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Misty Copeland - Divided Views

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Alicia Graf was a ballet superstar. I saw her perform the Balachine rep, as well as other material, many times before DTH went under. She did master ballet at the highest level.

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But Calvin Royal is on my radar screen, for sure. Thanks to Ratmansky for giving him such a prominent role in the third Shostakovich piece. I'm eager to see how Ratmansky casts his new Sleeping Beauty. I'd love to see Calvin in Blue Bird, e.g.

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Misty has her short comings (I don't like her in anything else besides modern), but right now she is the only dancer a lot of African Americans have to look up to in classical ballet. Some people afforded with the privilege of always seeing someone looking like them doing what they want to do, just don't realize how much it means for minorities to see even the slightest representation in a field they are interested in doing.

Besides, 1 Swan Lake in her entire 7 years as a soloist is hardly a crime. ABT has had other dancers with issues dance classical lead roles. Some of them are sitting in the principal roster right now...

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Alicia Graf was a ballet superstar. I saw her perform the Balachine rep, as well as other material, many times before DTH went under. She did master ballet at the highest level.

Yes, Alicia was such a superstar that she couldn't get arrested after DTH disbanded. Going to Alvin Ailey was NOT her first choice.

Virginia Johnson was particularly annoyed that City Ballet didn't want such a Balanchine-like ballerina.

God Bless Boston Ballet's AD for hiring Tai Jimenez from DHT as a principal, despite her being an ancient 35 year-old.

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But Calvin Royal is on my radar screen, for sure. Thanks to Ratmansky for giving him such a prominent role in the third Shostakovich piece. I'm eager to see how Ratmansky casts his new Sleeping Beauty. I'd love to see Calvin in Blue Bird, e.g.

Black men don't have the same glass ceiling as black women. Just look at the head shots of American ballet companies. Most have at least one black male. Not so with black females.

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Graf danced at Ailey for a few years then retired due to injuriies. After about 2 years, she returned to Ailey and came out of retirement because her injuries had healed. Most recently, she had significant back surgery and has been out of Ailey since April 2014. Not sure if or when she will return to the stage. Based on her history of significant injuries, I can't really dispute NYCB's unwillingness to take a chance on her. Once you have a long history of illness or injury, NYCB does not go out of its way to hire you (see Kathryn Morgan).

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I was in Payless earlier this year and there was a special kiosk with Misty's Payless ballet and tap shoes. Their were 3 African American girls crowded around it (and from their dress I assume they were ballet students) and I overheard them gushing about Misty, how much they want to be like her, etc. Incidents like these makes me see how much her self promotion has been inspiring a lot of young, black girls, to take up classical ballet. I think more ballet dancers should welcome the media like Misty and Hallberg have. Maybe ballet in the U.S. would be less of an art form seen as elitist and elusive. That's one thing I admire about how ballet is seen in Russia.

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I was in Payless earlier this year and there was a special kiosk with Misty's Payless ballet and tap shoes. Their were 3 African American girls crowded around it (and from their dress I assume they were ballet students) and I overheard them gushing about Misty, how much they want to be like her, etc. Incidents like these makes me see how much her self promotion has been inspiring a lot of young, black girls, to take up classical ballet. I think more ballet dancers should welcome the media like Misty and Hallberg have. Maybe ballet in the U.S. would be less of an art form seen as elitist and elusive. That's one thing I admire about how ballet is seen in Russia.

Yep, it is ironic that perhaps the most prominent evangelist for ballet in America is someone that many balletomanes don't see as worthy of carrying the message.

Stranger things have happened.

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She's worthy or carrying the message. She is a very fine soloist, particularly in modern ballets. I don't think anyone here is disputing that she is a fine soloist. The issue is that McKenzie appears to think that being a ballet "evangelist" should translate into casting for principal roles, although others at the soloist level appear to be more deserving of being cast.

Casting is like a zero sum game for the dancers.

Also, the use of the term "evangelist" is misleading here. I assume Misty was compensated by Payless for the use of her name/image, so this is as much about economic profit as about spreading the joy of ballet as far as the Payless deal goes. Nothing wrong with making a little extra $$$ to supplement the ABT salary.

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Misty has lots of endorsements, for which she is most assuredly well compensated.

