I don't see anything racist or unethical in ADs who have always seen white bodies in certain roles envisioning other white bodies when they cast those roles, not anymore than in my preference for a reggae band from Kingston over one from Kansas because the one looks native to the art form and the other doesn't.
Is the difference due to "race" or color, or the cultural background in which the Kingston (as opposed to the Kansas) dancers developed?
In regards to racial stereotypes, I'm talking about initial impulses, initial taste, not behavioral choices.
Can these be separated? We are living in what is increasingly an age of "what I feel/ what I believe." Many people are making an immediate leap from the "impulse" or the "taste" to action
. At least when it comes to highly emotional issues -- those with contentious histories. You have to intervene somewhere.
This is especially the case in ballet, because when it comes to bodies, eros is always a factor.
True. Same with slavery and segregation. Same with many things which have been addressed anyway.
And because ballet has so few jobs in the first place, and there are no legal barriers for dancers of color, I hesitate to see casting as a social justice issue.
As things go, probably not a major issue, anyway. I think of Bogie in Casablanca: "It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." But ballet is a world, however tiny. For those who live in that world, especially young dancers with aspirations, ballet can become very big on a day-by-day basis. Should the Supreme Court become involved? Probably not. Should school principals and company directors take a more active hand? I would say, Yes.
Helene, on 09 October 2011 - 09:23 AM, said:
[A]ccording to Duberman's bio, Lincoln Kirstein was pitching American-themed libretti and scenarios to Balanchine long after the choreograper had showed disinterest. However, in Kirstein's non-Balanchine-centric ventures, there were plenty of these ballets. Also American Ballet Theatre's early rep included works like "Rodeo", "Billy the Kid", and "Fall River Legend", which were, for years, their classics. I've seen works by Dance Theatre of Harlem that speak more to black experience, at least in setting, that were, by no means masterworks, but weren't any worse than the aerobics that often is presented as ballet.
Thanks for reminding us of this side of American ballet. I recall works by DTH and by Ailey as well which were used material from the black experience. But more than that I remember works that used the "black" experience in a way that was immediately accessible to larager audiences and capable of moving them deeply. Dance Theater of Harlem and Ailey were, after NYCB and the Joffrey, my favorite NYC companies for just that reason. And I'm a white guy. (Maybe it helps that my family on both sides came from pretty far down the quality scale proposed by the Dictionary of Races.)
Ballet is an art form that uses the one thing we all
have in common -- our bodies. This opens the door to direct and immediate appeal to all sorts of people, if its done with that goal in mind. Cuban ballet is a striking example of this. The issue is not white tutu versus sexy leotard, or European princess versus exploited slave. Or it doesn't have to be.
It's a tribute to the deeply human, I would even say spiritual, appeal of ballet that some kids from untypical backgrounds ignore outside pressures and strive to become ballet dancers. The best of these would of course rather dance Odette/Odile than third swan from the left. If the wish exists and if the student has the ability, there should be no barriers. But their are barriers. Of all sorts. This can of course be rationalized, but -- speaking for myself only -- I find it unreasonable, not to mention hurtful.