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Pennsylvania Ballet on "20/20" Friday, Sep. 15

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Pennsylvania Ballet is featured on "20/20" tomorrow, in a broadcast dedicated to 'debunking stereotypes' about the number of gay men in ballet. The company helpfully crunches the numbers:

http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/entertain...performing_arts

The Pennsylvania Ballet will be featured tomorrow on ABC's 20/20 as part of a report debunking stereotypes.

Specifically, that all male ballet dancers are gay.

It's not true, at least at the Pennsylvania Ballet. Five of the 19 full-time male company members - about one-quarter - have publicly identified themselves as gay, says ballet spokeswoman Emily Cheramie, adding that to her knowledge, there are no lesbian dancers in the company.

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Oy. That old thing again.

At least Cheramie (whom I know and like from prior professional dealings) says this outright:

If [the stereotype] were true, so what?

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I'm happy that the company will get some national exposure and look forward to seeing Hench again, although I do find the whole idea sort of depressing.

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I just got notificiation that PAB will be featured on 20/20 tomorrow night...

Inqlings | '20/20' uses Pa. Ballet to shatter a stereotype

The Pennsylvania Ballet will be featured tomorrow on ABC's 20/20 as part of a report debunking stereotypes.

Specifically, that all male ballet dancers are gay.

It's not true, at least at the Pennsylvania Ballet. Five of the 19 full-time male company members - about one-quarter - have publicly identified themselves as gay, says ballet spokeswoman Emily Cheramie, adding that to her knowledge, there are no lesbian dancers in the company.

"If [the stereotype] were true, so what?" Cheramie says.

(Well, then 20/20 wouldn't have much of a story.)

A 20/20 producer called several weeks ago after the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre declined to cooperate, Cheramie says.

Five Pennsylvania Ballet dancers were interviewed in a two-day shoot (10 p.m., 6ABC) - Zachary Hench, James Ihde, Jonathan Stiles (who Cheramie says are straight) and James Ady and retired soloist Meredith Rainey (who Cheramie says are gay).

"The company could really care less [about a dancer's sexuality]. No one makes a big deal about it," Cheramie says.

Straight male dancers "endured ridicule when they were younger," Cheramie says. "They said they almost felt they had a secret no one knew - to be surrounded by beautiful women."

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I just got notificiation that PAB will be featured on 20/20 tomorrow night...

Inqlings | '20/20' uses Pa. Ballet to shatter a stereotype

The Pennsylvania Ballet will be featured tomorrow on ABC's 20/20 as part of a report debunking stereotypes.

Specifically, that all male ballet dancers are gay.

It's not true, at least at the Pennsylvania Ballet. Five of the 19 full-time male company members - about one-quarter - have publicly identified themselves as gay, says ballet spokeswoman Emily Cheramie, adding that to her knowledge, there are no lesbian dancers in the company.

"If [the stereotype] were true, so what?" Cheramie says.

(Well, then 20/20 wouldn't have much of a story.)

A 20/20 producer called several weeks ago after the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre declined to cooperate, Cheramie says.

Five Pennsylvania Ballet dancers were interviewed in a two-day shoot (10 p.m., 6ABC) - Zachary Hench, James Ihde, Jonathan Stiles (who Cheramie says are straight) and James Ady and retired soloist Meredith Rainey (who Cheramie says are gay).

"The company could really care less [about a dancer's sexuality]. No one makes a big deal about it," Cheramie says.

Straight male dancers "endured ridicule when they were younger," Cheramie says. "They said they almost felt they had a secret no one knew - to be surrounded by beautiful women."

All I can say is to give credit to NYCB and ABT for giving this a wide berth. And thumbs down on PA ballet

for participating.

Richard

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I'm happy that the company will get some national exposure and look forward to seeing Hench again, although I do find the whole idea sort of depressing.

There are now two threads on this (more than) sort of depressing show. Being a gay man I find the whole theme distasteful.

Maybe 20/20 can do a show on female dancers and sort them by sexual orientation too. But lesbians tend to be invisible to the population as a whole.

Gee, how do they count people that are bisexual????? Half points?

Perhaps this thread and the other similar one should be combined.

Richard

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I've closed the thread in the Pennsylvania Ballet forum, with all thanks to purelyballet for posting there, and copying richard53dog's comment in that forum below:

All I can say is to give credit to NYCB and ABT for giving this a wide berth. And thumbs down on PA ballet for participating.

