertia, misunderstanding, and challenging practices that pervade the ballet world. Every once in awhile I convince myself that this forum may be one of the places where people of different experiences and perspectives can have a frank (if sometimes less than lovely) discussion without getting feathers too ruffled.

Inevitably I do come back to my senses, and back off and learn to leave things as they are. I promise not to continue to pursue this any further, raise any more troubling questions, or engage in any more idle speculation until such time as I regain my idealistic delusions once more. Then, all bets are off, and I may assume my gadfly role again. Everyone is safe for the moment, and you can count on my continued silence for the foreseeable future. :wink:


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