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Black ballet dancers


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#61 Dale

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 01:54 AM

In the book "I Remember Balanchine" somebody was quoted as saying Balanchine at one time expressed his desire to have a company with all black woman -- I believe the phrase "Nubian Princesses" was used.

On another note -- I think Aesha Ash at NYCB is a wonderful dancer. I remember when she danced Rubies at the SAB workshop a few years ago, what a sensation. Currently, she's done a luxurious "Coffee," and a spirited Dance Hall girl in Western Symphony (4th movement). She's extremely proficiant technically and has wonderful stage presence.

Also at NYCB -- Henry Seth is a beautiful partner, a true cavalier. He was a late fill-in for Jock Soto in Jazz a few seasons back and showed he can really dance.
Craig Hall is somebody who the company appears to have high hopes. He was one of the leads in Christopher Wheeldon’s Scene de Ballet and Polyphonia.

Of couse, I think the true test will be when these dancers do true classical roles. Ash already has in corps roles and demi-solist things, but Seth and Hall have not. Although, Hall was one of the cavaliers in the Rose Adagio.

Away from NYCB, I'm a real fan of Alicia Graf and Caroline Rocher at DTH. It's too bad Graf does not appear to be back anytime soon due to a severe injury.

Re: Misty Copeland. I also saw her in Swan Lake and thought she was just fine. She did some classical pas de deux in the ABT Studio Company performances and was given rave reviews.

#62 Alymer

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 08:10 AM

Also from the Opera de Paris and about the same generation as Vu An, there is Jean-Marie Didiere whose father (I think) is from Senegal. He now does a lot of mime roles - the High Brahmin, Lord Capulet,but has always been a very interesting dancer. At one time I seem to recall he took some time out to dance with Karole Armitage.

#63 Estelle

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 10:04 AM

Yes, Jean-Marie Didière is an interesting dancer. I think he is a bit older than Vu An
(Vu An is about 35-32 and Didière was at the POB school with Dupond, so must be about 40-42). He's one of the senior members of the company now, but still is very active, he got good reviews for his role as "Monsieur de GM" in "Manon" a few months ago, and also danced the Rajah in "La Bayadere" during the American tour of the POB, and Don Lopez in Paquita.

There also was Raphaëlle Delaunay, who left the company in 1997 (she was 21) when she was a coryphee: she joined Pina Bausch's company, and last year joined Kylian's Nederlands Dans Theater. Here is a page with a photo of her: [url="http://"http://www.ndt.nl/English/NDT1/Delaunay.html"]http://www.ndt.nl/English/NDT1/Delaunay.html[/url]
I wish I had had more time to see her when she danced in Paris. I have a good memory of her in a video of some EBU competition in the early 90s (Zenaida Yanowsky had won the gold medal, and Ms Delaunay had had a bronze medal).

#64 bijoux

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 09:41 PM

I was curious about the "sugar Plum" in the nutcracker ,so I asked around to see if boston Ballet had had any sugar plums or cavaliers of color and was pleased to hear that they had .appherantly back in the 70s or 80s,there was a South African man in the company who danced cavalier and a guy named Anthony Williams.More Recently,Roger Cunningham (who left the company a few years ago to dance in Europe)danced cavalier.Erika Lambe danced Sugar Plum last season and although it must not have been a published performance(they do alot of kiddie matinees)I think she is the first woman of color in Boston Ballet to have danced Sugar Plum fairy.I will look forward to seeing if she dances it again this year.they seem to use her in strong roles( demi character/Balanchine),so it is nice to hear that she was tried in something classical.I know that I have mentioned her alot,but I see boston Ballet all the time and she is a black dancer who looks black.although I haven't seen some of the dancers mentioned in this thread,the ones who people consider "beautiful"or "classical" don't look black from the audience.don't get me wrong,I think it is a tremendous effort to even represent dancers of color,but in the "black"ballerinas of today,it is still only Lauren Anderson who is ever mentioned in the classical sense.Misty Copeland and Alicia Graff are so fair skinned it is difficult to tell what nationality they are.Of course they are both very promissing dancers and are representitives of the new generation of dancers,I just wanted to put in something nice about someone who might not get menntioned.I read a thread about Christina Johnson a little while back and have to agree that she was a beautiful dancer,but not just classically.She was very versitile and that is what makes dancers memorable.i am not discuonting the fact that she was fairskinned.She is a beautiful dancer period.I also don't want people to get the impression that I am pushing the darker skinned dancer,I just rarely hear them mentioned,so I thought I would mention one myself.

#65 Dale

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 11:26 PM

I wanted to clarify something in my above post. When I said that the real test would come when these dancers are put in classical roles, I did not mean it as a test to the dancers, but to the artistic directors and to a portion of the audience.

