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


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#181 Tapfan

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 08:50 AM

I've never believed  or stated that lack of racial diversity in ballet was due to racism only! There are many contributing factors, ALL of which must be addressed. 

 

But race is such a thorny issue in ANY context, that when it's brought up, people get defensive and claim it's a problem that no longer exists in ballet or one that can't be solved without hurting the quality of classical dance. 



#182 Helene

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 09:14 AM

Seeing the way the ballet community vilified Gelsey Kirkland, to the point that only Edward Villella was the only major dance figure to come to her defense, and that was to ask the greater community for tolerance, you seriously propose that black dancers take on the ballet establishment with a discrimination suit, when the Supreme Court rejected a sex discrimination suit based on statistical analysis of Walmart hiring and promotion practices, where the numbers were much greater, but were someone unconvincing?

 

Copeland, DePrince, and Adams have described discrimination they faced, and Johnson has addressed the inadequacies of training in elite academies.  The only encouraging sign I see may be -- "may be" because I don't have the previous rosters of the companies to which to compare the current -- that there are at least a dozen mid-sized to largish companies that have one black ballerina on their rosters, most of whom have been hired in this decade. 

 

As far as change never coming from management, we've discussed Jackie Robinson on the Copeland thread.  It was a deliberate effort by Branch Rickey, not only to expand the audience, but to expand the talent pool.  Were the Brooklyn Dodgers a ballet company, he likely would have raided Dance Theatre of Harlem after the company closed.  Maybe even before the company closed.



#183 mira

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 09:33 AM

from today's NY Times - interview with Amar Ramascar.    “I have never really thought about race, just what I could do as an artist,” 

 

 http://www.nytimes.c...ity-ballet.html



#184 Helene

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 09:52 AM

Men often have that luxury.  Unless they dance for the Trocks or Matthew Bourne, they're not white swans, wilis, sylphides, etc.



#185 mira

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 10:00 AM

The female Principal Dancers that I'd seen at DTH should have been welcome at any company in North America, and the soloists and many of the corps members at any mid-sized American company.  

 

 

I've noticed that is rare when a dancer is let go at a ballet company that they find another job (unless they've chosen to leave on their own).  I think one reason for that is that each company and Artistic Director has a specific vision and style -  being a Principal (or Soloist/Corps) at one company does not guarantee you will be a fit for another company.



#186 Helene

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 10:14 AM

Being a lauded Principal at a neoclassical company with a wide range of rep should mean that the dancer is a fit for another comparable company.  The same thing is true for most Principal Dancers and Soloists at SFB, PNB, MCB, Pennsylvania Ballet, Boston Ballet, Ballet West, Ballet Arizona, Joffrey Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, and Kansas City Ballet, just to name some. Houston Ballet may be the only stylistic exception, although the times I've seen the company live and on film, I didn't get the impression that Welch's rep had that many stylistic anomalies.

 

Every time Cuban dancers defect, they are absorbed into US companies, most of them immediately.  Stylistically, they are trained in ABT's rep, not Balanchine rep and not neoclassical rep, but that hasn't stopped AD's from hiring them and casting them.  Angel Corella, for example, just hired three Cuban dancers who are stylistic anomalies to the rep the company dances.  Promotions and/or Principal casting have been quick in many cases, and blending into the corps isn't an issue.



#187 mira

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 10:35 AM

Yes - ballet is more and more going the direction of athleticism - turns and jumps.  Beauty too but not if you don't have the "tricks".   I agree being an accomplished dancer should translate to being hired by other companies but I don't see that happening often.    Many reasons for that I'm sure.



#188 Tapfan

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 12:42 PM

from today's NY Times - interview with Amar Ramascar.    “I have never really thought about race, just what I could do as an artist,” 

 

 http://www.nytimes.c...ity-ballet.html

Well good for him.  And  just  because there are black ballerinas who have made mention of the additional hurdles they face because of race, doesn't mean that's  all they think or talk about.