I agree to a point, but I'm sure they meant well, and they could probably use some publicity much more than NYCB and ABT.

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I could not disagree more....I give PABallet a lot of credit for participating. In the article that I read it said that PR Director for PABallet commented something to the effect....Who really cares about the sexual orientation of the dancer. We hire dancers for their ability to dance.

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sorry my reply sent before I was finished..so I will try again

I could not disagree more....I give PABallet a lot of credit for participating. In the article that I read it said that PR Director for PABallet commented something to the effect....Who really cares about the sexual orientation of the dancer. We hire dancers for their ability to dance.

As we all know ticket sales contine to drop nationally...and what a great vehicle to showcase ballet to the millions of veiwers who will be watching this program. Ballet is the one artform that really does not get their due share of media coverage. The more that we can showcase ballet to millions of potential audience members, the better off ballet will be. KUDOS PABallet.

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Gee, how do they count people that are bisexual?????

I did have a little bit of fun trying to imagine how the company went around collecting the data. :)

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Surely it cannot be legal to ask such a thing; I suppose they must have had dancers volunteer.

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All I can say is to give credit to NYCB and ABT for giving this a wide berth. And thumbs down on PA ballet

for participating.

Oh, I hardly think ABT is above this sort of discussion. What do you suppose "Born to Be Wild" was all about? Those shots of José Carreño among his progeny and Ethen Stiefel riding his Harley were certainly intended to counter certain stereotypes.

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All I can say is to give credit to NYCB and ABT for giving this a wide berth. And thumbs down on PA ballet

for participating.

Oh, I hardly think ABT is above this sort of discussion. What do you suppose "Born to Be Wild" was all about? Those shots of José Carreño among his progeny and Ethen Stiefel riding his Harley were certainly intended to counter certain stereotypes.

True, but it was indirect . And it was more like look at the different lifestyles and backgrounds of these 4 dancers. Some taste and sensitivity was maintained.

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.....I suppose they must have had dancers volunteer.
These days, all it takes is a perusal through dancers' "myspace" pages to know that many volunteer their sexual orientation quite willingly on standard forms they fill out for their "myspace" profiles. Many dancers, in companies all over the world, from apprentices to corps to soloists to some principals, maintain active, public "myspace" sites. Viewing one instantly leads to others. A professional dancer sometimes even advertises their "myspace" address on their website (or even on BT, where I found the first such space). If I can find out such info, can you imagine what background work TV researchers can do, even before they approach a dancer with their query?

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Dancers tend to be young. Young people in the US-European world tend to be less hung up about such things -- as artists in general have been over the centuries.

20-20 may have had an agenda in asking the question, but the response(s) from Pa. Ballet in my opinion, anyway, seem quite unsurprising and refreshing.

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It isn't so much a question of 20/20; 'having an agenda' -- I'm sure they have the best of intentions -- but as mentioned earlier the perceived need for such a program is a bit disheartening.

Parenthetically, in my experience not all the young folks are as broadminded as one might expect. :)

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It isn't so much a question of 20/20; 'having an agenda' -- I'm sure they have the best of intentions
Agendas can be well-meant and even admirable. In a sense, I suppose, all feature stories have agendas.

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Parenthetically, in my experience not all the young folks are as broadminded as one might expect. :)

In my experience, broadminded people, given their different backgrounds, different ideological baselines/principles, and different experiences, don't all agree. What I look for is not agreement, but the willingness to respect in spite of disagreement. To my mind, that's true broadmindedness.

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Broadmindedness may indeed be selective, and on an individual basis there is much difference of opinion. But in two areas there have been measurable changes over the past couple of decades:

1) public opinion surveys show that under-30s are now much more willing than older populations to allow the individual to make his or her own choices in this area.

2) this group (when compared to older Americans) is less supportive of legal and other discrimination based on sexual preference.

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I watched this program because I'd read about it here. The ostensible subject was "stereotypes." The opinion was that though stereotypes were bad, there was a lot of truth to them, but

"we're not supposed to talk about it." The program was all over the lot -- from hate crimes to a pointless classroom experiment in which little kids were told that their blue-eyed classmates were "better" than the brown-eyed ones. The next day they were told it was a mistake -- the brown-eyed ones were better. Some of the children were in tears. I wasn't feeling so good myself. As for whether male dancers are effeminate, I'm not sure the program had an opinion, but the role of the Pennsylvania Ballet in this unnecessary mess was neglible to the point of invisibility.

