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Misty Copeland - Divided Views

285 posts in this topic

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.

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?

Amen to that. ABT is just too obsessed with nabbing the latest superstar to nurture what they already have.

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Copeland will finally get to dance an iconic role after seven years as a soloist, and that won't hurt any other female dancer in any way. Nobody who is brilliant or even just good, will be held back because of Misty.

I beg to differ. If they were going to pick a short soloist for SL, it should have gone to Lane, not Copeland. Lane is a superior dancer, and has also performed the role with Corella Ballet. Merit should win out, but it doesn't. Do we really want ABT to become a company where roles are based on a popularity contest instead of quality? This is a very slippery slope.

But casting is a popularity contest. It's based on whoever is popular with Kevin McKenzie, and it's obvious that dancers can be popular with him for reasons that bear little to no relation to their abilities onstage. Some clearly fit into a particular dance aesthetic he has, but others may play the political game better, some may be able to bring him financial patronage, some may be easy/inexpensive to work with, some may bring in more audiences/press for whatever reason, and some he may just like for personal reasons and nothing more than that.

At least, Copeland is promoting herself in ways that are ballet-positive, ABT-positive, and even positive to non-traditional bodies in ballet. I actually think there is merit to that.

I also think it's indicative of how few opportunities there are at ABT that there's this much angst over the casting of a veteran soloist in a Wednesday matinee performance on tour. I do find it interesting that there isn't nearly as much discussion over Hammoudi's casting when his technical shortcomings are probably on par with Copeland's.

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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.

Yes! I couldn't agree more. Copeland is being scapegoated for the AD's casting and promotion practices. A wednesday matinee performance by Copeland in Oz does not wreck Lane and Abrera's careers.

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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?

Has Acosta said Copeland deserves an ABT Swan Lake? I have no opinion on whether she does or not, although I hope she dances well in Australia. I just think that if skin color should have nothing to do with casting, then skin color should have any thing to do with casting, Why the presumption that hers is a case of "lingering effects," when in fact people who know her dancing disagree about her merits?

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I can't fault Misty Copeland for being an aggressive self-promoter

I can't either, not when that's how the game is played today. Still, modesty's a winning (charming) virtue.

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I also can't fault Copeland for aggressive self-promoting. I can't fault anyone in ballet. Recently there was a Russian ballerina whom I greatly admire who gave an interview that really turned me off. She went on at some length about how devout she was and how much she went to the Russian Orthodox Church. Given how aggressively the Russian Orthodox Church has been imposing its values on the Russian population, it seemed so calculated to me, for her to mention that prominently in the interview. But again, can't fault her.

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I also can't fault Copeland for aggressive self-promoting. I can't fault anyone in ballet. Recently there was a Russian ballerina whom I greatly admire who gave an interview that really turned me off. She went on at some length about how devout she was and how much she went to the Russian Orthodox Church. Given how aggressively the Russian Orthodox Church has been imposing its values on the Russian population, it seemed so calculated to me, for her to mention that prominently in the interview. But again, can't fault her.

I agree canbelto. I don't fault Copeland for her aggressive self-promoting. She is making a name for herself outside of the ballet world. How much that will translate into creating a wider audience for ballet is anybody's guess.

I believe the AD gave her a Swan Lake - a matinee in Australia - to see if it was not a disaster. If it isn't he will give her shot at it in NY in order to cash in on her self promotion. If she was a black dancer who was not an ambitious self promoter, it wouldn't have happened. If she was an ambitious, publicity seeking white, hispanic or asian dancer with a marketable, sympathetic backstory story who was an aggressive self promoter, that person would have been given the opportunity.

For me the sadness is that it is obvious to so many of us who've watched Copeland dance over the years that Swan Lake isn't in her range. We can't cheer that she was given the opportunity.

As an aside, I read someone talk about Copeland as a "different body type in ballet." I don't agree. None other than Ashley Bouder said in a post that she wished she could have Copeland's feet and legs for a while just to see what it felt like (paraphrasing).

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If she was a black dancer who was not an ambitious self promoter, it wouldn't have happened. If she was an ambitious, publicity seeking white, hispanic or asian dancer with a marketable, sympathetic backstory story who was an aggressive self promoter, that person would have been given the opportunity.

