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Misty Copeland - Divided Views

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kfw writes:

(I stress that I am not accusing you or Copeland or anyone else of character assassination, but I think that’s the inherent dynamic when the term is employed). “Racist” is one of the ugliest words we have, and so I think we should used it sparingly, giving people the benefit of the doubt where possible. On one level, the word is an effective tool, shutting down dialogue and sending the accused scrambling to make changes. It can effect institutional change that way. On the other hand, even when it’s earned, it’s often received as simple name-calling, changing no one’s mind.

The word is also an "effective tool" for identifying a persistent discriminatory phenomenon for what it is.

Agreed, it is often applied correctly. But sometimes, in my opinion, not. dry.png

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kfw writes:

(I stress that I am not accusing you or Copeland or anyone else of character assassination, but I think that’s the inherent dynamic when the term is employed). “Racist” is one of the ugliest words we have, and so I think we should used it sparingly, giving people the benefit of the doubt where possible. On one level, the word is an effective tool, shutting down dialogue and sending the accused scrambling to make changes. It can effect institutional change that way. On the other hand, even when it’s earned, it’s often received as simple name-calling, changing no one’s mind.

The word is also an "effective tool" for identifying a persistent discriminatory phenomenon for what it is.

Agreed, it is often applied correctly. But sometimes, in my opinion, not. dry.png

I would like, respectfully, to refute the assertion that the term "racist" should be used sparingly because it makes people feel uncomfortable. This assumes that the discomfort of some people is more important than the feelings of alienation and the often very practical consequences of job less and underpromotion of other people. In this instance, while calling ABT racist may make Kevin McKenzie and the board of ABT feel uncomfortable, surely that is a small price to pay for making them question their attitudes and practices regarding black women in their company. How can we worry more about upsetting this group of people than we worry about not giving jobs or roles to Misty Copeland, Michaela dePrince, or the legions of other talented black ballerinas?

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kfw writes:

(I stress that I am not accusing you or Copeland or anyone else of character assassination, but I think that’s the inherent dynamic when the term is employed). “Racist” is one of the ugliest words we have, and so I think we should used it sparingly, giving people the benefit of the doubt where possible. On one level, the word is an effective tool, shutting down dialogue and sending the accused scrambling to make changes. It can effect institutional change that way. On the other hand, even when it’s earned, it’s often received as simple name-calling, changing no one’s mind.

The word is also an "effective tool" for identifying a persistent discriminatory phenomenon for what it is.

Agreed, it is often applied correctly. But sometimes, in my opinion, not. dry.png

I would like, respectfully, to refute the assertion that the term "racist" should be used sparingly because it makes people feel uncomfortable. This assumes that the discomfort of some people is more important than the feelings of alienation and the often very practical consequences of job less and underpromotion of other people. In this instance, while calling ABT racist may make Kevin McKenzie and the board of ABT feel uncomfortable, surely that is a small price to pay for making them question their attitudes and practices regarding black women in their company. How can we worry more about upsetting this group of people than we worry about not giving jobs or roles to Misty Copeland, Michaela dePrince, or the legions of other talented black ballerinas?

I very much agree, Swanilda8. I don't think the truth should ever be muted or evaded for the sake of not discomfiting or upsetting people. Without trying to repeat or summarize my critique, which I've probably done too much here already, I'll just say that sparing the feelings of people who are consciously or unconsciously doing wrong is not what it's been about.

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Sorry, the idea of sitting through her as O/O is torturous.

Then it's a good thing that only dance critics are forced to see dancers they'd prefer to ignore.

On top of which petit allegro doesn't figure much into Odette's or Odile's choreography.

But as I mentioned just a sentence previously, turning security and jete certainly do, and she's classically weak in both those areas.

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I would like, respectfully, to refute the assertion that the term "racist" should be used sparingly because it makes people feel uncomfortable. This assumes that the discomfort of some people is more important than the feelings of alienation and the often very practical consequences of job less and underpromotion of other people. In this instance, while calling ABT racist may make Kevin McKenzie and the board of ABT feel uncomfortable, surely that is a small price to pay for making them question their attitudes and practices regarding black women in their company. How can we worry more about upsetting this group of people than we worry about not giving jobs or roles to Misty Copeland, Michaela dePrince, or the legions of other talented black ballerinas?

I would suggest that, since racism is such a stain on society, one should only throw the term around when one has some crumb of evidence of a person being treated differently because of his or her race. You have none. More importantly, the idea that KM and the wealthy, generally liberal trustees and major donors would not promote a media savy soloist simply because she's not white is laughable. In case you don't know, major companies are funded by rich people who tend to be fairly liberal (or want to pretend to be so, for the sake of their conscious), or corporations who want to be appear as inclusive as possible. Copeland fits into that. KM knows that. The fact that even he can't promote her (yet) speaks volumes.

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I would like, respectfully, to refute the assertion that the term "racist" should be used sparingly because it makes people feel uncomfortable. This assumes that the discomfort of some people is more important than the feelings of alienation and the often very practical consequences of job less and underpromotion of other people. In this instance, while calling ABT racist may make Kevin McKenzie and the board of ABT feel uncomfortable, surely that is a small price to pay for making them question their attitudes and practices regarding black women in their company. How can we worry more about upsetting this group of people than we worry about not giving jobs or roles to Misty Copeland, Michaela dePrince, or the legions of other talented black ballerinas?

