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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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#46 Helene

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 02:17 PM

I believe Virginia Johnson when she said  that she frequently gets calls from AD's who are looking for her to recommend good, black, dancers.  But that tells me that  AD's want and expect brilliant black dancers to show up on their doorsteps, fully developed. When they don't they say, "Well, we tried."  In my opinion, they don't try hard enough.   
 

I can't remember in what documentary or article it was -- maybe the one on Jacob's Pillow -- spoke to the issue of black dancers not getting corrections in class.  Getting corrections is getting attention; not getting them means you're on your own.  If the teachers don't think the dancer is worth the investment, it's extremely difficult to progress, especially since those teachers are the ones making recommendations to companies outside the school, and having an inside track -- maybe being able to audition in company class and not be part of a cattle call or having ADs drop in on class to scout a student -- is a distinct advantage.



#47 Tapfan

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 05:14 PM

The current issue of Pointe Magazine has a nice survey of racial issues in ballet by Gus Solomons, Jr., including the episode with the Ballet Russe and Raven Wilkinson that Helene mentioned: http://www.pointemag...14/moments-time

Thanks for mentioning the Pointe magazine. Their latest issue tackles the topic of diversity in ballet and has as one of its cover girls, DTH dancer Ashley Murphy, a native of Shreveport, La. which is just thirty miles from my hometown.

 

That someone from Shreveport made it as a classical dancer is a minor miracle. That means there is hope for everyone!

 

Another one of the June/July Pointe magazine cover girls is Misty Copeland.  I don't know enough about ballet to give an informed opinion as to whether she deserves to be a principal.  But I do know that those people who claim to care about the importance of making the ballet world more welcoming to new audiences in the U. S., should bend down and kiss her pointe shoes.     This woman is introducing ballet to girls and their families who would never have given it a second thought.

 

Copeland is hands down, the best PR machine that U.S. ballet has. For a ballerina, her profile is stratospheric.  The fact she has become a relentless,  and some would say shameless self-promoter that has probably made herself a millionaire many times over, isn't really the story.

 

The story is that she's shown the possibilities, not for getting rich, but for simply having a career.  

 

And I truly think she enjoys being a role model.  

 

 

https://twitter.com/...5020417/photo/1

 

https://www.facebook...&type=1

 

https://www.facebook...?type=1

 

https://www.facebook...&type=1

 

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#48 ABT Fan

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 05:56 PM

Though I'm sure this is years away, I hope after Copeland retires she becomes a coach, teacher, or ballet mistress with ABT.  She's so well spoken and such a good role model.   I always enjoy seeing her in interviews, but I think those 3 little girls nearly stole the show!



#49 Tapfan

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Posted 04 June 2014 - 05:24 PM

Does City Ballet try to keep a fixed number of dancers on their roster or does the number vary?  Is the number of new dancers that that they hire as apprentices each year, based on the number of people that retire from the ranks of the corps de ballet or the number that retire from the entire company?

 

Since city ballet has such vast Balanchine and Robbins repertoire, why do they need ANY outside choreography?   If they danced nothing but Balanchine and Robbins they couldn't go for years and never repeat themselves?

 

Does the the core City Ballet audience really want to see other works?  



#50 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 12:46 AM

"In ballet...where are all the asian swans....?"



#51 lmspear

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 05:46 AM

Too bad she wasn't able to see Yoko Morishito in her glory days guesting around the world with lots of press coverage after she won at Varna

#52 sandik

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 08:40 AM



I hadn't revisited this topic for a few days, and I see that it has morphed into a topic about the benefits of new choreography.  While I agree with the idea that new choreography is important to the company, sometimes it turns into pandering to new audiences (see Ocean's Kingdom, Bal de Couture) with works that are trash just to have a celebrity name attached to the pursuit (Valentino, Paul McCartney, Stella McCartney).  Also, I think the Diamond Project put too much focus on churning out massive numbers of new works without keeping an eye on quality ("Call Me Ben").  

 

Can we spin the new choreography discussion over to a different thread?  I think there are still some elements to discuss about diversity on stage here.

 

Admin note:  I've split off the discussion about choreography to this thread:

New York City Ballet and New Work



#53 Tapfan

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 09:20 AM

I was the one who steered the conversation to the topic concerning the number of possible open positions at NYCB.  

 

I wondered about the number of potential hires because I figured that the larger the number of open slots, the better chance a person of color might join the ranks. 

 

Another reason I wondered about the lack of East Asian dancers in City Ballet, was because I was under the impression that ballet was becoming very popular in parts of Asia.

 

That lead me to assume, evidently incorrectly, that this would mean an increase in the number of foreign Asian students in top American ballet schools like SAB.



#54 sandik

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Posted 06 June 2014 - 01:02 PM

I was the one who steered the conversation to the topic concerning the number of possible open positions at NYCB.  

 

I wondered about the number of potential hires because I figured that the larger the number of open slots, the better chance a person of color might join the ranks. 

 

Another reason I wondered about the lack of East Asian dancers in City Ballet, was because I was under the impression that ballet was becoming very popular in parts of Asia.

 

That lead me to assume, evidently incorrectly, that this would mean an increase in the number of foreign Asian students in top American ballet schools like SAB.