Which, if that's the case, is indeed the problem, in my opinion. Talent and aptitude - not backstories, corporate or individual - deserve dance opportunities.

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As an aside, I read someone talk about Copeland as a "different body type in ballet." I don't agree. None other than Ashley Bouder said in a post that she wished she could have Copeland's feet and legs for a while just to see what it felt like (paraphrasing).

That was me, and yes, I have seen Copeland cited as a non-traditional body type in ballet. It was actually on these boards, where I've seen comments ranging from "That bust does not belong on a ballet stage" to "She's ballet's answer to Jessica Rabbit."

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Has Acosta said Copeland deserves an ABT Swan Lake? I have no opinion on whether she does or not, although I hope she dances well in Australia. I just think that if skin color should have nothing to do with casting, then skin color should have any thing to do with casting, Why the presumption that hers is a case of "lingering effects," when in fact people who know her dancing disagree about her merits?

To my knowledge, Acosta has never discussed Copeland. And we actually agree that skin color shouldn't have anything to do with who gets cast in certain roles.

Where we differ is our perceptions of whether that actually happens.

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If she was a black dancer who was not an ambitious self promoter, it wouldn't have happened. If she was an ambitious, publicity seeking white, hispanic or asian dancer with a marketable, sympathetic backstory story who was an aggressive self promoter, that person would have been given the opportunity.

Which, if that's the case, is indeed the problem, in my opinion. Talent and aptitude - not backstories, corporate or individual - deserve dance opportunities.

And we know that always happens. And when it doesn't, it always generates the same amount of indignation as Copeland dancing a Swan Lake matinee on the road.

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I can't fault Misty Copeland for being an aggressive self-promoter

I can't either, not when that's how the game is played today. Still, modesty's a winning (charming) virtue.

But is that modesty? Living on the West Coast, I don't see much of this aggressive self-promotion which is apparently happening all over the place. If Copeland is self-promoting herself to the degree it seems, it's still not on the scale of what I'd see in London during the 1990s where it seemed Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell and/or Viviana Durante were plastered on every street corner in the city between public transport, magazine covers, newsstands, posters, etc.

I think of modesty as humbleness, and I haven't seen Copeland claim to be the best dancer ever, a shining light of dance, or the savior of African-American dancers. What I've seen is her participating in non-ballet projects and getting ballet, ABT and her own story out into the general public. I don't see that as mutually exclusive with modesty.

Or do you think of modesty as hanging back and not trying to get noticed by management at all? Because I don't see anyone at the company doing that. I'm sure they all campaign for roles and opportunities in their own way. Please... it's not like we haven't discussed Julie Kent's "special status" at ABT.

I also think Misty Copeland is in a difficult place. Some may find the self-promotion distasteful, but if she were not publicizing her unusual success in the media, I feel there would undoubtedly be those who would say that she was not being responsible as a good role model for the African-American community.

A friend of mine is an African-American female surgeon, a species almost as rare as female African-American ballet dancers at major companies. She regularly gets invitations to professional events, and of course, must decline some of them. It's not unusual for her to get a follow-up on her declines, asking if she would still come if only to take a picture at the event (and then leave if she must). It's that important to some members of the African-American community to show that kind of success, that it can be done and to show examples of that success to younger people. So where some people may find aggressive self-promotion, it may also be a responsibility to the African-American community at large as well.

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"If Copeland is self-promoting herself to the degree it seems, it's still not on the scale of what I'd see in London during the 1990s where it seemed Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell and/or Viviana Durante were plastered on every street corner in the city between public transport, magazine covers, newsstands, posters, etc."

There's a big difference, Guillem, Bussell and Durante became famous because they were great dancers, not because of their race, ethnicity or personal history. Their great fame and fortune followed on the heels of their marvelous performances and ecstatic reviews from the critics. In contrast, Misty's celebrity is based on race and an unusual personal story. She is not famous for the exceptional quality of her dancing.

Re Hamoudi,he is not ready for this role either. I think they made a big mistake in promoting him to soloist over certain other tall men like Tamm and Forster, and now they are trying to figure out what to do with him.

