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Misty Copeland - Divided Views

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I disagree that Project Plie' is some cynical attempt by ABT to deflect accusations by big, bad, Misty Copeland that the ballet world is crawling with unreconstructed racists.

First of all, in my opinion, Misty's implications of racial and color bias in ballet are far more nuanced than her detractors imply. She's spoken of mostly small instances of subtle racial insensitivity that add up over time. She hasn't said that someone called her the N-word or burned a cross in front of her apartment building.

She never said that all of the barriers she's faced in her career have been due to race. She said her late start in studying ballet, her family's lack of financial means, her unsettled family life and curvy body type have all been barriers she had to overcome.

I don't think any of the people who sit on the Project Plie' advisory board would waste their time on an organization that was just for show.

http://www.abt.org/education/projectplie/video/

And if the organization does just exist to keep people from thinking ABT is racist and nobody really expects it to amount to anything, then someone should tell Rachel Moore.

I's been extremely well-received, which has been wonderful. People have really embraced the mission of the program and reached out to get involved. We've gotten a lot of positive feedback," she said.

http://www.danceinforma.com/USA_magazine/2014/08/08/reflecting-project-plies-first-year/

Finally, someone should also tell the four regional companies that have become affiliated with the program since the program began. They started with 7 regional companies and now have eleven.

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Tapfan, I think you need to reread abatt's comment more carefully. The suggestion there is not that the program is just for show, is not real and does not have real effects; the suggestion is regarding the motivations for instituting the program.

Yes. Thank you Nanushka. Couldn't have said it better myself.

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Tapfan, I think you need to reread abatt's comment more carefully. The suggestion there is not that the program is just for show, is not real and does not have real effects; the suggestion is regarding the motivations for instituting the program.

How is speculating about ABT's motives for instituting the program any different than speculating that race or color may be one factor in the lack of black females in classical dance, especially when there is known history of bias?

It's all speculation that assumes the worst.

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How is speculating about ABT's motives for instituting the program any different than speculating that race or color may be one factor in the lack of black females in classical dance, especially when there is known history of bias?

It's all speculation...

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Tapfan, and made a point that everyone having this discussion would do well to keep in mind. There have been a lot of assumptions presented as truth from all sides.

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I think it's a real shame that neither NYCB nor ABT took a chance on Graf--I don't know their reasons and I assume her history of injury played a role, but no-one has to be motivated by explicit/conscious racism for racism (or, if you prefer, assumptions about race and classical ballet) to impact the way that person makes decisions.

Precisely, Drew. Racism in institutionalized form is not a question of individual prejudice (although individual action can make a difference in ameliorating the problem, once recognized).

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I think it's a real shame that neither NYCB nor ABT took a chance on Graf--I don't know their reasons and I assume her history of injury played a role, but no-one has to be motivated by explicit/conscious racism for racism (or, if you prefer, assumptions about race and classical ballet) to impact the way that person makes decisions.

Precisely, Drew. Racism in institutionalized form is not a question of individual prejudice (although individual action can make a difference in ameliorating the problem, once recognized).

In Graff's case a big factor had to have been her height. She's 5 Ft. 10. That would really limit the number of men who could partner her. An AD has to make judgements about what the company needs, what the rep needs, who is going to partner who.

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I think it's a real shame that neither NYCB nor ABT took a chance on Graf--I don't know their reasons and I assume her history of injury played a role, but no-one has to be motivated by explicit/conscious racism for racism (or, if you prefer, assumptions about race and classical ballet) to impact the way that person makes decisions.

Precisely, Drew. Racism in institutionalized form is not a question of individual prejudice (although individual action can make a difference in ameliorating the problem, once recognized).

