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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.


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#16 cinnamonswirl

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:23 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.

 

My point was that some schools, such as Kirov, DO actively recruit (foreign) students.



#17 bagg

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:31 AM

And why didn't NYCB hire Angela Genorosa (Filipino, 2011 Mae Wien award recipient)? Instead, she's thriving at PNB.



#18 Tapfan

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:35 AM

And why didn't NYCB hire Angela Genorosa (Filipino, 2011 Mae Wien award recipient)? Instead, she's thriving at PNB.

Bingo.  



#19 vipa

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 06:46 AM

 

And why didn't NYCB hire Angela Genorosa (Filipino, 2011 Mae Wien award recipient)? Instead, she's thriving at PNB.

Bingo.  

 

I don't know the specifics of this case but there are lots of reasons a company hires or doesn't hire someone.  Companies have specific needs.  Do they need short dancers, tall dancers, a lot of dancers or just a few few.  Every year a number of wonderful SAB graduates go off to other companies.   



#20 Helene

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Posted 02 June 2014 - 09:32 AM

SAB, like many other schools, has a big split between the school and professional tracks. Very few of the school track students (up to 13 at SAB, older at other companies) make it to the Professional Division, let alone NYCB. The PD students are from all over the world, the cream of the crop of students who fit what the school is looking for and can live in NYC. The lower ranks of the PNB school look like the Seattle community. The PD, not even close, but closer than SAB.

NYCB has rarely had Asian women starting from Balanchine's time. For a while in the '80's there seemed to be one Asian male dancer t a time, maybe two when Gen Horiuchi danced. Just as black dancers can be stereotyped physically, Asian dancers can be stereotyped as too short for Balanchine. That doesn't speak to individual dancers, of course, but it is hugely discouraging.
 

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.)

Just Saturday night at PNB's "Giselle," the Albrecht, Batkurel Bold, at PNB since the late '90's, was Mongolian-born (although if I recall correctly, in a Q&A someone mentioned either that he had become naturalized or was about to take his test), the Hilarion was William Lin-Yee, the Chinese-American man you reference and whose early training was at SFBS before SAB, and who will make his debut as Albrecht this Thursday, and the Wilifred was Eric Hipolito Jr., a Filipino-American. (His younger brother, Enrico, is a huge talent, too.) There are also women of Asian descent at PNB and in the school's professional division, like Angelica Generosa. Until he became injured and had to retire from dancing full-time, former Principal Dancer Le Yin danced all of the prince roles.
 

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

It's not and never has been for PNB at least. PNB in particular has been renowned for its productions of Balanchine rep because Francis Russell is such a renowned stager who had permission and active encouragement (from Balanchine) to stage earlier versions, the one she danced and knew. However, Russell and Stowell presented a wide range of rep, from full-lengths mostly by Stowell -- although they introduced the Balanchine "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and the ABT "Don Q" -- to a wide range of mixed rep. (Janet Reed and Melissa Hayden directed PNB and its predecessor organization for less than a decade before Russell and Stowell.) I don't remember a single "All Balanchine" mixed rep aside from "Jewels" since 1994 when I moved to Seattle -- it was NYC that got one (one performance) last tour; I'm not sure about 1987 at BAM -- and three Balanchine ballets in a single season of six non-"Nutcracker" programs is a relatively rare occasion to celebrate. I fear that the Balanchine "Nutcracker" coming to PNB in 2015-16 will tick off the Balanchine box in upcoming seasons, aside from "Midsummer" which sells tickets, especially given the large cast of kids.

I'm not sure how much Balanchine dominated the rep during the Christensen era, but the Christensens started in vaudeville and came out of the companies where Balanchine rep may have been the star, but where there was a wide variety of rep, including narrative short ballets and the Americana that Kirstein encouraged. Balanchine wasn't the driving force during the Smuin years, and SFB performs more Tomasson than Balanchine, where three Balanchine ballets out of eight programs a year is an occasion. I think the only Balanchine full-length performed by the company is the "Coppelia" co-production with PNB.
 

And SAB may not recruit students, but then, what school does?

They all do, even SAB, not by advertising, but by the same alumni-like network and reputations that drives students to Harvard or Yale, even though Harvard and Yale don't need to sell themselves. Teacher networks push and pull students towards various programs, give them a heads up on students both trying to get in and who aren't going to be offered a place in their own company. Over half of PNB studied with Peter Boal; even though he hasn't taught at SAB for years, he's still in the loop. Francia Russell is friends with Suki Schorer, and Russell said in Q&A's that Schorer had recommended SAB students to her.