 

Not to fret -- of course these are interrelated topics, but a conversation format like BA seems to work best with singular topics.  And these are both so discussable, I'd hate to miss a connection in either one.

 

So back to diversity.  I don't know enough about the recruiting policies at SAB to speak with authority, although I do know that, like the rest of the field, they do not work in isolation -- they have 'graduates' and colleagues everywhere who help to funnel students their way.  But in general, those students have to already be in a pipleline, so unless their families are enrolling them in dance training to begin with, they need to be recruited in some other fashion.

 

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Dance Chance program has been discussed on this board several times, so I didn't want to brag on it again, but one of its main goals is to open up the possibility of a career in dance to kids who otherwise would not have had that thought cross their mind.  While it's not exclusively about kids of color, they are a part of the target population.  Like all dance training, the attrition numbers are big, but there have been some real success stories come out of the project, including Eric Hipolito (who was mentioned above)

 

I think it's pretty clear that there are many more highly skilled dancers coming out of professional training programs every year than those home organizations can hire.  So on one level, artistic directors are making decisions among these potential new hires, and may bring unconscious biases of many kinds to those decisions.  But their preeminent obligation is to find the best dancers they can to fill the spaces they have at that time, keeping their repertory and artistic vision in mind. 



#55 Tapfan

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 08:38 AM

This looks strange when compared to practically every other major ballet company outside the old Soviet block.  

 

 

At least those countries in eastern Europe have the excuse of having been culturally cut off from the West.  What's NYC Ballet's excuse?

Where are the Asian Swans?

 

This is what I mean when i say that NYC Ballet looks like a 1950's new England boarding school.



#56 Helene

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 09:15 AM

I think it's pretty clear that there are many more highly skilled dancers coming out of professional training programs every year than those home organizations can hire.  So on one level, artistic directors are making decisions among these potential new hires, and may bring unconscious biases of many kinds to those decisions.  But their preeminent obligation is to find the best dancers they can to fill the spaces they have at that time, keeping their repertory and artistic vision in mind. 

 

I think that the preeminent obligation of the schools, and, since there are few elite schools for teenage training outside company-affiliated schools, a great obligation of the companies is to find the greatest range of talent to train, so that the group of elite-trained dancers includes the best of the best.  Some people look at Dance Chance like affirmative action in a pejorative sense -- "Isn't it nice that benevolent PNB has this program so that a kid like Eric Hipolito can be part of this great art?" -- when it's the opposite:  by expanding the number of kids at the school to kids for whom ballet is not generally on their radar, it gives the company a greater talent pool from which to choose.

 

Think of how much more progress would have been made over the history of the US if women and minorities had not been blocked from employment and educational opportunities, because they weren't -- and in many cases still aren't -- considered worthy of consideration?  Think of how much better ballet and the arts would be if the talent pool, great as it is, wasn't almost entirely self-selected from a relatively small range of candidates?  Of course, it is easier and cheaper to be a shark in the Caribbean -- open your mouth and dinner swims in, even if the other shark gets better quality fish -- but that doesn't mean you've maximized your talent base.  The Imperial and Soviet systems managed to eliminate some economic obstacles when it chose kids at young ages and gave them full rides, but, racially, not even close, although there was an effort at the Vaganova School at least to recruit from the ethnically diverse "stans" that Valeri Panov described in his memoir and with whom Panov shared dorms, much to his dismay.



#57 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 10:44 AM

This looks strange when compared to practically every other major ballet company outside the old Soviet block.  

 

 

At least those countries in eastern Europe have the excuse of having been culturally cut off from the West.  What's NYC Ballet's excuse?

Where are the Asian Swans?

 

This is what I mean when i say that NYC Ballet looks like a 1950's new England boarding school.

 

Do you have data on the percentage of non-caucasian dancers in other ballet companies? I'd be interested to see it if you did. 



#58 Tapfan

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 11:09 AM

All you have to do is look at the dancer rosters. You'd be hard-pressed to find any from the internationally known major companies to the regional companies in America's heartland that don't have two or more male and female East Asians dancers.  

 

But not NYCB.  That just strikes me as odd. 

 

Reminds me about Chris Rock's comment about the lack of Mexican American talent in the corporate offices of Hollywood when you consider the Latino population of Los Angeles.  You almost have to go out of your way not to hire someone.

 

The lack of women from the East Asian diaspora at City Ballet seems as unlikely as not seeing Asian women in the nation's top colleges.  It's just not very likely.  



#59 Helene

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 11:17 AM

Kaori Nakamura chose SAB when she won Prix de Lausanne in 1986, and Peter Boal, who was in the company by then, had wonderful things to say about her, especially her technique.  While she's short, it's not like NYCB had never chosen a short dancer, and certainly in the mid-'80's there were plenty.  She never danced at NYCB, which was great for Winnipeg and Seattle, but not so great for NYCB.



#60 volcanohunter

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 11:31 AM

The lack of women from the East Asian diaspora at City Ballet seems as unlikely as not seeing Asian women in the nation's top colleges.  It's just not very likely.  

 

Anecdotally, I can tell you that my local company has a fairly high percentage of East Asian dancers; they make up about a quarter of the roster. However, only one of them is a member of the diaspora. The remainder are natives of Asia, primarily Japan. Looking superficially at the rosters of other North American companies, I don't think their situation is that different.




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