Jump to content


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

#61 Kathleen O'Connell

Kathleen O'Connell

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 776 posts

Posted 06 June 2014 - 09:05 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").  

 

I suspect that at least some of this is pandering to gala donors rather than new audiences. For all kinds of reasons, it's easier to sell gala tables if you've got a marquee name somewhere on the program. That name could be a gala honoree or it could be someone who made some sort of artistic contribution to a gala premiere. Paul McCartney and Valentino are even older than me -- do their names register in any meaningful way with the younger members of the new audience pool?  But there's a whole network of folks around Valentino (and Stella McCartney) who will likely show up at that gala and with whom one might want to rub elbows by buying a few seats at a table. It's venal, but 'twere ever thus.

 

I hope someone is doing a cost / benefit analysis of these "please pull out your rolodexes and fill a table" pièces d'occasion that live for a season and then vanish -- and that analysis had better include the opportunity cost of expending blood and treasure on a gala bauble instead of a worthy permanent addition to the repertory. I sure hope no one was expecting Ocean's Kingdom or Bal de Couture to be the Balanchine / Prokofiev / Rouault Prodigal Son des nos jours ...

 

Lil Buck, Woodkind, JR, and Faile are in a different category, but other than Promenade installations, the company hasn't quite sorted out how to make use of their talents in a way that generates art in addition to buzz.



#62 Tapfan

Tapfan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 117 posts

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.



#63 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,550 posts

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. 




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):