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


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#151 kfw

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 10:04 AM

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.


Of course it can be great. But if diversity is the goal, then halfway measures won't do, and the ideal, the real goal, is wide diversity and equal representation. So shouldn't NYCB have another Puerto Rican and/or Native American principal to replace Jock Soto? What about an Taiwanese-American male to replace Edwaard Liang? And how about Hispanic dancers? Wait, let's not be racist and say "Hispanic"to describe Chicanos, Cuban-Americans, Puerto-Rican Americans, etc., as if they're all alike. It needs them all. And what about sexual preference? Everyone knows that many dancers are gay men, but does the company have any lesbian dancers, and in the interests of diversity, shouldn't it have more than a few?


If you start along that road, where should the company be allowed to stop? Don't forget that precisely due to that history of white privilege, there is an extra high percentage of white dancers in the talent pool right now..

Following bart's idea - and, bart, I don't mean to presume we see things just alike here - if there are talented dancers in all those categories, and schools and companies are open-minded, they'll take their places. But a ballet company isn't an affirmative action program, it's an arts organization. It's goal isn't diversity, it isn't to rectify centuries of social injustice - it's to put the very best dancers and choreographer onstage, diverse or not.


#152 E Johnson

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 10:18 AM

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.

[size="3"]
Of course it can be great. But [font="Arial, sans-serif"]if diversity is the goal, then halfway measures won't do, and the ideal, the real goal, is wide diversity and equal representation. So shouldn't NYCB have another Puerto Rican and/or Native American principal to replace Jock Soto? What about an Taiwanese-American male to replace Edwaard Liang? And how about Hispanic dancers? Wait, let's not be racist and say "Hispanic"to describe Chicanos, Cuban-Americans, Puerto-Rican Americans, etc., as if they're all alike. It needs them all. And what about sexual preference? Everyone knows that many dancers are gay men, but does the company have any lesbian dancers, and in the interests of diversity, shouldn't it have more than a few?[/font][/size]
[size="3"][font="Arial, sans-serif"][/font][/size]
[size="3"][font="Arial, sans-serif"]If you start along that road, where should the company be allowed to stop? Don't forget that precisely due to that history of white privilege, there is an extra high percentage of white dancers in the talent pool right now..[/font]


So, any effort to encourage diversity=quotas? I don't think that's true.

#153 kfw

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 10:25 AM

So, any effort to encourage diversity=quotas?

Encourage diversity, but don't accept and promote on the basis of diversity, or at least primarily on the basis of diversity. Let diversity be the tie-breaker when other factors are equal.

#154 E Johnson

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 11:10 AM


So, any effort to encourage diversity=quotas?

Encourage diversity, but don't accept and promote on the basis of diversity, or at least primarily on the basis of diversity. Let diversity be the tie-breaker when other factors are equal.


Is anyone advocating promoting bad dancers for diversity purposes? (Although there's an argument that bad dancers get promoted all the time for less noble reasons, so why not do it for a good reason for a change). I donít think so.

What I would like to see is thoughtful expansion of the dancer/choreographer pool at all levels, and more mindful casting/promotion/hiring. Before you even get to using diversity as a tie breaker, question the standards by which you got to the tie. For example, can a dark-skinned dancer with an atypical body get treated the same as a white dancer with one? Iíd say not now, unless at the least the person doing the evaluating is keeping a good eye on his/her internal stereotypes.

#155 kfw

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 11:38 AM

Before you even get to using diversity as a tie breaker, question the standards by which you got to the tie.

Well, of course. :-) Unless it's acknowledged that white skin has been preferred, diversity won't even be seen as an ethically preferrable option, other factors being equal.


For example, can a dark-skinned dancer with an atypical body get treated the same as a white dancer with one?

Again, if dancers of colors are being rejected on the basis of their skin, I'll call that racism. But when I go to the theater I want to see the best dancers, and in that respect I'm colorblind. I don't assume that if the company is all-white, it shouldn't be. I don't presume to know who auditioned and who didn't and whether a white dancer beat out an equally good dancer of color. I don't presume racism. If I'm not mistaken, the word of mine you objected to was "prescribed." I don't prescribe. To my mind, that's heavy-handed and presumptuous. And it's judgmental. I hope we can agree on this.

#156 dirac

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 06:20 PM

Before you even get to using diversity as a tie breaker, question the standards by which you got to the tie.


Just so.

#157 E Johnson

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Posted 13 October 2011 - 06:27 AM

For example, can a dark-skinned dancer with an atypical body get treated the same as a white dancer with one?

Again, if dancers of colors are being rejected on the basis of their skin, I'll call that racism. But when I go to the theater I want to see the best dancers, and in that respect I'm colorblind. I don't assume that if the company is all-white, it shouldn't be. I don't presume to know who auditioned and who didn't and whether a white dancer beat out an equally good dancer of color. I don't presume racism. If I'm not mistaken, the word of mine you objected to was "prescribed." I don't prescribe. To my mind, that's heavy-handed and presumptuous. And it's judgmental. I hope we can agree on this.


I'm not accusing people that run all-white, or overwhelmingly white, companies of deliberate racism. I have no way of knowing whatís in their hearts, and I donít think itís necessarily relevant. What I do presume is that just about everyone is affected by living in a society that is not at all colorblind, and specific to ballet, one that historically has not had many dancers of color. If people in power in the ballet world have never, or very rarely, seen a non-white Aurora or Odette or Giselle (or Siegfried or Desire or Albrecht), (through no fault of their own), there is an extra hurdle for a non-white dancer to get over. And itís extra work to think about and try to overcome, no kidding. I donít have a big problem saying I think people should do that work.

#158 EricHG31

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 01:21 PM


So, any effort to encourage diversity=quotas?

Encourage diversity, but don't accept and promote on the basis of diversity, or at least primarily on the basis of diversity. Let diversity be the tie-breaker when other factors are equal.

Has this EVER happened in the world of dance? I would be amazed (and I could be completely wrong), if it has. A large part of the dance world is aesthetic, that will never change, and probably shouldn't. But I've yet to ever see a "non-white" dancer in ballet, or any dance ensemble, who I thought "well she/he's ok, but it's obvious they got in based not on talent, but to fill a quota".

#159 kfw

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 01:59 PM



So, any effort to encourage diversity=quotas?

Encourage diversity, but don't accept and promote on the basis of diversity, or at least primarily on the basis of diversity. Let diversity be the tie-breaker when other factors are equal.

Has this EVER happened in the world of dance?

The question was, "should it?"

#160 EricHG31

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 05:24 PM

Good point. And I don't think it should--as others have said, ballet is so stylized anyway, that I don't see a justification for it. My background is theatre and this comes up all the time, and the only time I, personally, see it playing a part is when the work is *about* race. I hope that one day even that can be beyond audiences' eyes, but it's not (IMHO) at this stage whatsoever. But otherwise it goes back to the whole thing--do people in Pharaoh's Daughter look Egyptian? And if they did would they even be dancing those steps?

#161 dirac

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Posted 16 October 2011 - 09:17 PM

The question was, "should it?"


We could cross that bridge when we come to it, I expect.

#162 dirac

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:35 PM

A story on Misty Copeland, with a video clip of a joint interview with Copeland and Virginia Johnson on "The Couch."

 

“I think we’re at the point now where classical ballet has to evolve with the rest of world or it’s not going to last,” Copeland continued. “And so we have to diversify it, diversify the people on the stage as well as the people in the audience.”

 




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