So then the institution may be prejudiced even if none of the individuals in the institution are prejudiced. Makes sense to some people. smile.png

nanuska wrote:

There have been a lot of assumptions presented as truth from all sides.
I don’t assume no black dancers ever face racism. But I’m intrigued by the logical assumption on which the “black female dancers are held back by racism” argument turns: that in the ballet world we find a phenomenon unobserved anywhere else, people who are racist towards one gender but not another. That’s a logical inference from the argument that black female dancers are being held back by racism. I think the indefensibility of the presumption demonstrates the faulty and over-simplistic logic nature of the argument.
In any case, Copeland's Facebook page now has a video with excerpts of an Australian interview, and of her Swan Lake. I must say, she does have a lovely manner. As critical as I am of her in one respect, her face shows real character.

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I don’t assume no black dancers ever face racism. But I’m intrigued by the logical assumption on which the “black female dancers are held back by racism” argument turns: that in the ballet world we find a phenomenon unobserved anywhere else, people who are racist towards one gender but not another. That’s a logical inference from the argument that black female dancers are being held back by racism. I think the indefensibility of the presumption demonstrates the faulty and over-simplistic logic nature of the argument.

In any case, Copeland's Facebook page now has a video with excerpts of an Australian interview, and of her Swan Lake. I must say, she does have a lovely manner. As critical as I am of her in one respect, her face shows real character.

Ballet has very strict gender roles - especially the really classical ballets (princes and princesses, etc). Men are expected to be powerful, strong, charismatic, and generous partners. It's not surprising that a number of black men who have ascended to the principal ranks of elite companies are/were known as great partners (Albert Evans, Carlos Acosta, Arthur Mitchell). The man's role in ballet dovetails with the "strong/powerful/hyper-masculine black man" stereotype (think Shakespeare's Othello). Women, on the other hand, are expected to be light and feminine, and white women are seen as most feminine and desirable women in society. These may not be your personal views, but many people have been socialized to think this way over the past four centuries. Balanchine explores this dynamic pretty explicitly in the Agon PDD.

My core argument - and this argument transcends Misty's particular situation - is that these notions of femininity and desirability affect who gets singled out/championed and who doesn't. There are a ton of female dancers vying for a few slots, and directors likely make decisions based on instinct.

Project Plie is shrewd in the sense that even if it doesn't produce the first black female ABT principal, it will probably produce a black lawyer/doctor/arts administrator who will become an ABT subscriber. I don't think it's a PR concoction/cynical attempt to silence Misty.

P.S. Tapfan, I didn't mean to criticize you! I agree with everything that you (plus aurora, Drew, Plisskin, and dirac) have said in this thread.

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I think it's a real shame that neither NYCB nor ABT took a chance on Graf--I don't know their reasons and I assume her history of injury played a role, but no-one has to be motivated by explicit/conscious racism for racism (or, if you prefer, assumptions about race and classical ballet) to impact the way that person makes decisions.

Precisely, Drew. Racism in institutionalized form is not a question of individual prejudice (although individual action can make a difference in ameliorating the problem, once recognized).

So then the institution may be prejudiced even if none of the individuals in the institution are prejudiced. Makes sense to some people. smile.png

....

I don’t assume no black dancers ever face racism. But I’m intrigued by the logical assumption on which the “black female dancers are held back by racism” argument turns: that in the ballet world we find a phenomenon unobserved anywhere else, people who are racist towards one gender but not another. That’s a logical inference from the argument that black female dancers are being held back by racism. ...

One way I would make sense of what people are talking about when they talk about institutional racism in which the individuals in that institution may be acting without explicit or conscious racism: people don't always understand their own motives. They can be unaware of ingrained habits of thought that aren't as pure of racial assumptions as they themselves believe/hope. Therefore, sometimes looking at patterns of behavior and where they lead can be more revealing than looking at the way a particular person understands or describes themselves.

Another way I think about it: Sometimes the whole is greater than the parts. One incident may be interpretable a few different ways, so, in trying to understand that incident, one might think "no reason to assume racialized views are involved," but a slew of incidents taken together points in a clear direction.(Rules and structures may be in play too; as Anatole France said with some irony: the law in its majestic equality forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under the bridge. Institutions have rules like that, too, that apply to "everyone." Ballet, of course, has to have some rules or it's not ballet--I firmly believe that. But what really is or needs to be intractable in a ballet company?)