If you look at the Facebook account of any dancer, you'll see hundreds of friends that went to the same schools and summer programs, who danced for the same companies, who know each other from their best friends and roommates who did, and who look up to the professional dancers who come back to their schools and want to follow in their footsteps or come to the US and Canada and have a built in support network. They can give each other specifics about the faculty and what type of dancers their companies are looking for, making the process self-selecting, and they can give career advice to aspiring students. Many of the women in PNB said they went to the PNB school because PNB was a tall company that hired tall dancers from the school. There are many companies who wouldn't have looked twice at Lindsi Dec, let alone Ariana Lallone or Laura Tisserand. Dancers say they looked at specific companies because they want to dance the rep their school trained them in or want to expand their range. They also look to companies to find dancers who look like them.

Frances Chung expanded her rep at SFB; Goh Ballet is strictly classical training. Any Kirov Academy students have to do the same, although they can be typecast in the classical rep in more diverse companies There were also Asian-American women in the recent past at SFB, like Megan Low, whom Mark Morris cast in the lead of Sylvia. Also, many foreign-born dancers are now American citizens, and are, by definition, Americans. That they were foreign-born is generally relevant when they come from a famous school (Moscow, Vaganova, Alonso's school), a famous teacher (Ullate), or have classical Russian schooling,like many Eastern European dancers. There aren't many Asian schools that have been a pipeline in the same way. AD's also take advantage of trends: defections from Cuba (intermittent) and when the former Soviet Union dissolved. For a while in the '90's, for example, PNB had a handful of awesome dancers from the former Soviet Union, and I suspect it wasn't a coincidence that there are two stellar men from Albania in Phoenix. Dancers talk to each other.

And why didn't NYCB hire Angela Genorosa (Filipino, 2011 Mae Wien award recipient)? Instead, she's thriving at PNB.

Totally our gain smile.pngsmile.pngsmile.png NYCB didn't take a number of spectacular PNB dancers and dancers who've thrived at many other companies throughout the years.

#21 cantdance

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 12:46 AM

Edwaard Liang Taiwanese.  Georgina Pazcoquin filipino.  Puanani and Likolani Brown Hawaiian. Misa Kuranaga Japanese was offered an apprenticeship to NYCB.  Sokvannara (Sy) Sar  Cambodian



#22 Helene

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:14 AM

It took a major donor, Anne Bass, for SAB to accept Sar, who had only danced the classical Cambodian dance that Bass saw him in and didn't really know what ballet was. He was personally trained to bring him up to speed, and he joined PNB, presumably from his connection to Boal from SAB. (Boal was interviewed in the documentary Bass made about Sar.)

#23 Tapfan

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:30 AM

Edwaard Liang Taiwanese.  Georgina Pazcoquin filipino.  Puanani and Likolani Brown Hawaiian. Misa Kuranaga Japanese was offered an apprenticeship to NYCB.  Sokvannara (Sy) Sar  Cambodian

Geez.  Today's roster doesn't reflect that.

 

Once upon a time, NYC Ballet even had three black women;   Andrea Long, Debra Austin and Aesha Ashe. But in the very long history of the company, that's hardly something to stand up and cheer about.

 

There are undoubtedly other factors in play other than racism as to why there are so few people of color in general and people of Asian descent in particular in the company's ranks. But despite all those supposedly benign reasons, Asians and Asian Americans seem to break through in larger numbers and with some consistency at other world-class companies. Why not City Ballet and SAB?

 

Having read the remarks of some classical  dancers of color, I'm inclined to believe that there is some unconscious racial bias among the folks in charge.

 

As has been stated repeatedly on this forum, AD's don't have to justify their hires or promotions to anyone.  Do I think Peter Martins and company are racist?. Nope.  Or at least no more than the average decent human being.  But I do think their concepts of how beautiful dancers are supposed to look is very, very, limited.

 

By the way, I suspect they'd turn up their noses at a wonderful white powerhouse like PNB's Carrie Imler because she isn't stick thin.  



#24 kfw

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:36 AM

 There are undoubtedly other factors in play other than racism as to why there are so few people of color in general and people of Asian descent in particular in the company's ranks. But despite all those supposedly benign reasons, Asians and Asian Americans seem to break through in larger numbers and with some consistency at other world-class companies. Why not City Ballet and SAB?

 

Having read the remarks of some classical  dancers of color, I'm inclined to believe that there is some unconscious racial bias among the folks in charge.

