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Dark skin as an aesthetic issue in classical balletHow do you make it a non-issue?


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#136 bart

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 03:30 PM

It's also true that the word racist gets thrown around a lot. That is still no reason to bar it from the discussion.

Agreed. If I gave the impression of wishing to "bar" any form of speech, I apologize. My point has to do with questioning the usefulness of certain terms in certain kinds of discussion, not whether those terms should be disallowed.

#137 Quiggin

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 05:20 PM

I didn't mean to swing the discussion so much in one direction, only wanted to point out that the softening of terms usually works to the advantage of the person who originally did not play fairly – and that splitting everything 50-50 after a 95-05 split works to the advantage of the person who benefited the most in the past. And as far as moving towards the middle, being kind and a moderate about things is concerned, look how much success Obama has had with Congress in trying to do just that.

My larger point was that ADs have to jump past the audience and lead them to new combinations of music & choreography ... no more Martins/McCartney/Stroman. No more dry as dust athletic neo-modernism. There were lots of interesting experiments in dance at Judson in the fifties based on interesting venacular "found" movements. These and early Merce & odd Balanchines & twenties Ballet Russes like Socrates (actually MMorris is just doing this) & Parade that could be build upon, and could easily accomodate a mix of body types, and still be based on classical principles, variation form, etc. Don Quixote could surely be opened up and refurbished, much as the Mozart operas have been.

#138 kfw

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 06:25 PM

In regards to euphemisms and circumlocutions, we can acknowledge the moral seriousness of racism, but that variety of forms dirac refers to might make us question whether we're really seeing the same thing in different guises in each case, or sometimes something else. I find, after periodically discussing this issue on a number of forums over the last 10 years, and being considered liberal on conservative forums and conservative on liberal ones, that a lot of people on both left and right are dogmatic on the issue, and that the further to the either side someone is on issue, the more firmly they are, naturally, to dismiss the other person's assertions out of hand, and the less likely their assertions are to be accompanied by the sort of point by point rebuttals and serious engagement with the other's reasoning which, happily, some of us have taken time for here, and which actually shed light on each other's thinking.

Of course there is a time to for blunt talk, but cautious,softer language, even when it's euphemistic or circumlocutious, has the virtue of not coming across as moralizing, as talking down to people, which only tends to harden them in their thinking, shutting down communication. Precisely because racially based thinking need not be intended and accompanied by personal animus, using the same term in each case, as if one-size-fits all, trading as it does on the evil of actual racial animus, gives the user an unmerited rhetorical power, a shaming device, that is both logically lazy and and obfuscating. And counter-productive. Simply put, people who feel talked down to don't listen, and don't have a change of heart. Is the intention to shine a light on hurtful behavior in order to eliminate it, or to claim the moral high ground?


#139 Helene

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 06:37 PM

On the other hand, euphemistic and circumlocutious language can be interpreted as condescending, insulting, dishonest, and/or offensive as direct language. It depends on the audience.

#140 kfw

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 07:07 PM

Here's something we can all agree is good, something bound to lead to more professional, too-good-to-be-denied dancers of color:

Dance Institute, Centered in Harlem
By FELICIA R. LEE

For 35 years the National Dance Institute has been a gypsy, in the words of its founder, Jacques d'Amboise, the former New York City Ballet principal dancer. The institute rented and borrowed space here and there as it brought dance, performance and arts education to thousands of New York City public school students.

But its itinerant days are over, as exuberantly demonstrated on a recent fall afternoon by a group of children dancing inside a sleek, modern studio on 147th Street, between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevards. The studio is part of the institute's first permanent home, 18,000 square feet of clean lines and blond wood inside what was once Public School 90, one of the many buildings in central Harlem shuttered in the 1970s as economic decline battered the city.

On Tuesday evening there will be a ribbon cutting to celebrate the official opening of the National Dance Institute Center for Learning & the Arts,


NY Times

#141 dirac

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 10:18 PM

There is no particular reason to believe that the people in the middle of the road are seekers of the true way while those on either side are blinded by dogma. But I agree with Quiggin that we're headed far off the reservation here.