But she doesn't just sell products OR herself. This woman has done scores of interviews in black media and has appeared in countless dance studios preaching and teaching about ballet.

I would love it if some other black woman like Precious Adams was to become a star dancer because her mere presence turns the notion of how a beautiful dancer is supposed to look on it's head.

When Adams did her Aurora variation at Lausanne, the act of simply wearing dark, flesh-colored tights when everyone else wore white, was downright subversive.

But alas, Precious is just beginning her career.

And I wonder what made her decide on ENB when she had expressed interest in NBC and The Dutch National Ballet?

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Graf danced at Ailey for a few years then retired due to injuriies. After about 2 years, she returned to Ailey and came out of retirement because her injuries had healed. Most recently, she had significant back surgery and has been out of Ailey since April 2014. Not sure if or when she will return to the stage. Based on her history of significant injuries, I can't really dispute NYCB's unwillingness to take a chance on her. Once you have a long history of illness or injury, NYCB does not go out of its way to hire you (see Kathryn Morgan).

If she was so physically broken down, why would Ailey want her? I would think she would be unemployable anywhere doing any style of dance. And why would ABT say they were turning her down because she was too tall, not because she was too physically fragile?

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She's worthy or carrying the message. She is a very fine soloist, particularly in modern ballets. I don't think anyone here is disputing that she is a fine soloist. The issue is that McKenzie appears to think that being a ballet "evangelist" should translate into casting for principal roles, although others at the soloist level appear to be more deserving of being cast.

Casting is like a zero sum game for the dancers.

Also, the use of the term "evangelist" is misleading here. I assume Misty was compensated by Payless for the use of her name/image, so this is as much about economic profit as about spreading the joy of ballet as far as the Payless deal goes. Nothing wrong with making a little extra $$$ to supplement the ABT salary.

True, but then, when can Misty appear in a classical principal role without taking it away from someone more "deserving"? Lane, for instance, has danced in more classical principal roles than Copeland and they were promoted to soloist at the same time.

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Alicia Graf did a lot to raise the profile of the Ailey company, I think. The reviews, expecially in the NY Times, of her performances were always very positive, sometimes ecstatic. I'm pretty sure that a number of years ago, the NY Times listed her performances in its top ten end of year roundup as among the most pleasurable dancegoing performances of the year. She has a skill set - a classically trained ballet dancer - - which most of the Ailey women lack. Although Ailey is a "modern" company that does not perform on pointe, Graf just looks better than almost any other Ailey women in the choreography she is assigned to perform. In addition to her high skill level, her proportions are awe inspiring. In addition, she has beautifully arched feet and a gorgeously flexible back. Sadly, the same cannot be said of a lot of the other Ailey ladies. The difference is palpable on stage. That's why, among other reasons, they took a chance on Graf despite her history of illness/injury. She is capable of a much higher level of dancing than almost any of the other women in the Ailey company.

Personally, once I learned that Graf was injured, I decided to skip their engagement at the Koch in June. If Graf doesn't return for the December 2014 Ailey seasons at City Center, I will probably take a break from seeing the company. They do post their casting in advance.

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I think the problem isn't Misty taking a role away from someone more "deserving" (which I agree that there are better dancers in the soloist rank, most notably Stella Abrera), but the complete lack of opportunities for soloists and corp de ballet dancers to dance in these roles. In companies like the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, or the Royal Ballet it is not an anomaly to see soloists and corp de ballet members dancing lead principal roles like it is for ABT.

If it wasn't such an anomaly I think people wouldn't be so hard on dancers they consider "less than" being given a chance. But then, that opens up a whole other can of worms with ABT like the lack of adequate coaching. If Misty had proper coaching to fix her issues, would she be considered a dancer only accomplished in modern works? It makes me wonder.

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In that infamous 2007 NY Times article about the lack of black ballerinas, Delores Brown said that she feels heartbroken when she speaks to talented black ballerinas who tell her they'd rather go to Broadway or a modern company than keep feeling they have to be twice as good to get half as far in the ballet world.

Are some of these women incorrectly assuming that they are being left behind because of their race when it really is due to a lack of talent? Yes.