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A personal impression and nothing to do with Misty's O/O: I appreciate her appeal to African American youngsters who are now considering the world of ballet but I wonder what the parents of these children feel about the steady stream of titillating photos she posts from various photo shoots. For me it doesn't compute.

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Tapfan, I'm glad we halfway agree about something. smile.png

sidwich, you make a good point. I guess I'm like those Lake Woebegonians gently mocked by Garrison Keillor; when I look at some dancer's Twitter page and see links to rave reviews, and reposted tweets by worshipful fans, I feel a little embarrassed for the dancer. Whether Copeland does that or not, I don't know. I was thinking of others who do.

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A personal impression and nothing to do with Misty's O/O: I appreciate her appeal to African American youngsters who are now considering the world of ballet but I wonder what the parents of these children feel about the steady stream of titillating photos she posts from various photo shoots. For me it doesn't compute.

That's a big problem I have with her Twitter feed. Many of her photos are in scantily clad outfits in very suggestive poses. I don't see those as positive images for children when someone claims to be (and wants to be) a role model for children.

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sidwich, you make a good point. I guess I'm like those Lake Woebegonians gently mocked by Garrison Keillor; when I look at some dancer's Twitter page and see links to rave reviews, and reposted tweets by worshipful fans, I feel a little embarrassed for the dancer. Whether Copeland does that or not, I don't know. I was thinking of others who do.

Copeland definitely does that. https://twitter.com/mistyonpointe

So many of her "feeds" are re-tweets of compliments from others. I get this is a way to draw attention to her dancing (and hence to promote herself for good reasons), but for me it's too much. So, I now stay away from it.

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As an aside, I read someone talk about Copeland as a "different body type in ballet." I don't agree. None other than Ashley Bouder said in a post that she wished she could have Copeland's feet and legs for a while just to see what it felt like (paraphrasing).

That was me, and yes, I have seen Copeland cited as a non-traditional body type in ballet. It was actually on these boards, where I've seen comments ranging from "That bust does not belong on a ballet stage" to "She's ballet's answer to Jessica Rabbit."

Wow - I missed those comments. To me her body type is not out of the range of what is typical in ballet. Obviously some people disagree with me. Her feet and legs are amazing and as there have been other "full figured" woman in ballet. NYCB has a few at the moment. Way back in the day ABT had a gorgeous dancer named Naomi Sorkin who was quite busty

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"If Copeland is self-promoting herself to the degree it seems, it's still not on the scale of what I'd see in London during the 1990s where it seemed Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell and/or Viviana Durante were plastered on every street corner in the city between public transport, magazine covers, newsstands, posters, etc."

There's a big difference, Guillem, Bussell and Durante became famous because they were great dancers, not because of their race, ethnicity or personal history. Their great fame and fortune followed on the heels of their marvelous performances and ecstatic reviews from the critics. In contrast, Misty's celebrity is based on race and an unusual personal story. She is not famous for the exceptional quality of her dancing.

So are you saying that you approve of dancers becoming self-promoting publicity machines (and actually publicity machines on a much, much greater scale than Copeland) as long as you approve of their dance skills?

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So are you saying that you approve of dancers becoming self-promoting publicity machines (and actually publicity machines on a much, much greater scale than Copeland) as long as you approve of their dance skills?

I'm guessing what abatt is saying is that Guillem et al did not become famous because they were "self-promoting publicity machines" but rather because of their excellence as dancers. Even your own description suggests this:

"in London during the 1990s where it seemed Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell and/or Viviana Durante were plastered on every street corner in the city between public transport, magazine covers, newsstands, posters, etc"

That doesn't sound like mere self-promotion, it sounds like fame.

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Bussell, Guillem and Durante were among the greatest dancers of their generation. It's ridiculous to speak about Copeland in the same breath. Yes, thank you for clarifying the point Nanushka.

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Ok as I said before, and I'll say it again: everyone is free to self-promote. Instagrams, Facebooks, Twitter handles are often little more than self-promotion tools for many celebrities. The ultimate test is whether anyone buys into the self-promotion.

