Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Why does City Ballet have so few dancers of East Asian descent?For once, an issue of race that is outside the black/white binary.


  • Please log in to reply
62 replies to this topic

#1 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 11:46 AM

When you look at the rosters of companies like NBC, SFB, PNB, ABT, companies across Western Europe and even many companies in America's heartland, you see men and women of East Asian heritage, many in prominent roles.

 

But City Ballet still looks like a 1950's coed New England prep school. 

 

Considering the appreciation for, study of  and a history of mastery of the high Western arts (classical music and dance) amongst people of the East Asian diaspora, it's next to impossible to believe there isn't a motivated and talented pool of people who meet the qualification standards for acceptance into the City Ballet arts organization. 

 

This lack of Asian representation I find as puzzling as if there were no people of East Asian descent studying at Ivy League schools. The mere idea is preposterous. 

 



#2 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,748 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 12:19 PM

I don't live in NYC, and so I don't see the School of American Ballet workshop shows every year, but since NYCB draws almost exclusively from that source, I would want to know what their demographic looks like.



#3 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,343 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 01:41 PM

Granted the lack of Asians, I'm not sure how well the prep school comparison holds. I remember reading an interview with Jennie Somogyi where she said her father was an auto mechanic. I get the impression that many dancers, like her, come from families which are comfortably middle class - they can pay for ballet classes, after all - but aren't highly educated.



#4 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 02:27 PM

I know that City Ballet's primary source of hires is their feeder school.  If SAB has few Asians or Asian Americans at the school, why is that the case? 

 

In many companies in North America and Europe, people of Asian descent seem to be slightly overrepresented when compared to the population at large.  Why is that not the case in NYCB?

 

In Ian Spencer Bell's Ballet Review article about women of color at SAB, dancers Paloma Lorenzo and Nikkia Parish made statements that made the post-Balanchine powers that be at City Ballet and SAB sound like a reactionary cabal that was practically hostile to women that didn't look like Wendy Whelan.  

 

Is there a possible culture there wherein the Balanchine disciples who run the place think that way?

 

I know what the stereotypes are about black women and SOME non-white Latinas. Too muscular or fleshy. Can't control their power. Flat feet.

 

But East Asian women?  Even if you go by what are admittedly offensive and hoary stereotypes,  they still are the very definition of the ethereal, female ballet dancer. 

  



#5 mimsyb

mimsyb

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 278 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 04:06 PM

I don't live in NYC, and so I don't see the School of American Ballet workshop shows every year, but since NYCB draws almost exclusively from that source, I would want to know what their demographic looks like.

I attended the Workshop performance on this past Saturday afternoon.  I noticed a number of students of Asian descent on stage. This was particularly true with the 24 little itty bits that danced in the Waltz of the Golden Hours from "Coppelia".  Whether any will eventually make it into the main company is anyone's guess.



#6 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 05:55 PM

But what about now?  Why are there so few dancers now when other companies have much better representation?



#7 vipa

vipa

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,093 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 06:18 PM

But what about now?  Why are there so few dancers now when other companies have much better representation?

 

I think it unfair to think of NYCB as a 1950's coed prep school without knowing the back rounds of the dancers.  I know from watching interviews that NYCB dancers come from all over the country and are from diverse economic backgrounds.  There are a lot of factors involved.  Most dancers in the company spend 1 or more summers at a SAB summer intensive.  That's a self selective group of who auditions and who wants to travel to NYC and live there for a summer.  After that a select group is invited to stay for the school year.  Again there is some self selection involved.  After that there is an invitation to be an apprentice and then to join the company.  Tapfan I don't know if you are implying that there is a conspiracy but I can't imagine one exists.  I also know that scholarship money for at SAB is generous for those that can't afford it.



#8 cinnamonswirl

cinnamonswirl

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 307 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 06:42 PM

SAB doesn't recruit students. You (the dance student) have to seek them out, audition, be invited to summer, and then be invited to stay for the full year. Compare that to a place like the Kirov School in DC, which has a very high percentage of Asian students (mostly Japanese, I think), and which actively recruits pupils by establishing relationships with schools and teachers overseas. 