Regarding the male/femaie issue: Ballet has always had more trouble attracting talented men than women (at least in the U.S. it has) and it is not, in fact, uncommon in any field that when the labor supply is smaller that it's easier to get a job whoever you are and whatever the prejudices against you. (Think: women entering the job force during WWII.) So, what you say you find "unobserved anywhere else" (that people would let racism influence them more in relation to one sex/gender than another) is easily enough explained. But I'm not so sure that differences in how African-American men and women are treated is altogether unobserved when it comes to how racism operates in this country. That is, one might not find, in your words, that people would be "racist to one gender and not another," but the way that racism expresses itself might be very different. And that difference is certainly influenced by considerations that are, for example, economic or involve attitudes to gender etc. since race doesn't operate in a vacuum.

I will go in search of the Facebook posting you mentioned. I saw Copeland give an interview about a year ago where she talked about her love of ballet in a way that was very appealing.

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kfw, on 11 Sept 2014 - 8:22 PM, said:

So then the institution may be prejudiced even if none of the individuals in the institution are prejudiced. Makes sense to some people. smile.png

Yes, it does. A great deal of sense.

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Another day another Misty interview

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/11/misty-copeland-racism_n_5804614.html

Most perplexing is her statement that people who aspire to be ballet dancers shouldn't be judged by the "type of body you have". I'm confused. Doesn't judgment about the type of body one has start when you auditiion as a kid and they look at things like turnout, feet and hips. So the type of body you have shouldn't play a role in assessing fitness to be a ballet dancer? jawdrop.gif

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Pique Arabesque wrote:

My core argument - and this argument transcends Misty's particular situation - is that these notions of femininity and desirability affect who gets singled out/championed and who doesn't. There are a ton of female dancers vying for a few slots, and directors likely make decisions based on instinct.

I think that’s unquestionably true, but since it’s true for women of all colors, it's not racism.

Drew wrote:

One way I would make sense of what people are talking about when they talk about institutional racism in which the individuals in that institution may be acting without explicit or conscious racism: people don't always understand their own motives. They can be unaware of ingrained habits of thought that aren't as pure of racial assumptions as they themselves believe/hope. Therefore, sometimes looking at patterns of behavior and where they lead can be more revealing than looking at the way a particular person understands or describes themselves.

True (and a little different from what dirac seemed to be saying - my mistake, perhaps). Nicolas Kristof, as you may know, has written about a study demonstrating unconscious racism.

Another way I think about it: Sometimes the whole is greater than the parts. One incident may be interpretable a few different ways, so, in trying to understand that incident, one might think "no reason to assume racialized views are involved," but a slew of incidents taken together points in a clear direction.(Rules and structures may be in play too; as Anatole France said with some irony: the law in its majestic equality forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under the bridge. Institutions have rules like that, too, that apply to "everyone." Ballet, of course, has to have some rules or it's not ballet--I firmly believe that. But what really is or needs to be intractable in a ballet company?)

True too, but in this case there is the other obvious reason black female dancers may face resistance – the traditional aesthetic. I think “what really is or needs to be intractable in a ballet company?” is a key question, but one that can be asked without casting aspersions, without drawing a simplistic one-to-one correlation with the aesthetic and racism. Do you draw that correlation? I’m curious if anyone here would really state it that baldly. It’s one thing to say that taste in body shapes should be broadened for the sake of racial equality, or even for the art form itself. That argument might have merit. It’s another to say female black dancers face resistance because of their skin color.

Regarding the male/femaie issue: Ballet has always had more trouble attracting talented men than women (at least in the U.S. it has) and it is not, in fact, uncommon in any field that when the labor supply is smaller that it's easier to get a job whoever you are and whatever the prejudices against you. (Think: women entering the job force during WWII.) So, what you say you find "unobserved anywhere else" (that people would let racism influence them more in relation to one sex/gender than another) is easily enough explained

.