#142 E Johnson

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 09:56 AM

When I go to the theater, I want to see good dancing, not "a truly American art form."


why are we setting these up as opposites? Balanchine valued good dancing, for sure, but he also seems to have set out to create an American form of ballet. That's how you get Rubies and Western and Symphony in Three Movements, and Maria Tallchief and Arthur Mitchell. All great, all something beyond Caucasian/European ballet.

#143 bart

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 11:04 AM

Thanks, kfw, for that material on the new building for the National Dance Institute. I was thinking of this thread when I read it this morning.

I realize that this story is only tangentially connected to ballet training per se. But I have the impression that most students taking ballet are not counting on ballet careers and will choose other forms of dance if they take it up professionally.

However, once they are there all should be considered as potential ballet professionals until they (a) disqualify themselves by lack of interest or (b) are encouraged to move into other forms of dance as well as ballet. Decisions of who should or not "be a ballet dancer" should be based on objective and fair evaluation of the student's gifts and interests. In my book, this means that race," ethnicity, and color should be left out..

Personally I hope this is a step along the way to what Quiggan talks about ...

My larger point was that ADs have to jump past the audience and lead them to new combinations of music & choreography ... no more Martins/McCartney/Stroman. No more dry as dust athletic neo-modernism. There were lots of interesting experiments in dance at Judson in the fifties based on interesting venacular "found" movements. These and early Merce & odd Balanchines & twenties Ballet Russes like Socrates (actually MMorris is just doing this) & Parade that could be build upon, and could easily accomodate a mix of body types, and still be based on classical principles, variation form, etc. Don Quixote could surely be opened up and refurbished, much as the Mozart operas have been.


Here is the NY Times link to the full Dance Institute story, with photos:
http://www.nytimes.c...l?_r=1&ref=arts

CONGRATULATIONS, Jacques d'Amboise, students, and staff.

#144 kfw

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 11:59 AM


When I go to the theater, I want to see good dancing, not "a truly American art form."


why are we setting these up as opposites? Balanchine valued good dancing, for sure, but he also seems to have set out to create an American form of ballet. That's how you get Rubies and Western and Symphony in Three Movements, and Maria Tallchief and Arthur Mitchell. All great, all something beyond Caucasian/European ballet.

I love those ballets and I wish I'd seen those dancers live, but Balanchine and Kirstein had an artistic and, presumably, a marketing agenda, not a political one. If a choreographer or AD today has that goal, more power to them, and lucky us. But it shouldn't be prescribed for them.

#145 kfw

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 12:01 PM

However, once they are there all should be considered as potential ballet professionals until they (a) disqualify themselves by lack of interest or (b) are encouraged to move into other forms of dance as well as ballet. Decisions of who should or not "be a ballet dancer" should be based on objective and fair evaluation of the student's gifts and interests. In my book, this means that race," ethnicity, and color should be left out.

I think that's well put.

CONGRATULATIONS, Jacques d'Amboise, students, and staff.

Yes!




#146 lmspear

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 01:01 PM



When I go to the theater, I want to see good dancing, not "a truly American art form."


why are we setting these up as opposites? Balanchine valued good dancing, for sure, but he also seems to have set out to create an American form of ballet. That's how you get Rubies and Western and Symphony in Three Movements, and Maria Tallchief and Arthur Mitchell. All great, all something beyond Caucasian/European ballet.

I love those ballets and I wish I'd seen those dancers live, but Balanchine and Kirstein had an artistic and, presumably, a marketing agenda, not a political one. If a choreographer or AD today has that goal, more power to them, and lucky us. But it shouldn't be prescribed for them.


When I was in high school back in the mid-70s it was relatively easy to get friends who were not interested in dance to sample a performance of the Joffrey at City Center if Deuce Coupe or Trinity was part of the program. These friends then got to see the Ashton or Ballet Russes revival and some other Arpino work and often enjoyed these works to their surprise. The company also had Bette Midler doing radio ads which may have also helped to build interest. Ballet never became the first choice for an entertainment activity for these friends, but it became an acceptable option if plans were open to discussion. Robert Joffrey and whoever designed the marketing campaigns were brilliant.