#66 Alexandra

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 11:32 PM

And I'd like to clarify -- since it was I who called Christine Johnson "classical" that I didn't mean at all the way she looked or her skin tone, but the way she danced classical roles; it refers to the discussions on employ that we've had.

But thanks very much for your mention of Boston dancers, bijoux -- you're right; they don't get mentioned often. Skin color is another delicate matter -- in DTH, though, there were quite a few dark-skinned women -- Abarca, if I'm remembering correctly, and Karen Brown, for example. To compound the delicacy of the question, skin tone often changes with lighting. I often think that some Ailey or DTH dancers are light-skinned while they're dancing and realize during curtain calls, when they're out of the stage lighting, that they're not. (I don't mean that I think it matters, but that this is another area where perception and reality are often different.)

#67 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 24 July 2001 - 06:20 AM

at some time in the 1970s, ruth page had lydia abarca and paul russell in as guests to dance sugar plum and cavalier in her nutcracker.

#68 Alymer

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Posted 24 July 2001 - 08:24 AM

Paul Russell danced with Scottish Ballet at the time when Peter Darrell was running it. He was the first Golfo in their production of Napoli and was really good - though very different in approach from the usual stock baddie. However I guess Poul Gnatt who staged it, must have approved and I know that Kirsten Ralov, who came to see the production said that she liked his interpretation. I think he probably danced Gennaro at later performances.
Darrell also made a role for Augustus van Heerden, a black dancer from the Boston Ballet in the Scarlet Pastorale. It ended with him being strangled by Fonteyn. The role was later danced by Antony Dowell, but he didn't seem to be quite as home in it.

#69 bijoux

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Posted 24 July 2001 - 08:56 PM

sorry.I didn't mean to put Christina Johnson in that category(of skin tone)It was more of a comment to say that I agreed with the fact that she was a special dancer , and because she is light skinned,I wanted to add something in because I had just made a comment about skin tone in regards to some of the up and coming dancers of color.I think christina is from a generation where the color issue was something to be careful with .She is fair,but there is still something about her.I think I meant more that we(society and directors) should be at a place where it is ok to consider a dark skinned dancer good enough or classical enough.Of course Arthur Mitchell and Alvin Ailey have done it with their respective companies,but could you imagine how wrong it would be for a director of color not to recognize the talents in his own company regardless of skintone?This is always such a touchy issue,so I will just say it is great that you guys are recognizing the talents out there .I might not be a professional,but it makes me really proud to hear about dancers of color who are doing their thing and opening the doors every day for a future where nobody has to be idientified by their skin color or ethnic makeup.

Originally posted by alexandra:
And I'd like to clarify -- since it was I who called Christine Johnson "classical" that I didn't mean at all the way she looked or her skin tone, but the way she danced classical roles; it refers to the discussions on employ that we've had.

But thanks very much for your mention of Boston dancers, bijoux -- you're right; they don't get mentioned often.  Skin color is another delicate matter -- in DTH, though, there were quite a few dark-skinned women -- Abarca, if I'm remembering correctly, and Karen Brown, for example.  To compound the delicacy of the question, skin tone often changes with lighting. I often think that some Ailey or DTH dancers are light-skinned while they're dancing and realize during curtain calls, when they're out of the stage lighting, that they're not.  (I don't mean that I think it matters, but that this is another area where perception and reality are often different.)



#70 Alexandra

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Posted 24 July 2001 - 09:15 PM

Bijoux, I'm sure the situation will change; it's getting a little better with each generation. I agree with you that there is a prejudice, among both blacks and whites, about skin tone -- more for women than men.

It will change, I think, through time and critical mass. As long as there are one or two black dancers in a predominantly fair-skinned corps, they will "stick out" and it will disturb the eye -- or the eyes of those who see color, which is most of us. Put in four dancers (out of 18, say) and especially if the remaining 14 are a variety of skin tones, and the eye adjusts.

I've written before about the National Ballet of Cuba when I first saw it. For the first five minutes of their "Giselle," the racial mix bothered me; it wasn't something I was used to, and it didn't look like a Silesian corps (yes, I know that the POB or ABT corps may not look very Silesian to Silesians :) ). But this went away in 5 minutes, because the company was so good and because it was so mixed. No one could "stick out" because there was a blend of facial features and skin tones. What bound them as a classical company was the bodies and the technique/style.

I think this discussion has been a good one as well, and I hope there are some young dancers who have read it (we have several people registered with names like "blackballerina," so I'm presuming we have at least some Young Dancers of Color who read these boards. Get out there and dance, and get your name up on a discussion board in ten years time!


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