Perhaps, but although their numbers are fewer, male dancers still face plenty of competition today. In any case, that wouldn’t explain the promotion to soloist of Craig Hall, or the principal status of Carlos Acosta and Desmond Richardson. I’m not sure it would explain Balanchine choosing Arthur Mitchell for starring roles, if as Pique Arabeque says, choreographers make snap, instinctive judgments (and we all do).

But I'm not so sure that differences in how African-American men and women are treated is altogether unobserved when it comes to how racism operates in this country. That is, one might not find, in your words, that people would be "racist to one gender and not another," but the way that racism expresses itself might be very different. And that difference is certainly influenced by considerations that are, for example, economic or involve attitudes to gender etc. since race doesn't operate in a vacuum.

I’m sure that’s the case, but it leaves unexplained the apparent absence of racism towards black dancers.

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Another day another Misty interview

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/11/misty-copeland-racism_n_5804614.html

Most perplexing is her statement that people who aspire to be ballet dancers shouldn't be judged by the "type of body you have". I'm confused. Doesn't judgment about the type of body one has start when you auditiion as a kid and they look at things like turnout, feet and hips. So the type of body you have shouldn't play a role in assessing fitness to be a ballet dancer?jawdrop.gif

I think you are misrepresenting what she says

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I think her words are pretty clear. Since you cannot control the type of body you have, you shouldn't be judged by it. That's the statement she makes. I certainly agree with her statemetn that skin color should never be judged as a factor for suitability to be a ballet dancer. However, does she really believe that the type of body you have should not be a factor on which judgment is made regarding suitability for ballet because you have no control over your body type? That's a mind boggling statement.

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I think her words are pretty clear. Since you cannot control the type of body you have, you shouldn't be judged by it. That's the statement she makes. I certainly agree with her statemetn that skin color should never be judged as a factor for suitability to be a ballet dancer. However, does she really believe that the type of body you have should not be a factor on which judgment is made regarding suitability for ballet because you have no control over your body type? That's a mind boggling statement.

That is a paraphrase of what she says, actually.

She says it is hard being judged on things you can't change, like your body. But she also argues that there are a range of bodies that are and should be acceptable in ballet (and that you can morph your body).

And her main point, which she is trying to put delicately, is that not all black women look alike or have the body stereotypically associated with them.

This should be clear to anyone who read and listened.

If this statement on body types had been made by Jennifer Ringer defending herself against the infamous "Too many sugar plums" comment I don't think we'd be having this discussion. All we'd be hearing is sympathy...

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Jenny Ringer never said that body type shouldn't used to judge suitability for a ballet dancer because one cannot control body type. Ringer argued that she was not overweight and had a body that was suitable for ballet because her weight fell within the standards for appropriate range for her size. Apples and oranges.

I don't think you can "morph" your turnout, the construction of your hips, the construction of your feet, or the length of your limbs or neck.

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Jenny Ringer never said that body type shouldn't used to judge suitability for a ballet dancer because one cannot control body type. Ringer argued that she was not overweight and had a body that was suitable for ballet because her weight fell within the standards for appropriate range for her size. Apples and oranges.

Apparently you didn't listen carefully to this interview, because neither did Misty.

she talked about bodies within a range, and molding them. She never said all bodies are appropriate for ballet.

She said it can *hurt* to be judged on your body type and I don't think there is a dancer born that hasn't felt that at some point.

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I think it's a real shame that neither NYCB nor ABT took a chance on Graf--I don't know their reasons and I assume her history of injury played a role, but no-one has to be motivated by explicit/conscious racism for racism (or, if you prefer, assumptions about race and classical ballet) to impact the way that person makes decisions.

Precisely, Drew. Racism in institutionalized form is not a question of individual prejudice (although individual action can make a difference in ameliorating the problem, once recognized).

