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Alexandra

Black ballet dancers

70 posts in this topic

pardon if he's mentioned somewhere, but i also recall keith lee.

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I saw that show(I think it was called,"I'll Make me a world") They also mentioned a girl from Boston Ballet.It was about three years ago and she danced a bit of 'blue Bird"pas de deux with a guy from National Ballet of Canida .Most people have mentioned dancers from New York,but Boston Ballet has had a few black ballet dancers,(though mostly men) over the years.one woman,Erika Lambe has been in the company for several years,and has held her own in solo work,but they don't use her alot.(talk about an exciting jump!!!)In the coda of the Nutcracker,whenever she has danced"Coffee"she always jumps as high as her male counterparts.It is so exciting.She is really strong from what I have seen and the audience seems to like her.She is fantastic in Balanchine Ballets.Kai Davis was the other black woman for the past few years.She is from Chicago.Unfortunately,I didn't get to see her dance much while she was in the company and she was one of the dancers let go.She wouldn't have gotten into Boston Ballet if she weren't talented,so I'm sure she'll do well wherever she goes.I don't know what will happen with miss Lambe.I don't know if she will be here next season or not.I hope she is and that she will get some more deserved opportunities.There was a guy in the company named Roger Cunningham who was beautiful to watch ,but he is in Europe now.I just wanted to add that information from Boston becausethose dancers deserve a mention too.

[edited to get rid of quote]

[ 07-10-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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From what I have heard,miss Anderson is a really strong dancer and to the best of my knowledge,she is currently the only principal black female classical ballet dancer in the country who is not in Dance Theatre of Harlem.That has to say something about a dancer of color.Not to put this the wrong way,but she nust be something else(in an excellent way) to have gained a postion that so many dancers of color strive for but never achieve.To be considered an equal amongst a group of dancers who you don't resemble speaks volumes for the dancer and I must say for an artistic director ,who is not a person of color,but is willing to stick by his vision.Kudos to Ben Stevenson for making that mark.It is a shame however that Houston Ballet is the only place it is happening for the women in the dance world.I could be wrong about this,but I just haven't heard about any other black principal female dancers,or even soloists for that matter.Please someone correct me if I'm wrong.I know that Dance Theatre of Harllem has its principals and soilosts as well it should.I believe Arthur Mitchell fornded his company for that reason,to give dancers of color the opportunity to dance and become a principal dancer in a ballet company.I think it is a shame that other companies have not been more open to those possibilities...

Originally posted by BalletNut:

Hopefully Chidozie Nzerem will get promoted soon; I've always liked him.

I haven't seen her, but Houston Ballet's Lauren Anderson is supposed to be pretty good.

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I was tremendously impressed with Duncan Cooper's Prodigal Son when he danced it in New York a couple of years ago. I was lucky enough to interview him (the interview appears in the most recent Ballet Alert), and before talking to him, read through his reviews. His first Prodigal Son, in San Francisco (he began his career with the San Francisco Ballet), got some of the most incredible reviews I have ever read, so I wasn't alone in being impressed! Unfortunately, he has had some terrible injuries, but he was so moving as the Prodigal.

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What about Desmond Richardson?

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oh yes,Desmond is beautiful.I saw him when he was with Alvin Ailey and more recently(about two or three years ago) when he danced with "Fosse".I remember what struck me when he was in Ailey was just how long and classical his lines were.Of course the company has gone through some changes over the years and there are many more like him now,but at the time he was one of a few.Did anyone mention Mel Tomlinson?I never saw him dance,but he was in New York City Ballet and Boston Ballet wasn't he?another dancer from the history books is Ronald Perry.Did anyone see him dance?He was in American Ballet Theatre for a while and he danced in Europe and then with Dance Theatre of Harlem.I actually think he was with DTH a few times in his carer,but I'm not too sure.

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I'd like to put in a word for Tai Jimenez, who was a principal dancer with DTH (we were classmates at Darvash in the 80's), a beautifully sculpted dancer and quite a beauty as well. And possessing a will of iron.

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Oscar Hawkins - a Jackson IBC semi-finalist in 1998 - is a heavenly dancer. Last time that I checked, he was a soloist at Cleveland-San Jose Ballet (or its successor name). I've lost track of him...anybody know where he is, these days?

