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

#46 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,407 posts

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

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

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

 

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



#48 ABT Fan

ABT Fan

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 315 posts

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

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

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 Drew

Drew

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,313 posts

Posted 04 June 2014 - 06:33 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?  

 

Sort of off the original topic but...

 

NYCB has always been committed to dancing premiers and even when Balanchine and Robbins were alive danced works by other choreographers--some of substance, many...not so much.  Their core audience? If, as a onetime New Yorker, now non-New Yorker who comes to NY periodically to see NYCB  I count as core audience, then I can answer that I certainly think the commitment to new work matters.

 

As a result of the company's commitment a number of major new works including works by Wheeldon and Ratmansky have premiered there, as well as works by choreographers such as Preljocaj, Bigonzetti, and Forsythe that I at least don't find a waste of time. (Balanchine's ballets are, of course, incomparable and the basis as they should be of the repertory.) As you probably know several critics have started championing Justin Peck in the last year.   Peck and Wheeldon really emerged through NYCB and Ratmansky's career took a great leap forward with the creation of Russian Seasons for the company...Namouna which is arguably his best ballet was created for them. These works contribute to NYCB, but also to ballet as an art form. (I would rather see Namouna a third time than, say, Robbins' I'm Old Fashioned.)

 

The importance of new works in developing dancers has often been debated on this website--indeed the whole issue you raise about repertory has been taken up, and a lot of different perspectives expressed...but for myself, I think it wouldn't be NYCB if it were simply filling a curatorial function even if that is the company's most important function.

 

The dancer numbers have grown and contracted over the span of years (recently contracting after the 2008 financial crisis for example), but within any short period of time the numbers are I believe usually pretty steady and retirements/departures do impact the numbers of new dancers they can accept or promote. Others, who follow the day to day workings of the company more closely than I, can comment in more detail on that. 

 

More related to topic (though not to the larger structural issues): Perhaps I missed it, but I don't recall that Gen Horiuchi has been mentioned. He came to NYCB in the early 80's (Wikipedia says invited by Balanchine) and was frequently featured by Peter Martins, who created roles for him--actually one of the more prominent dancers of the early Martins era.



#51 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,740 posts

Posted 04 June 2014 - 08:36 PM

NYCB places a great deal of emphasis on new work (the captions at the beginning of "Ballet 422," the new documentary following the creation of Justin Peck's Paz de la Jolla, describe NYCB as a "creative ballet company."  I puzzled and puzzled over this until I decided they were making a point about their tradition of new choreography).

 

In some ways, they more closely resemble a typical modern dance company, with the usual emphasis on making all things new, than older models of ballet companies that depend on the historic repertory.



#52 Kathleen O'Connell

Kathleen O'Connell

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 799 posts

Posted 05 June 2014 - 04:42 AM

NYCB places a great deal of emphasis on new work (the captions at the beginning of "Ballet 422," the new documentary following the creation of Justin Peck's Paz de la Jolla, describe NYCB as a "creative ballet company."  I puzzled and puzzled over this until I decided they were making a point about their tradition of new choreography).

 

In some ways, they more closely resemble a typical modern dance company, with the usual emphasis on making all things new, than older models of ballet companies that depend on the historic repertory.

 

I'm sure I've said this before, but NYCB is the MoMA of ballet companies. They both started out as places with a commitment to the new -- not just a commitment to display it, but also to enable people learn how to look at it -- and found themselves decades later in possession of a fabulous permanent collection that, for the larger public at least, overshadows the new work they champion today. And, they're both often criticized for expending blood and treasure on new initiatives rather than on the care and feeding of the permanent collection. It is a tough problem for once small and scrappy but now big and "establishment" institution to solve. 

 

And Drew, you are absolutely right about Namouna vs I'm Old Fashioned. Every time the lights go down and the song starts up, I find myself wishing they'd just can Robbins' ballet altogether and let us watch Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth for the next 20 minutes. Heck, I'd rather sit through Spectral Evidence than I'm Old Fashioned. (But I do love love love Namouna. I'd trade Union Jack for it in a heartbeat and never look back.)