So then the institution may be prejudiced even if none of the individuals in the institution are prejudiced. Makes sense to some people. smile.png

nanuska wrote:

There have been a lot of assumptions presented as truth from all sides.
I don’t assume no black dancers ever face racism. But I’m intrigued by the logical assumption on which the “black female dancers are held back by racism” argument turns: that in the ballet world we find a phenomenon unobserved anywhere else, people who are racist towards one gender but not another. That’s a logical inference from the argument that black female dancers are being held back by racism. I think the indefensibility of the presumption demonstrates the faulty and over-simplistic logic nature of the argument.
In any case, Copeland's Facebook page now has a video with excerpts of an Australian interview, and of her Swan Lake. I must say, she does have a lovely manner. As critical as I am of her in one respect, her face shows real character.

I don't think that gender-specific racism is so difficult to believe or for that matter, all that rare. There are racial stereotypes that hinder and help all groups.

Black men have been stereotyped as super-athletic, violent, hyper-masculine, criminally inclined, sexual predators. That stereotype no doubt is partially responsible for the higher conviction, arrest and incarceration rates of black males over white males who supposedly commit the same crimes. Black women face discrimination but not necessarily the type that would make them as likely to go to jail as black males.

Asian American men are stereotyped as quiet, nerdy, hard working, super law-abiding, science and math whizzes who are so focused on academics that they are practically indifferent to sex. Even though the stereotypes about Asian American men are largely positive, they're still stereotypes that strip men of Asian descent of their individuality.

If you want to see high-powered venting by a pissed-off bunch of guys, go read blogs or comments at Asian American interest web sites when the subject of the Hollywood neutered asexual Asian male is discussed. These men feel that Asian American men in the media are portrayed as if they were asexual, almost feminine wusses. And it makes them furious.

My point is that gender specific racism is a very common type of racist attitude.

When the higher rates of employment and advancement of black males in classical dance is discussed, people in positions to do the hiring always comment that black men are more readily accepted because men are always in short supply in ballet and black men's reputation for athleticism, having athletic frames, and a reputation for masculine classical dancing, works in their favor.

Conversely, stereotypes about black women as being too muscular or fleshy, too aggressive, too athletic to control their power, flat-footed, hyper-sexual, vulgar in their carriage and lacking in grace work against them.

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Tapfan wrote:

I don't think that gender-specific racism is so difficult to believe or for that matter, all that rare.

I didn’t say that prejudice doesn’t take different forms towards the different genders. I said that where one gender is discriminated against, the other is too.

When the higher rates of employment and advancement of black males in classical dance is discussed, people in positions to do the hiring always comment that black men are more readily accepted because men are always in short supply in ballet and black men's reputation for athleticism and having athletic frames, and a reputation for masculine classical dancing, works in their favor

.

I gave my opinon of the males-are-in-short-supply argument in my response to Drew this morning.

Conversely, stereotypes about black women as being too muscular or fleshy, too athletic to control their power, flat-footed, hyper-sexual, vulgar in their carriage and lacking in grace work against them

Well a dancer either does or doesn’t have those qualities (ditto for positive qualities in male dancers). Teachers and ADs don’t have to decide based on stereotypes when they have an individual dancer in front of them. I know that with young dancers there is a certain amount of prediction that takes place, but their teachers are in the best position to predict correctly, and in any case, they have to try.

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Several months ago, I was taken aback by a South African-identified BA poster who stated that he/she assumed that the lack of black ballerinas was because most of them (black women) had flat feet that made point work difficult.

The ignorance in this sweeping generalization surprised me because I expected more of BA posters. But then, stereotypes have been known to die hard even in intelligent people.

Just the other night, I was looking at photos of my mother taken when she was in her late teens. It's ironic that my mum, who grew up as a small town, East Tennessee, basketball-playing, Dolly Parton-like twanging, black hillbilly, actually had a Balanchine body.

Five foot seven, skinny, narrow hips, flat-chested, with legs so long that she was teased about them. She even had the extremely archy feet with high insteps. All her siblings did, including the boy.

Just goes to show that ballet bodies can be found in the strangest places and that god definitely has a sense of humor.

Oh, and she has natural turnout as well. What the old folks used to call slew footed. All those natural assets of a classical dancer wasted on tomboy for whom ballet would have been as unlikely as her sprouting wings.