The male 'star' of this year's Kirov Academy/Washington, DC spring performance was a very promising African-American, Danny Tidwell....beautiful jump, tons of charisma (the 'it' factor) and the face of Jose-Manuel Carreno. ;) [As academy reviews are off-limits on this forum, you missed my praises of his 'Coppelia pdd' with Ashley Canterna.] Danny will compete in the Jr division at the upcoming Shanghai IBC. Keep him on your radar screen.

[ 07-10-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Jeannie,

All school/student performance reviews are off-limits here, not just the Kirov Academy's.

One has only to read the thread on ballet.co about the Royal Ballet School's spring performances to see why......

what a mess.

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Thanks, Juliet. I took Jeannie's "academy" reference to be small "a," as in dance school. (And please, let's not rehash this issue again :) )

I'd missed Mme. Hermine's mention of Albert Evans -- it came up on the end of a page, and there was a post that followed it quickly, so more people might have missed it as well.

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You're right, Alexandra. It is indeed a lower-case "a."

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So sorry. I was simply being careful, and have no interest in reopening this issue.

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And what about Misty Copeland, a new corps member of ABT this season? She was the object of much media interest (on TV's 20/20 & other news shows) a couple of years ago, due to a problem with her initial teacher, plus her 'raw' talent & extraordinary beauty.

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Jeannie, I haven't been too impressed with Misty from the couple of performances that I've seen of her (classically speaking), but I'll have to see how she develops! Danny Tidwell was a sensation when he performed with Rasta's group in Japan last year; many commented that they liked him even more than Rasta! Best wishes to him at the Shanghai IBC.

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Terace Jones danced with Bejart, Washington Ballet, PNB, Joffrey and now the touring company of Fosse.

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Thanks for the further insights on Tidwell, Terry.

I have never seen Misty Copeland 'live' - only on those TV programs during the troubles with her teacher, a few years back. She was in none of the ABT programs that I saw this year. She's very young & just beginning her prof'l career.

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misty copeland was one of the four swans in a performance i recently saw of kevin mckenzie's 'swan lake'. she did well. she's a talented girl and as she grows it would be nice to see her in more.

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Before she became a star with Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison was a member of the Harkness Ballet. There was also a Harkness dancer with the fabulous name of D'artagnan Petty. John Jones was in the company at that time as well. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Jerome Robbins originally choreographed "Afternoon of a Faun" on him, or it may have been Louis Johnson. At any rate, a pas de deux with a black man and a white woman was seen as quite a racial statement in the ballet's early days. This was just before the peak of the civil rights movement, and segregation was still the law of the land in much of the country.

One of Balanchine's "lost" ballets is "The Figure in the Carpet". It featured several leading couples, among them Arthur Mitchell and Mary Hinkson. Ms. Hinkson was one of Martha Graham's principal dancers, but she was initially trained in ballet. She performed the role on pointe. Many black dancers were steered to modern dance because the chance of a ballet career was considered unlikely.

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Robbins is quoted in Repertory in Review as saying that one inspiration for Faun was watching a rehearsal of Louis Johnson and another student practice the adagio from Swan Lake, but he says nothing about having made the ballet on him. Robbins says it was made on Le Clercq, but does not mention the man by name.

All the same, the story makes me wonder if the fact that Balanchine insisted his pas de deux "weren't about anything" was one of the reasons that Mitchell and Diana Adams could do Agon. Interracial dancing was probably controversial enough at that time, I'm not sure what sort of reaction the story (and the final kiss) of a dance like Afternoon of a Faun would have provoked half a century ago. Again interestingly, none of the original cast of Agon seemed to feel Balanchine was making a political statement, but many mentioned his sculptural fascination of seeing a white and a black dancer together and the designs it could produce.

Another pioneer I've read about in books, but have never even seen pictures of, was Janet Collins, whom I believe was the first black principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.

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Thanks to Leigh Witchel for the info on "Afternoon of a Faun". But as for Balanchine and racial political statements, one could say that the hiring of Arthur Mitchell was a pretty powerful statement for its time. Also I seem to recall a story that, long ago, when Balanchine's Balanchine's was broadcast, instead of the usual pas de deux for the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier, the ballerina was partnered by all of the male principals from the second act, which included Arthur Mitchell. (This was back when the Arabian Dance was performed by a man instead of a woman.) Because it was never performed this way on stage, there was some thought that Balanchine was making a comment on racial equality, using the powerful medium of television. Maybe someone out there knows more about this.

By the way, Janet Collins and and the modern dancer Carmen de Lavallade are cousins. Certainly they are both strikingly beautiful.

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Now that you mention it, I think I must have seen it that way as a child. I'd completely forgotten about it.

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