I think Misty is an attractive dancer who is obviously proud of her body and maybe has a healthy self-regard. She's using the tools she has to promote her own career. ABT's mismanagement of talent is an altogether separate issue and we shouldn't blame Misty for promoting herself when the larger issue is that Kevin McKenzie repeatedly wastes a lot of talent.

I don't find Misty's method of self-promotion any worse than what I've seen from other dancers. As I said, I recently read an interview with a Russian ballerina I greatly admired where she went on and on about her devoutness to the Russian Orthodox Church. Considering the harsh stances the Russian Orthodox Church has taken against various religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities in Russia, I found the comments rather distasteful/insensitive and also a rather obvious attempt at pandering. But I know enough people in Russia to know that celebrities often feel obligated to express their loyalty to the Church and to Putin. They've replaced the Communist Party. So I can't blame her. But it did make me disappointed.

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I'm guessing what abatt is saying is that Guillem et al did not become famous because they were "self-promoting publicity machines" but rather because of their excellence as dancers. Even your own description suggests this:

"in London during the 1990s where it seemed Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell and/or Viviana Durante were plastered on every street corner in the city between public transport, magazine covers, newsstands, posters, etc"

That doesn't sound like mere self-promotion, it sounds like fame.

I think it's both. I think all of those dancers are famous because of their dancing, and I think they've also sought it out, Bussell especially. There are plenty of famous people, even strikingly beautiful ones, who do not grace major magazine covers like Darcey Bussell. (Actually, Bussell's self-promotion machine is very similar to Copelands with magazine spreads, books, and reality show judging, so I think it's very apt comparison).

The point I was trying to make is that if you don't mind the publicity machines that those dancers (and as I said, especially Darcey Bussell) are, then what must irk you is the origin of Misty Copeland's fame, what makes her noteworthy. I do not disagree at all that she is not the dancer that Guillem, Bussell and Durante are. Her accomplishment is because of what she has been able to accomplish being who she is.

Now, you may not think that it's noteworthy that she is the only African-American dancer of her stature and seniority at a major company, but a lot of people do. Or it may be that you don't think that that's enough of an accomplishment to achieve the level of fame that she has. I'm just trying to puzzle out what it is that bothers people so that she gets compared to Kim Kardashian.

I'll give you another example: Elvis Presley. Presley didn't really accomplish anything noteworthy musically on his own. He didn't write any original music. His music and stylings were derived from music that had been performed by African-American performers for quite some time before he broke on the scene. If you were to take who he was out of the equation (white), he was a fine performer but not someone who rises to the musical importance of many pioneers like say a Chuck Berry. So if you ask popular musicians who were your influences, he doesn't get brought up in the same way that someone like Berry, Hendrix, Lennon & McCartney, Phil Spector or Brian Wilson do.

But is Elvis Presley noteworthy? Of course he is! It's because of who he was, when he was and the music that he brought to white audiences.

I'm not trying to say that Copeland is Elvis. But there are a number of female ballet superstars. If you look at my earlier example, the Royal Ballet alone had Giullem, Bussell and Durante during the 1990s. There's still only one African-American female dancer at her level in the ballet world. Personally, I think that does make her exceptional in some way.

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Personally, sidwich, I don't think your Elvis comparison holds up. He brought something to middle America that was new to them. Americans were not exposed to people like Chuck Berry on the Ed Sullivan show and the other few mainstream venues that existed.

As far as Copeland being exceptional - an African-American woman who is a soloist in a major ballet company makes her exceptional in terms of race. I think the discussion has to do with why she is cast in a role that seems beyond her, when others are not afforded that opportunity. Why, at the age of 30, is an AD suddenly casting her in Swan Lake? The answer is ticket sales. Unfortunately, IMO those ticket sales have nothing to do with putting the best possible product on stage, and will not translate into expanding the audience. Others will disagree and say that an African American woman in Swan Lake will create an audience that will come back again and again. That's not the way I see it. I know so many people of different races and ages that fell in love with ballet upon seeing Agon at NYCB, regardless of the cast.

Oh and by the way with marriage, re-marriage etc. my family is a silly mix of many races.

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