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Just the other night, I was looking at photos of my mother taken when she was in her late teens. It's ironic that my mum, who grew up as a small town, East Tennessee, basketball-playing, Dolly Parton-like twanging, black hillbilly, actually had a Balanchine body.

laugh.png Now there's a combo. I wish we could have seen her in Stars and Stripes!

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I somehow missed this thread altogether. I was searching for a place to post the new "New Yorker" profile of Misty Copeland, and I think I've found the source of what Rivka Galchen describes as "murmurings, on some online dance-discussion threads, that she has been excessively promoted within A.B.T. because of her race..."

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/22/unlikely-ballerina

One very interesting point is that she *did* have a ballet body when she joined ABT's corps at 18, but she was advised to go through forced puberty because of bone injuries and issues that resulted from delayed menses.

sidwich, Drew, and Tapfan already made a number of important points up thread, so I'll stick to these:

By the way, despite having done well at the Prix de Lausanne, I can see the resentment amongst many in the balleratti building towards Precious Adams because she had the unmitigated gall to suggest that she was the victim of unabashed racism in that politics - free bastion of freedom and fairness in Putin's Russia, the Bolshoi school.

While it's true that nobody forced her to go there, it's not unreasonable for her to expect to receive fair treatment at a place of learning, if not in the Russian society at large.

On the contrary: the primary purpose of the school is to produce dancers for the Bolshoi through extensive and specialized training and integration into company performances from the time the students are children. Foreign students can come late -- ie the age North Americans start elite pre-professional training -- and pay top dollars, but they are highly unlikely to catch up to the top students, a handful of whom are invited into the affiliated companies. There have been a few exceptions, some of which ended in failure, like Joy Womack at the Bolshoi, and there are a couple of others who have trained in the Vaganova School and been accepted into the Mariinsky, with a lot of grousing that they aren't good enough. If a foreigner wants to go to one of these elite schools, they get elite training and as much attention as a dancer, who is not expected to be accepted into the company, would get based on limited time and interest in them, but with the disadvantages of still learnig the language and culture and not knowing the years of shorthand that their classmates take for granted. To assume anything more without an explicit promise is a recipe for disillusionment.

Things might be quite different for the MacKay brothers, whose mom moved to Moscow with them to support their training from young ages, and who've received the long-term training and stage opportunities that their Russian classmates have.

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

Cuban National Ballet has embraced diversity, and, IMO, is proof in training as the foundation from which to select dancers. I don't know if dark-skinned women are weeded out along the way for that reason, though.

Why the presumption that hers is a case of "lingering effects," when in fact people who know her dancing disagree about her merits?

I could argue against pretty much every promotion at PNB in one way or another and point to dancers I think are more deserving. Consensus is rare, and there are no perfect dancers: the greatest have said this about themselves. Any audience member or AD can find fault anywhere, and it's not surprising that her dancing is controversial when people here argue the minutia of every soloist.

Does a major backlash await her?

Not until Dutch National Ballet comes to NYC. Out of sight, out of mind.

There are several factors besides racism that probably account for the relatively few number of black ballet dancers: a relative lack of money for lessons; a relative lack of exposure to dance performances; greater interest in historically African-American dance and other art forms; and the perception which, ironically, Copeland has likely reinforced, that blacks meet resistance in the ballet world. All those factors shrink the pool of black dancers.

I don't think black people need to be told that black dancers meet resistance in the ballet world. The message has been told a number of times before. The other half of the story is that she's been successful, in an age of social media where she can tell her story as she sees fit and not just wait until the NYT came calling, which is a big generational difference.

It is also debatable whether or not Copeland's “I will what I want” is a healthy and helpful message, or a self-aggrandizing and unrealistic one likely to stir hostility in kids towards anyone who doesn't cooperate with their will, and engender depression and poor self-esteem (or the presumption of racism) in kids who find out they can’t just will what they want.