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Philadelphia citypaper.net made fun of the PA Ballet press release:

Quoth the press release:

"Of course Pennsylvania Ballet jumped at the chance to participate! Only 26% of our male dancers are gay, and the remaining men are dating or married to fellow Company Members!"

Yes, that's an impressively high hetero quotient. But the exclamation points are a little much.

http://www.citypaper.net/clog/2006/09/15/p...is-only-26-gay/

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I watched this program because I'd read about it here. The ostensible subject was "stereotypes." ... pointless classroom experiment in which little kids were told that their blue-eyed classmates were "better" than the brown-eyed ones. The next day they were told it was a mistake -- the brown-eyed ones were better. Some of the children were in tears. I wasn't feeling so good myself.

I watched part of this program as well, though I missed the reference to the blue/brown experiment. It was, as far as I know, first done in the 1960's, when our public understanding of prejudice was considerably less extensive, and I think was a groundbreaking and legitimate project for the teacher and her students. That it still seems to be a 'new' idea today says something about the glacial pace of some kinds of social change.

As for whether male dancers are effeminate, I'm not sure the program had an opinion, but the role of the Pennsylvania Ballet in this unnecessary mess was neglible to the point of invisibility.

I agree, the inclusion of the Pennsylvania Ballet seemed rather perfunctory, the inevitable nod to "well, aren't they all gay?"

I don't really expect 20/20 to break much ground in social commentary, but I do think they are a reasonable reflection of current middle-of-the-road attitudes.

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I watched part of this program as well, though I missed the reference to the blue/brown experiment. It was, as far as I know, first done in the 1960's, when our public understanding of prejudice was considerably less extensive, and I think was a groundbreaking and legitimate project for the teacher and her students. That it still seems to be a 'new' idea today says something about the glacial pace of some kinds of social change.
It wasn't presented as new, but the sight of a girl (in 1960s vintage footage) crying over the unjust treatment of her classmates was very affecting and tv-worthy.

The value of this program, IMO, was pointing out that while we have all absorbed stereotypes and carry biases, we should be aware that they are generalizations and not allow them to define people based on their race, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. For most of us, this is old stuff, but it's just possible that some people found enlightenment here. The conclusion of the program, where we meet the victim of a gay bashing and the reformed white supremacist who was one of his attackers -- two men who were brought together by LA's Museum of Tolerance and built a friendship -- shows that there is hope.

A large part of the program was devoted to the athletic "superiority" of African origin. There were citations of the greater drive of Africans and African-Americans who may see fewer options for success, one black amateur basketball player referred to the (fallacious) myth that slave owners bred slaves for size and strength, and therefore African Americans were endowed with innate advantages. The only comment in this section that made sense to me came from Carl Lewis, the sprinter, who noted that his genes gave him long femurs, which result in a longer stride than most people.

When all was said and done, I regretted not watching the Law & Order rerun instead :( , except to the extent that watching 20/20 enabled me to post this. :)

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Broadmindedness may indeed be selective, and on an individual basis there is much difference of opinion. But in two areas there have been measurable changes over the past couple of decades:

1) public opinion surveys show that under-30s are now much more willing than older populations to allow the individual to make his or her own choices in this area.

2) this group (when compared to older Americans) is less supportive of legal and other discrimination based on sexual preference.

I'm sure you're right about the stats. My remark was based on strictly personal anecdotal experience.

Farrell Fan writes:

The program was all over the lot -- from hate crimes to a pointless classroom experiment in which little kids were told that their blue-eyed classmates were "better" than the brown-eyed ones. The next day they were told it was a mistake -- the brown-eyed ones were better. Some of the children were in tears. I wasn't feeling so good myself. As for whether male dancers are effeminate, I'm not sure the program had an opinion, but the role of the Pennsylvania Ballet in this unnecessary mess was neglible to the point of invisibility.

I was able to watch only the last twenty minutes or so of the program and missed out on the ballet company entirely, but that was my assessment, too. In the segments I saw, a couple of highly dubious assertions were made by one fellow asked to comment that went by unquestioned.

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