Are all black female classical dancers with racial grievances about the ballet establishment paranoid whiners? No way.There are just too many of them. Most of these women don't want to be victims, they just want to dance.

As to the evidently unending highway robbery committed against Stella Abrera, well why hasn't another company snapped her up?!

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Alicia Graf did a lot to raise the profile of the Ailey company, I think. The reviews, expecially in the NY Times, of her performances were always very positive, sometimes ecstatic. I'm pretty sure that a number of years ago, the NY Times listed her performances in its top ten end of year roundup as among the most pleasurable dancegoing performances of the year. She has a skill set - a classically trained ballet dancer - - which most of the Ailey women lack. Although Ailey is a "modern" company that does not perform on pointe, Graf just looks better than almost any other Ailey women in the choreography she is assigned to perform. In addition to her high skill level, her proportions are awe inspiring. In addition, she has beautifully arched feet and a gorgeously flexible back. Sadly, the same cannot be said of a lot of the other Ailey ladies. The difference is palpable on stage. That's why, among other reasons, they took a chance on Graf despite her history of illness/injury. She is capable of a much higher level of dancing than almost any of the other women in the Ailey company.

Personally, once I learned that Graf was injured, I decided to skip their engagement at the Koch in June. If Graf doesn't return for the December 2014 Ailey seasons at City Center, I will probably take a break from seeing the company. They do post their casting in advance.

I greatly admire Alicia Graff Mack. But in all the articles I've read about her, I've never gotten the feeling that she felt she "saved" Ailey by joining the company.

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I think the problem isn't Misty taking a role away from someone more "deserving" (which I agree that there are better dancers in the soloist rank, most notably Stella Abrera), but the complete lack of opportunities for soloists and corp de ballet dancers to dance in these roles. In companies like the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, or the Royal Ballet it is not an anomaly to see soloists and corp de ballet members dancing lead principal roles like it is for ABT.

If it wasn't such an anomaly I think people wouldn't be so hard on dancers they consider "less than" being given a chance. But then, that opens up a whole other can of worms with ABT like the lack of adequate coaching. If Misty had proper coaching to fix her issues, would she be considered a dancer only accomplished in modern works? It makes me wonder.

Exactly. Misty didn't take the opportunity away from Sarah or Stella because THEY WERE NEVER GOING TO GET IT. Mckenzie's actions have made it very,very clear that he doesn't see those dancers as O/O. I'm sure he doesn't see Misty as O/O either, but she forced his hand by going out and developing her own following, by creating demand. In addition to the appearances & Payless deal she has been a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance 5 times so far this season. 5 times! Do you know how big that audience is? McKenzie didn't need a small O/O, Hammoudi is a big guy. If he hadn't given her the O/O he would have given a second performance to Part or Hererra. It wouldn't have gone to Stella or Sarah.

Also, I think Misty is quite fine in terre a terre classical work. She was a good Gamzatti (barring the performance just coming back from that horrendous leg injury) and an excellent Gulnare. I just don't think she's particularly suited to O/O, but with the right coaching, who knows?

In any case, most role assignments aren't based solely on talent or suitability for the role. Just look at Seo's Fouettes, or Boyleston's gangly elbows . How much were those role assignments and promotions based on powerful patrons or one man's taste in dancers? I admire Misty for taking her future into her own hands.

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Let's all take a deep breath and await her reviews. Has anyone actually seen her performance as O/O? I have yet to see a review. Only comments about why she shouldn't be doing this role. I'm trying to keep an open mind about it all.

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In that infamous 2007 NY Times article about the lack of black ballerinas, Delores Brown said that she feels heartbroken when she speaks to talented black ballerinas who tell her they'd rather go to Broadway or a modern company than keep feeling they have to be twice as good to get half as far in the ballet world.

Are some of these women incorrectly assuming that they are being left behind because of their race when it really is due to a lack of talent? Yes.

Are all black female classical dancers with racial grievances about the ballet establishment paranoid whiners? No way.There are just too many of them. Most of these women don't want to be victims, they just want to dance.

As to the evidently unending highway robbery committed against Stella Abrera, well why hasn't another company snapped her up?!

In respect to questioning why Abrera hadn't been snapped up by another company, we have no idea if she's gotten offers from or sought out other companies. I wouldn't assume that she's unhappy in ABT.