It's an athletic theme for athletic wear. I don't know why this would engender depression and poor self-esteem any more than Nike's "Just do it," and "I will what I want" is actually an accurate description of what most ballet dancers experience, as few become professionals without having to have great fortitude and discipline to adjust to puberty and growth spurts, injuries, mind-numbing competition, and constant scrutiny and criticism. That's true of elite athletes as well.

I hope she gets the chance as well, but I love people a lot less when they praise and market themselves for overcoming handicaps (or what they perceive as handicaps). Everyone has things to overcome. "Look at me, I have overcome" is the flip side of "I'm a victim."

The American story is pulling oneself up by the bootstraps from poverty and/or obscurity, very often, overcoming ethnic or racial prejudice and fierce resistance against great odds through hard work, discipline, self-sufficiency at a young age, grabbing opportunities when they present themselves, and character. In entertaiment, it's being discovered, but having the talent to make the most of it. I don't know why her American should be judged by different standards.

Webster's dictionary defines "race card" as follows:

: the issue of a person's race as it relates to a particular contest (such as a political campaign or a court trial) —often used in the phrase play the race card

It is well documented in her book and her interviews that Misty has raised the issue of her race as it relates to her employment as a ballerina. Based on the definition of the term, I don't see how stating that she has played the race card is inaccurate.

The Webster's dictionary definition's "neutrality" ignores the pejorative meaning it has assumed in context and,as a result, is a distortion of its common usage, which is to shut down discussion with a simple, short-hand phrase. From the Urban Dictionary,

1.
Race Card
Calling someone racist, even if they aren't, just to get away with something.
Jalen played the RACE CARD and all the charges were dropped.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Race%20Card

Is a discussion of race and a person's perception of it to be dismissed out of hand automatically as an unfair rhetorical tactic? If so, why not just tell people directly that their experiences and perceptions have no validity?

As to Graf's lack of SAB training, couldn't her skill as a dancer be considered a game-changing factor?

Bruhn, Baryshnikov, Verdy, Martins pere, Martins fils, Luders, Andersen, Sylve, Verdy, Kaye, von Aroldingen, De Luz, Garcia, Tomasson, La Fosse, Bonnefous, Kozlovs, and Fischer are some I can think of off the top of my head for whom this was true. Many more men than women, but not exclusively male.

And weren't Balanchine works a significant portion of DTH programming? Even if she wasn't trained in Balanchine technique, she most certainly had experience dancing his pieces.

Not only through Arthur Mitchell, but wouldn't Graf have overlapped with le Clercq at DTH?

SAB's training was a lot more eclectic back in the day, too, with the old school Russian teachers, Stanley Williams, Dorothy Littlefield, and Muriel Stuart.

I maintain that if ABT had a serious issue with Misty's comments in to the media, they would have shut her down by now.


Imagine the bad publicity _that_ would bring them. That would be pretty dumb, don’t you think? They have no way of responding without drawing scrutiny from a wider audience, and as this thread demonstrates, an awful lot of people are inclined to accept her story without evidence it’s true. On the other hand . . .

ABT could have made it very clear without being explicit ad getting themselves in legal trouble.

I think most of us are inclined to accept her story as *her story*: it's a memoir, not a legal brief.

Teaching them nuanced and charitable thinking – ‘Although I want to change the tradition, I can see it’s not designed to keep you and me out’ – would have been a real service.

A service to whom?

for being unable to 'prove' what is, after all, often going to be subject to interpretation (gee, Alicia Graf IS prone to injury),

Darci Kistler was prone to injury, too, and she was allowed to receive her salary for over a decade (at least) of questionable performances as a result of her injuries. When a company wants to make exceptions -- and NYCB did for several years for Kathryn Morgan, or Martins did against board objections -- it does, and the exception was made when Morgan *was* injured, not when she *might* be injured. She was only rejected after she had been away, and from recent videos she's made, before she was in shape and is still a question mark after being off the stage for several years.

There was a time at NYCB where Graf's height would have been considered great asset, and I wished that PNB had snatched her up.