 

Most love their jobs despite the additional challenges.  



#189 mira

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 01:23 PM

Seems they are many personal experiences and it's interesting to hear them all.



#190 Amour

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 02:14 PM

I've wondered why more Asian and Asian American ballet students aren't attending SAB. 
 

I saw several casts of NYCB's Nutcracker this season and 1 of the 3 casts featured an Asian Marie and Fritz.. Just because you can't read about them doesn't mean Asians aren't attending SAB.

I also attended last summer's SAB summer intensive performance, In the 2 works performed (1 by Peter Walker, the other by Silas Farley) several African American students performed. One had a featured solo. Again, this was not written about.

#191 Plisskin

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Posted 15 May 2015 - 02:16 PM

Uh...Good for Ramascar that he doesn't think about race. Here's a cookie for him... But posting his statement doesn't mean there isn't a problem with race in the ballet world. Especially when it pertains to females of a darker hue.



#192 sandik

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Posted 16 May 2015 - 08:13 PM

Yes, but the accusations stop at that.  There is no follow up investigation.  There should be investigations.  A non-biased, most importantly, federal group should complete an investigation study.

...

Someone has to get the ball rolling on this. And since it will never be the industry, it must be the minorities but with firm evidence.  Not just someone's mother/daughter said something racist to me or my daughter.  It should be "Mrs. Smith/Miss Smith who attended  A or B school during the years my daughter was there said that black/native american/hispanic/asian people don't belong in ballet".  OR another example, "A or B School denied my daughter entrance to train because her skin was too dark".  These accusations can be investigated.  Vague accusations can not.


While I would be very interested in seeing something like that investigation take place, I'm not holding my breath. That kind of robust industry-wide research is not really happening right now, especially in the arts, where it is too easy to default to an aesthetic, "best fit of skills" explanation. I agree that it would be more compelling if we could produce statistics -- employment law seems to have the same hard-science envy that much of the social sciences have now -- but I can understand why someone who still hopes for a career in the artform is reluctant to raise legal hell.

Unfortunately, we have done the easy work as far as racial discrimination is concerned -- we have made it illegal. But in a society that is still awash in white privilege, the harder task is changing people's minds -- getting them to see that it still exists.

#193 Drew

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Posted 17 May 2015 - 10:40 AM

from today's NY Times - interview with Amar Ramascar.    “I have never really thought about race, just what I could do as an artist,” 

 

 http://www.nytimes.c...ity-ballet.html

 

I read the whole interview today in the NYTimes and thought it was worth giving a better sense of the context of that quote for those who may not have checked out the link--Ramasar certainly has thought about being a dancer of color:

 

"I have never really thought about race, just what I could do as an artist," he said, "But I would like to be looked at as a role model for young dancers of color. I hope that I'm looked at in that way in terms of breaking boundaries and showing this is possible."

 

The interview opens by describing his first glimpse of ballet--a video that made him want to become a ballet dancer and join New York City Ballet: Mel Tomlinson and Heather Watts in Agon. And a little later in the same interview:

 

"...even though the African-American Mr. Tomlinson had been his first glimpse of classical dance, Mr. Ramasar said it was often hard to believe in his future as a ballet prince. "I would look around and think, there are  no other dark-skinned Puerto Rican-Indian guys around. Is it really possible?"



#194 Tapfan

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 06:54 AM

I saw several casts of NYCB's Nutcracker this season and 1 of the 3 casts featured an Asian Marie and Fritz.. Just because you can't read about them doesn't mean Asians aren't attending SAB.

I also attended last summer's SAB summer intensive performance, In the 2 works performed (1 by Peter Walker, the other by Silas Farley) several African American students performed. One had a featured solo. Again, this was not written about.

Were any of these students black females?  Because that is the problem within a problem. When people speak about African Americans that they see in schools or companies,  more often than not, they  are talking about MALE dancers. 




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