#53 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 05 June 2014 - 06:32 AM

NYCB places a great deal of emphasis on new work (the captions at the beginning of "Ballet 422," the new documentary following the creation of Justin Peck's Paz de la Jolla, describe NYCB as a "creative ballet company."  I puzzled and puzzled over this until I decided they were making a point about their tradition of new choreography).

 

In some ways, they more closely resemble a typical modern dance company, with the usual emphasis on making all things new, than older models of ballet companies that depend on the historic repertory.

Is there a feeling among City Ballet fans that this emphasis on new work post Balanchine and Robbins is worth the time and effort?  Are there really that many works of note that have been created since their deaths?  I ask because it seems that the critical reception of many recent works  - with the occasion exception of Wheeldon and Peck - seems to imply that the new stuff falls short of the master.  



#54 Drew

Drew

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,313 posts

Posted 05 June 2014 - 07:51 AM

 

NYCB places a great deal of emphasis on new work (the captions at the beginning of "Ballet 422," the new documentary following the creation of Justin Peck's Paz de la Jolla, describe NYCB as a "creative ballet company."  I puzzled and puzzled over this until I decided they were making a point about their tradition of new choreography).

 

In some ways, they more closely resemble a typical modern dance company, with the usual emphasis on making all things new, than older models of ballet companies that depend on the historic repertory.

Is there a feeling among City Ballet fans that this emphasis on new work post Balanchine and Robbins is worth the time and effort?  Are there really that many works of note that have been created since their deaths?  I ask because it seems that the critical reception of many recent works  - with the occasion exception of Wheeldon and Peck - seems to imply that the new stuff falls short of the master.  

 

 

There have been several threads discussing exactly this issue -- with many different perspectives expressed -- so it might be worth your time to do a search.  I will say that the fact is that if a company is unwilling to risk duds and other works that are merely okay, then it is unlikely to get masterpieces either....especially since even the best choreographers need a chance to develop, take risks etc. Nor do I think it is a bad thing for NYCB audiences and dancers to have been exposed to choreographers who have developed elsewhere such as Preljocaj--whose Spectral Evidence for the company has been controversial, but not without admirers. Has there been a lot of less than stellar work to sit through? More than is ideal? Sure...I think so at least. But the idea of turning NYCB into a company that does nothing but Balanchine and Robbins is, I think, a nonstarter even for those who wish the company would do fewer new works. (In a wierd way it wouldn't even be Balanchine's company if it did nothing but Balanchine...that doesn't seem to be what he thought a ballet company should be.)



#55 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,343 posts

Posted 05 June 2014 - 07:54 AM

Of course it's to be expected that most new work will probably fall short of being masterful, but of course there is only one way to get new masterpieces . . . 

 

In the years since Balanchine's death, NYCB has had whole festivals devoted to new choreography, specifically the six Diamond Project festivals, funded by the late Irene Diamond. Wheeldon's first NYCB work, the 1997 Slavonic Dances (with Monique Meunier, if memory serves!) was a Diamond Project ballet. The American Music Festival in 1988 also presented new work. If I'm not mistaken, few of these pieces have had a life since.



#56 Kathleen O'Connell

Kathleen O'Connell

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 799 posts

Posted 05 June 2014 - 08:23 AM

 

 

 Are there really that many works of note that have been created since their deaths?  I ask because it seems that the critical reception of many recent works  - with the occasion exception of Wheeldon and Peck - seems to imply that the new stuff falls short of the master.  

 

 

Yes.

 

NYCB premiered plenty of non-Balanchine junk when he was alive and in charge. And one should note that the critical reception of Balanchine's and Robbins' own work -- right up to their deaths -- wasn't uniformly rapturous, either. 



#57 cubanmiamiboy

cubanmiamiboy

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,272 posts

Posted 06 June 2014 - 12:46 AM

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



#58 lmspear

lmspear

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 179 posts

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

#59 abatt

abatt

    Sapphire Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,806 posts

Posted 06 June 2014 - 06:33 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").  



#60 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,740 posts

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.




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):