 

Also, if you look at the SFB roster, all of the Asian dancers are foreign. Not a single Asian American. (There is 1 Asian Canadian.) When I was at SAB, there were a fair number of Asians in the lower levels (children's division), but when we got to intermediate/advanced, they melted away. Their parents didn't want them to sacrifice academics for ballet by attending PCS. I know that's anecdotal and feeds into a stereotype, but I do think it's telling not even SFB has an Asian-American dancer. (PNB has 1, and he trained at SAB.)



#9 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 06:55 PM

I'm not implying that all the dancers and students in the City Ballet nexus are affluent.

 

But the racial makeup just seems odd when compared to say, The Royal Ballet or San Francisco Ballet.  After all, City Ballet is a major company and New York is a major international city in a heavily populated and diverse metropolitan area. 

 

Conspiracy is too strong a word. And I know that the chief task of an arts organization like NYCB is to get the best programs and dancers on the stage regardless of race.

 

What I don't understand is why more of the dancers don't happen to be Asian.  They are amongst the best everywhere else. 



#10 Quiggin

Quiggin

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 844 posts

Posted 01 June 2014 - 08:12 PM

Difficult to compare San Francisco to New York. SF has always looked to Asia in the way New York looks to Europe, and of 2010 San Francisco had a 33% Asian demographic. Also SFB a multinational company by nature, with French, Cuban, Brazilian and dancers as well as Asian and it does a diverse range of ballets. NYCB does Balanchine and Robbins, which take a lot of specialized training not readily avaiable outside New York.



#11 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 02 June 2014 - 03:15 AM

I thought the core rep of both PNB and SFB was Balanchine. 

 

And SAB may not recruit students, but then, what school does? My point isn't that more people of Asian descent should be in City Ballet so they look enlightened. I'm surprised they aren't there because City Ballet is supposed to be so good.



#12 Amy Reusch

Amy Reusch

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,794 posts

Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:10 AM

If a sterotype were having an effect, I would suggest that "ethereal" is not the definition of a female NYCB ballet dancer.

I would suggest that "ethereal" might be much more in demand in companies dominated by 19th century repertory.

However, the more interesting observation is the lack of native Asian-Americans.

#13 abatt

abatt

    Sapphire Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,809 posts

Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:20 AM

 

But City Ballet still looks like a 1950's coed New England prep school. 

 

 

Principal Amar Ramasar looks nothing like any New England prep school students I'm aware of.  He is of Pakistani origin, I believe - South Asia rather than East Asia.



#14 California

California

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,566 posts

Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:37 AM

I heard an NYCB "Dancer Chat" last year with a corps member from one of the boroughs who had gone to SAB after being recruited and trained by Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech, an impressive program that recruits from throughout NYC, with 88% minority enrollment. I couldn't find any data on how many ended up at NYCB or other professional companies, but it does seem to have a very aggressive recruiting program. As that dancer reminded us, the recruits have to overcome some pretty powerful stereotypes in their home communities about ballet: http://www.ballettech.org/



#15 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 02 June 2014 - 05:54 AM

 

 

But City Ballet still looks like a 1950's coed New England prep school. 

 

 

Principal Amar Ramasar looks nothing like any New England prep school students I'm aware of.  He is of Pakistani origin, I believe

 

Mr. Ramasar is just one guy. 

 

As to ethereal not being the stereotype for Balanchine ballerinas, didn't he make dances showing all aspects of womanhood? The ballerina in Serenade is NOT like the ballerina in Rubies.

 

As to Asians  not being interested in dance because they are supposedly encouraged to only want to be doctors or computer engineers, well, Frances Chung says her parents were just like the stereotype we have of all Asian parents who push for academic excellence and higher education in a top-flight school. But she was so determined to become a professional dancer that they decided not to stand in her way. She was so focused that it was actually a compromise just to get her to finish high school. But she's currently attending college.

 

And Yuan Yuan Tan butted heads with her father who wanted her to study medicine. But she says her mother was always supportive  because she saw her passion.   




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):