I would suggest that, since racism is such a stain on society, one should only throw the term around when one has some crumb of evidence of a person being treated differently because of his or her race. You have none. More importantly, the idea that KM and the wealthy, generally liberal trustees and major donors would not promote a media savy soloist simply because she's not white is laughable. In case you don't know, major companies are funded by rich people who tend to be fairly liberal (or want to pretend to be so, for the sake of their conscious), or corporations who want to be appear as inclusive as possible. Copeland fits into that. KM knows that. The fact that even he can't promote her (yet) speaks volumes.

Copeland has asserted that she's encountered racism. De Prince's mother described racism her daughter encountered. There is a pattern of black ballerinas choosing to leave NA to join companies in Europe that have proven to be more inclusive. As far as a blanket characterization of companies and board members being liberal and wanting to be inclusive, there are many reasons people become board members, including social position and social rehabilitation, that have nothing to do with the art form or their politics. Look at for whom the New York State Theater was named.

As far as McKenzie not being able to promote her, it's been difficult for him to promote anyone who hasn't been imported, since he rarely casts the homegrown dancers in the roles that would grow their careers or justify their promotions. There are also social aspects of promoting one over the other that can destabilize the balance of keeping dancers with the hope of "someday." If Copeland had gotten fed up with ABT and left for PNB or Stuttgart, the story wouldn't have legs.

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As far as McKenzie not being able to promote her, it's been difficult for him to promote anyone who hasn't been imported, since he rarely casts the homegrown dancers in the roles that would grow their careers or justify their promotions.

Plenty of ABT dancers got promoted from within under McKenzie, each of whom, except for Hee Seo, demonstrated a high level of technical skill. (Hee Seo's promotion is baffling to me.) It was relatively easy to see that people like Murphy, Wiles, Boylston, Hallberg, Gomes and Cornejo, to name a few, showed tremendous technical ability, but may have lacked a certain polish which developed later. However, I agree that it is more difficult to get a promotion at ABT to principal than at a company like NYCB, where the requirements are very different.

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Helene wrote:

As far as a blanket characterization of companies and board members being liberal and wanting to be inclusive, there are many reasons people become board members, including social position and social rehabilitation, that have nothing to do with the art form or their politics. Look at for whom the New York State Theater was named.

Do we have to? blink.png Seriously though, that's true of board members, but it's highly unlikely Copeland's talking about them when she says she's encountered racism.

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Belle: Import

Boylston: 2005/2006/2007 -> 2011 -> 2014

Cornejo: 1999 -> 2000 -> 2003

Gomes: 1997 -> 2000 -> 2002

Hallberg: 2000/2001 -> 2004 -> 2006

Herrera: 1991 -> 1993 -> 1995

Kent: 1986 -> 1990 -> 1993

Murphy: 1996 -> 1999 -> 2002

Part: Import (soloist), 2002 -> 2009

Reyes: Import (soloist), 2001 -> 2003

Semionova: Import

Seo: 2004/2005/2006 -> 2010 -> 2012

Simkin: Import (soloist), 2008 -> 2012

Stearns: 2004/2005/2006 -> 2009 -> 2011

Vishneva: Import

Whiteside: Import (soloist), 2012 -> 2013

Aside from the imported guest dancers who are hired to do the plum roles, 3/16 Principals are imports; 4/16 Principals were imported as Soloists and promoted to Principal. Of the 9/16 who’ve come through the ranks, one joined ABT in the ‘80’s, four in the ‘90’s – all promoted through the ranks over a decade ago -- leaving only 25% having been promoted to Principal from the ranks on the last decade: Hallberg in 2006, Stearns in 2011, Seo in 2012, and Boylston in 2014. All four came through the Studio Company and all but Hallberg did apprenticeships between Studio and Corps – did they exist then? – as did all but two current soloists, with the other two hired as apprentices. Whether they continue to be bypassed for guest artists, like Radetsky, or there is some movement up the ranks, like Seo, Boylston, and Stearns, is TBD.

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Belle: Import

Boylston: 2005/2006/2007 -> 2011 -> 2014

Cornejo: 1999 -> 2000 -> 2003

Gomes: 1997 -> 2000 -> 2002

Hallberg: 2000/2001 -> 2004 -> 2006

Herrera: 1991 -> 1993 -> 1995

Kent: 1986 -> 1990 -> 1993

Murphy: 1996 -> 1999 -> 2002

Part: Import (soloist), 2002 -> 2009

Reyes: Import (soloist), 2001 -> 2003

Semionova: Import

Seo: 2004/2005/2006 -> 2010 -> 2012

Simkin: Import (soloist), 2008 -> 2012

Stearns: 2004/2005/2006 -> 2009 -> 2011

Vishneva: Import

Whiteside: Import (soloist), 2012 -> 2013

Aside from the imported guest dancers who are hired to do the plum roles, 3/16 Principals are imports; 4/16 Principals were imported as Soloists and promoted to Principal. Of the 9/16 who’ve come through the ranks, one joined ABT in the ‘80’s, four in the ‘90’s – all promoted through the ranks over a decade ago -- leaving only 25% having been promoted to Principal from the ranks on the last decade: Hallberg in 2006, Stearns in 2011, Seo in 2012, and Boylston in 2014. All four came through the Studio Company and all but Hallberg did apprenticeships between Studio and Corps – did they exist then? – as did all but two current soloists, with the other two hired as apprentices. Whether they continue to be bypassed for guest artists, like Radetsky, or there is some movement up the ranks, like Seo, Boylston, and Stearns, is TBD.

Helene, you are a gem.

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