#147 dirac

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 04:17 PM

Decisions of who should or not "be a ballet dancer" should be based on objective and fair evaluation of the student's gifts and interests. In my book, this means that race," ethnicity, and color should be left out..


I know of no one who would dispute this (although "objective" and "fair" are tricky concepts in a process that is by definition highly subjective, with fallible human beings making individual judgments all along the line. Until that happy color-blind day, however, we are left to deal with the world as it is.

#148 bart

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 04:35 PM

I know of no one who would dispute this (although "objective" and "fair" are tricky concepts in a process that is by definition highly subjective, with fallible human beings making individual judgments all along the line. Until that happy color-blind day, however, we are left to deal with the world as it is.

Agreed. "Objectivity" and "fairness" are difficult to acquire in the best of circumstances and can never be achieved perfectly. However, one is more likely to do better in these areas if one makes an effort to detach oneself from one's own parochial perspective -- and from "the way its always done" -- and take an honest look at what can be done differently. That IS, I think, a fairly useful way to "deal with the world as it is."

When I was in high school back in the mid-70s it was relatively easy to get friends who were not interested in dance to sample a performance of the Joffrey at City Center if Deuce Coupe or Trinity was part of the program. These friends then got to see the Ashton or Ballet Russes revival and some other Arpino work and often enjoyed these works to their surprise.

I really identify with this, impsear. It's one of the things that made the Joffrey so exciting to attend, especially for young people.

I was more likely to reverse your friends' process: buying a ticket to see Ballets Russes works like Petrushka, or Les Patineurs, or The Green Table, but sticking around to learn something new from Deuce Coupe, my first Tharp, or Trinity, plus a number of other Arpino works I don't recall but which i enjoyed at the time. Either way, it was a rich experience. The word "serendipity" comes to mind.

I agree with kfw that this kind of programming was probably not motivated by a political agenda, except in the sense that many of us believed in those days (as I still do) that "everything is political." On the other hand, come to think of it, the star of Trinity was Geoffrey Holder, a black man. I suspect that he is a big reason I remember in great detail the look and feel of this piece (and the huge audience reaction) despite not having seen it for 30 or 40 years. :smilie_mondieu:

#149 E Johnson

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 09:12 AM



When I go to the theater, I want to see good dancing, not "a truly American art form."


why are we setting these up as opposites? Balanchine valued good dancing, for sure, but he also seems to have set out to create an American form of ballet. That's how you get Rubies and Western and Symphony in Three Movements, and Maria Tallchief and Arthur Mitchell. All great, all something beyond Caucasian/European ballet.

I love those ballets and I wish I'd seen those dancers live, but Balanchine and Kirstein had an artistic and, presumably, a marketing agenda, not a political one. If a choreographer or AD today has that goal, more power to them, and lucky us. But it shouldn't be prescribed for them.


Why not? Unless you assume that making ballet more open/diverse automatically makes it worse, or demeans artistic integrity, why not say to AD's, and audience members, and Directors of schools, that they should think about looking outside the box? That they should consider that the art form has been and is shaped by history and white privilege (and other privileges as well but less relevant to this discussion) and that they should think about how to address that? Personally I think that looking at and addressing these issues would lead to aesthetic and marketing/audience development improvements too.
I cite Balanchine’s work, and dancers, above in part to say that ballet can move away form its European roots and be great. And he’s not the only example of this.

#150 kfw

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 09:33 AM

I agree with kfw that this kind of programming was probably not motivated by a political agenda, except in the sense that many of us believed in those days (as I still do) that "everything is political." On the other hand, come to think of it, the star of Trinity was Geoffrey Holder, a black man. I suspect that he is a big reason I remember in great detail the look and feel of this piece (and the huge audience reaction) despite not having seen it for 30 or 40 years. :smilie_mondieu:


I remember him - Christian Holder, actually :-), the actor Geoffrey's nephew apparently. A big guy, wasn't he/isn't he? Marvelous stomping around the stage as Death in the Green Table on the first ballet program I ever saw. Going Off Topic for just a moment, here's an essay he wrote for Dance Magazine in 2006, Remembering Joffrey.


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