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Why Are Asians So Brilliant in Competitions (& Ballet in general)?


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 31 January 2002 - 09:56 AM

This is an offshot of my recent post on the progress of the 2002 Prix de Lausanne competition, in which the qualifiers into Round Two are overwhelmingly from Japan & Korea. Such has been the case in the last 5-6 years at most of the IBC-type competitions....not only Korea & Japan but also the People's Republic of China (not even counting last year's Shanghai IBC in which most participants were from 'the home team').

Let's not stop at the competitions. Japasese & other Asia-born dancers are making inroads in the top ballet companies of the world. The lone non-Russian member of the Kirov ballet is the Korean-American soloist, Ms. Ti-Young Ryu...a star of the Stanislavski Ballet of Moscow is the Korean-born Svetlana Tsoi...several Japanese are on the soloist roster of the St. Petersburg Maly Ballet, both Royal Ballet troupes, etc, etc.

Comments & 'explanations' on the ASIAN BOOM IN BALLET, please!

#2 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 31 January 2002 - 10:37 AM

Interesting question, Jeannie! smile.gif I have one theory on this, having observed this same phenomena in classes here when we have Asian students. There is this thing that I think might be called "work ethic". Also discipline. There is a seriousness of approach, a commitment, an intelligence perhaps, or just an ability to really concentrate on the task at hand. Perhaps because they are brought up with a bit more discipline than in some other places? I don't know. But I have certainly seen this.

[ January 31, 2002: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]



#3 vagansmom

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Posted 31 January 2002 - 03:16 PM

I also believe it's a cultural work ethic. In my experience teaching in private schools, the Asian population has uniformly been far more serious about education - and this is within an environment where education already is a high priority - and more hard-working in general. There's good and bad elements to this, of course.

#4 Guest_Debra Powell_*

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Posted 31 January 2002 - 06:00 PM

As an American living in Japan with a daughter that dances ballet, the Japanese are very disciplined hard working dancers. There is no fooling around in their classes whatsoever. It took a while for my daughter to get a feel for the class but after a while she fit right in. The Japanese are very detail oriented and nothing slips by the Sensai. They are a very gentle people with a strong work ethic. It is a great experience for her to dance here. rolleyes.gif

#5 TATSU

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Posted 31 January 2002 - 07:59 PM

I believe the reason why the dancers, especially Japanese, are eager to participate in IBC is they donít have good environment to dance in their own country. For example, the first national ballet company in Japan was founded in 1997 (just four years ago!) Although there are many private companies in Tokyo, they generally donít pay enough salary to their dancers. Itís natural for talented young dancers to seek their job in Europe or USA. IBC is good chance for them to advertise themselves.

#6 Natalia

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Posted 01 February 2002 - 11:17 AM

Thank you very much for the feedback thus far. I suspected the explanation about discipline and, indeed, this can result in technical brilliance. But what REALLY has impressed me about top Asian dancers at competitions -- especially the Japanese 'kids' -- is the sparkle in their eyes as they perform. They seem to love every second on the stage. [In competitions, I try to sit in the front row to really hone in on such details...there's usually a huge orchestra pit between me & stage, so it is far enough from me to allow me to also see the big picture.] I especially recall one lad from Japan who made the Varna finals who was so charismatic that, in the final round, he was keenly aware of our little group of 'cheerleaders' and in the midst of his 'Tchaikovsky pdd' variation he did a little nod in our direction (not a hammy gesture, very natural) - it was simply so charming to see that he was at ease and having a blast. It made for a good result.

As much as I adore the amazingly beautiful lines & technique of the Chinese dancers, I wish that they would 'loosen up' just a teeny tiny bit. They are amazing, nonetheless. It is a joy to discover the dancers of Shanghai, Beijing & elsewhere in the PRC.

What a world of ballet lies beyond 'the West'!

[ February 01, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]



#7 LMCtech

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Posted 02 February 2002 - 01:19 PM

Well, they don't get a lot of opportunity to really show off in their culture, and let's face it, it is fun to show off. I've seen some Japanese students, that I kind off overlooked in class, become absolutely magnetic onstage.

#8 Babou

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Posted 02 February 2002 - 02:47 PM

does anybody knows The results for today??

#9 felursus

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Posted 03 February 2002 - 10:57 PM

I agree: it's definitely the work ethic. Have you noticed the huge percentage of Asians now in our symphony orchestras - particularly in the string section? (Can someone explain why stringed instruments and not, say, the flute?)