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I doubt that the Hamoudi - Copeland performance will be reviewed in the press, as it is buried in a Wed matinee late in the run. I think they decided to teach the role to a short in house ballerina because they now have two short Siegfrieds (Cornejo and Simkin), but only one small in house O/O (Boylston). If they are truly serious about continuing to let Herman dance the lead in SL, they need to find him an inhouse partner. For two years they tried to set him up with Cojocaru, and for two years Cojocaru has cancelled. The first time, the cancellation was early enough for them to get Kochetkova to fill in. The second time, the cancellation was too late in the game, and Herman got screwed out of his SL performance. Certainly, they could have fixed Hamoudi up with Part or anyone else because he is so tall he can partner anyone. The goal, I think, was a longer term goal of teaching it to a short woman so that Herman, in future seasons, might have a partner in SL without looking to other companies.

I'm sure Stella's reasons for staying at ABT are good ones. Financial stability, good benefits, and the ability to continue living in NYC. In addition, leaving ould have meant separation from Sascha unless they went elsewhere together. When Sascha returned from his stint in Europe and came back to ABT, he mentioned in interviews that the separation from his wife made him unhappy, and that it was more important for them to be together than to continue chasing after lead roles in Europe. I've seen them together on the Upper West Side, and they seem very much in love.

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I wish there were ballet companies out there in which racial diversity is part of the aesthetic.

Barring that Never-Neverland fantasy, I wish there were more predominately black companies like DHT or Ballet Black. More self-segregation may not be the best or the ultimate goal, but not having to deal with every kind of race issue has got to be a relief for all concerned.

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In any case, most role assignments aren't based solely on talent or suitability for the role. Just look at Seo's Fouettes, or Boyleston's gangly elbows . How much were those role assignments and promotions based on powerful patrons or one man's taste in dancers? I admire Misty for taking her future into her own hands.

Misty would probably be even more underutilized than Stella Abrera if she didn't promote herself. And the bolded is why I can't bash her for it. You have dancers in the principal rank who have glaring technical and artistry issues. Since role assignments are obviously not based on talent, why not campaign for a Swan Lake?

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More self-segregation may not be the best or the ultimate goal, but not having to deal with every kind of race issue has got to a relief for all concerned.

Maybe not a relief to Copeland, who has used race to promote her career. Every artistic director in the country with any sense, not to mention human decency, is surely eager to hire and promote deserving black dancers. Copeland has created her own race issue by ginning up outrage from people who have no basis to know whether or not her accusations have merit because they haven’t even seen her dance. That’s one career strategy.

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I don't understand why in an art form with an undeniable history of racial bias, people who complain about its lingering effects are slammed and frequently accused of playing the race card.

Yet, AD's and other gatekeepers of the art form are always given the benefit of the doubt that the lack of black women on their rosters means there simply were and are no black women who are good enough. Case closed.

Carlos Acosta is one of the greats of classical dance. When you consider his privileged position in the ballet world, one wonders why he doesn't just sit back, shut up and reap the awards and accolades coming in as his career winds down.

But even though it does him absolutely no good personally to rock the boat, Acosta has nonetheless expressed a belief that subtle bias continues against black women in classical dance.

Why should he stick his neck out for what many believe is nothing more than racial paranoia unless he really thinks bias against black women is a thing?

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I can't fault Misty Copeland for being an aggressive self-promoter, and I think the ballerina situation at ABT extends far beyond Copeland getting a Swan Lake over Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane (i.e. guest stars vs. homegrown talent, Boylston/Seo promotions, Part only getting matinees, etc., etc.)

Every artistic director in the country with any sense, not to mention human decency, is surely eager to hire and promote black dancers.

But where is this movement to find, develop and promote black female dancers in the American ballet world? I would be much more amenable to criticisms of Copeland if the American ballet world in general and ABT in particular had a sterling track record in this record. In its 75 years of existence, how many black female principals (or even soloists) has ABT had? How many has New York City Ballet had??

I can only speak for myself but I can't get too worked up about Copeland getting an out-of-town tryout in Australia. As others have said, it's not like that tryout was going to go to Abrera or Lane.

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