 

Two reasons have been noted on this thread for why NYCB has relatively few dancers of Asian ancestry: SAB's policy of letting dancers apply instead of recruiting them, and the fact that schools which emphasize Balanchine training are hard to find outside of New York. No evidence of racial bias has been presented. 



#25 abatt

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:43 AM

 

By the way, I suspect they'd turn up their noses at a wonderful white powerhouse like PNB's Carrie Imler because she in't stick thin.  

 

Sara Mearns is far from stick thin but she is one of NYCB's most lauded ballerinas. 



#26 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:06 AM

 

 

By the way, I suspect they'd turn up their noses at a wonderful white powerhouse like PNB's Carrie Imler because she in't stick thin.  

 

Sara Mearns is far from stick thin but she is one of NYCB's most lauded ballerinas. 

 

 

There are a number of NYCB dancers in addition to Mearns who could be added to the "not stick thin" list and it's to the company's credit that we get to see them dance regularly, despite some carping from the critics. 



#27 Helene

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:09 AM

 

Two reasons have been noted on this thread for why NYCB has relatively few dancers of Asian ancestry: SAB's policy of letting dancers apply instead of recruiting them, and the fact that schools which emphasize Balanchine training are hard to find outside of New York. No evidence of racial bias has been presented. 

 

I disagree about the training aspect.  SAB takes very few specifically Balanchine-trained students, because there is little Balanchine-specific training anywhere.  Strictly classical training is the rarity. Neoclassical training is the norm, and SAB takes many, many neoclassically trained students. The vast majority of professional track students come from outside the NY area.  Not many SAB children make it from the lower ranks into the PD, and very few of those who do make it into NYCB.

 

Many AD's have said that they would love to train black dancers in their schools, but there just aren't any, with corroborating, if anecdotal testimony about how foreign and unaccepted ballet is in the community.  The same cannot be claimed for dancers of Asian descent.  SAB has a vast network of people to feed them students, which is a form of recruiting, even if this is not acknowledged  If there was a priority to diversify SAB and NYCB -- or any company for that matter -- it would be easy enough to get the word out, and the network would be feeding schools and companies.



#28 kfw

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:41 AM

If there was a priority to diversify SAB and NYCB -- or any company for that matter -- it would be easy enough to get the word out, and the network would be feeding schools and companies.

 

I don't doubt it, but prioritizing diversity when the incoming stream of good dancers is already strong - when SAB and NYCB already have more dancers to choose from than they need - would be a political goal, not an artistic one. In the absence of that goal one reads, here and there, allegations of unconscious racial bias. In the absence of what are in essence racial quotas, racism, an ugly charge, becomes the default presumption (I'm not saying it's yours). Evidence is rarely if ever presented.

 

 

 very few of those [SAB students who make it to PD rank]  make it into NYCB.

 

That I didn't know. Thanks.



#29 Helene

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:00 AM

Prioritizing diversity is only a purely political goal if the dancers don't meet the standard, and quotas work both ways.  Although we pretend that many things are meritocracies, particularly when standards are high in spite of racism and nepotism, these are two forces that undermine it by ignoring those of merit and creating an artificial elite.



#30 Tapfan

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:04 AM

 

 

 

By the way, I suspect they'd turn up their noses at a wonderful white powerhouse like PNB's Carrie Imler because she in't stick thin.  

 

Sara Mearns is far from stick thin but she is one of NYCB's most lauded ballerinas. 

 

 

There are a number of NYCB dancers in addition to Mearns who could be added to the "not stick thin" list and it's to the company's credit that we get to see them dance regularly, despite some carping from the critics. 

 

Okay here's where I'm certain to get into trouble.  I do think that unconscious biases influence how SOME people think about the bodies of non-Caucasion women.

 

Months ago on this forum, I remarked that Michaela DePrince was tiny, she reportedly wears a size zero tutu and that she was certainly no bigger than say, Sarah Mearns.  Yet some folks remarked that this size could be meaningless because retailers that specialize in Junior size clothing often label clothing with vanity sizing to make young women feel they are smaller than they really are.

 

Some folks even implied t I was trying to compare Michael DePrince's, talent and skill as a dancer to Sara's. Including some self-described black folks.  I'm ignorant of much concerning ballet, but even I am not that naive.

 

My point is that because black women are more often associated with athleticism - think women track and filed athletes, who are themselves typically  smaller than many people imagine -  some people think all black women are muscular behemoths. 

 

They obviously have never seen Michaela DePrince when she is standing next to real, live, female ballet dancers who happen to be white.  She's no bigger than most of them and is indeed, smaller than many. 

 

I know I'm off topic. My apologies.




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