In terms of ballet, I think there may be a higher percentage of the population with a high degree of flexibility (perhaps that's cultural).

I remember a Chinese man I knew who had never studied ballet until he was 13. He had gone to pick up his little sister from her ballet lesson and arrived early. He must have been quite an aggressive little boy, because he said he had told the teacher that he didn't see what was so hard about ballet - he could "do that." Apparently he could. He later became a soloist with Ballet Rambert (when it was still a classical company). He certainly was one of the most naturally "turned out" people I have ever seen!

#10 Dale

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Posted 04 February 2002 - 09:20 AM

Re: Asians and string instruments. The Suzuki method was created in Asia and is very popular there. This method teaches the violin by rote -- the children at a very young age are taught to play without sheet music, being spoon-fed one note at a time by memory. There is good and bad in this. The good is that a child will be able to play more complex works at an early age and will usually have a good ear, having to learn the note by sound not but what was on the paper. The bad is not being a good sight reader (something that is very important when either trying to get a job in an orchestra or trying to keep it) and a lagging by in musicianship. Of course, these are just my observations from when I was a musician.

And there were some Asians playing wood wind instruments, but less playing brass.

#11 Beverly

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Posted 05 February 2002 - 11:40 AM

I have long been a visitor to Ballet Talk but have never registered or replied to a topic. When I saw this thread, though, I had to comment.

Asking "Why are Asians so good at ballet?" is a RACIST comment and in my opinion has no place on a bulletin board dedicated to the "civilized" discussion of ballet. I am aghast that the administrators did not remove this post as soon as it appeared. On the contrary, they validated the question by responding.

If you would like to inquire as to why INDIVIDUALS with a strong work ethic succeed over those who do not (a point so obvious as to not need stating) then that is one thing. But linking the question to ESSENTIALIST qualities such as ethnicity, which lumps all individuals of one "sort" into a specific category, is appalling -- even if you believe you are paying a compliment! I have asked several colleagues at the university I teach how they feel about this and they were all equally alarmed that such a topic could enjoy a public forum.

If you doubt me, consider if this is a racist question: "Why are blacks good at basketball?"

I urge the adminstrators to close this topic immediately.

#12 Natalia

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Posted 05 February 2002 - 11:56 AM

Hi, Beverly -

As the moderator of this forum & also the person who posted this particular topic, I feel compelled to answer your well-stated post.

Although I am sensitive to your concerns, the analogy to basketball is not quite right, as athletes representing all races have been playing & excelling in basketball & other team sports (baseball, soccer, volleyball) for as far back as I can remember in my over-40 lifetime! However, in the case of ballet competitons, the upsurge in medal-winninig performances by Chinese, Japanese, and Korean competitors is a relatively news phenomenon (1990s), even though a Yoko Morishita would earn top medals once in a blue moon before the 1990s.

Secondly, there is the all-important fact that this art --- classical ballet -- is one that was forged in a part of the world far removed from Asia, i.e., classical ballet is a 'native art' of Europe, and not just any Europe -- the royal courts of Europe. To praise any nationality that is not of European roots that can persevere and succeed in European Classical Court Arts (like ballet) is tantamount to praising any non-Asian performer who succeeds in, say, classical No Theater of Japan or Shanghai-style acrobatics of China. In short, it is a miracle. [And, no, I do not count the Latin Americans who succeed in ballet in this category, as we latinos are already born with European/Iberian blood in our veins.]

Furthermore, please don't forget the spirit of our posts. Our (certainly my) intentions in all of this are to compliment & not denigrate the dancers of China, Japan, etc. My hat's off to them for their spectacular achievements, surging to the top of the ballet-competition podiums (and principal status in top professional companies) in such a short time! It is a fact that cannot be ignored and, as a 'civilized' forum that includes contributors of intelligence & a certain degree of maturity, we should and must address it. But your concerns have been duly noted and, of course, we all try to phrase our views sensitively.

[ February 05, 2002: Message edited by: Jeannie ]



#13 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 05 February 2002 - 11:57 AM

I'm very sorry that you are offended, but I think you know, if you have been reading Ballet Alert! Online, that this board is not in any way racist, nor are our members, and this topic most certainly was not intended to be that way. Nor did we feel that it was. The only reason that I am closing it now is to prevent a discussion on racism from occurring here.


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