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I somehow missed this thread altogether. I was searching for a place to post the new "New Yorker" profile of Misty Copeland, and I think I've found the source of what Rivka Galchen describes as "murmurings, on some online dance-discussion threads, that she has been excessively promoted within A.B.T. because of her race..."

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/22/unlikely-ballerina

One very interestig point is that she *did* have a ballet body when she joined ABT's corps at 18, but she was advised to go through forced puberty because of bone injuries and issues that resulted from delayed menses.

sidwich, Drew, and Tapfan already made a number of important points up thread, so I'll stick to these:

By the way, despite having done well at the Prix de Lausanne, I can see the resentment amongst many in the balleratti building towards Precious Adams because she had the unmitigated gall to suggest that she was the victim of unabashed racism in that politics - free bastion of freedom and fairness in Putin's Russia, the Bolshoi school.

While it's true that nobody forced her to go there, it's not unreasonable for her to expect to receive fair treatment at a place of learning, if not in the Russian society at large.

On the contrary: the primary purpose of the school is to produce dancers for the Bolshoi through extensive and specialized training and integration into company performances from the time the students are children. Foreign students can come late -- ie the age North Americans start elite pre-professional training -- and pay top dollars, but they are highly unlikely to catch up to the top students, a handful of whom are invited into the affiliated companies. There have been a few exceptions, some of which ended in failure, like Joy Womack at the Bolshoi, and there are a couple of others who have trained in the Vaganova School and been accepted into the Mariinsky, with a lot of grousing that they aren't good enough. If a foreigner wants to go to one of these elite schools, they get elite training and as much attention as a dancer, who is not expected to be accepted into the company, would get based on limited time and interest in them, but with the disadvantages of still learning the language and culture and not knowing the years of shorthand that their classmates take for granted. To assume anything more without an explicit promise is a recipe for disillusionment.

Things might be quite different for the MacKay brothers, whose mom moved to Moscow with them to support their training from young ages, and who've received the long-term training and stage opportunities that their Russian classmates have.

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

Cuban National Ballet has embraced diversity, and, IMO, is proof in training as the foundation from which to select dancers. I don't know if dark-skinnned women are weeded out along the way for that reason, though.

Why the presumption that hers is a case of "lingering effects," when in fact people who know her dancing disagree about her merits?

I could argue against pretty much every promotion at PNB in one way or another and point to dancers I think are more deserving. Consensus is rare, and there are no perfect dancers: the greatest have said this about themselves. Any audience member or AD can find fault anywhere, and it's not surprising that her dancing is controversial when people here argue the minutia of every soloist.

Does a major backlash await her?

Not until Dutch National Ballet comes to NYC. Out of sight, out of mind.

There are several factors besides racism that probably account for the relatively few number of black ballet dancers: a relative lack of money for lessons; a relative lack of exposure to dance performances; greater interest in historically African-American dance and other art forms; and the perception which, ironically, Copeland has likely reinforced, that blacks meet resistance in the ballet world. All those factors shrink the pool of black dancers.

I don't think its news to black people that black dancers meet resistance in the ballet world. The message has been told a number of times before. The other half of the story is that she's been successful, in an age of social media where she can tell her story as she sees fit and not just wait until the NYT came calling, which is a big generational difference.

It is also debatable whether or not Copeland's “I will what I want” is a healthy and helpful message, or a self-aggrandizing and unrealistic one likely to stir hostility in kids towards anyone who doesn't cooperate with their will, and engender depression and poor self-esteem (or the presumption of racism) in kids who find out they can’t just will what they want.

It's an athletic theme for athletic wear. I don't know why this would engender depression and poor self-esteem any more than Nike's "Just do it," and "I will what I want" is actually an accurate description of what most ballet dancers experience, as few become professionals without having to have great fortitude and discipline to adjust to puberty and growth spurts, injuries, mind-numbing competition, and constant scrutiny and criticism.

I hope she gets the chance as well, but I love people a lot less when they praise and market themselves for overcoming handicaps (or what they perceive as handicaps). Everyone has things to overcome. "Look at me, I have overcome" is the flip side of "I'm a victim."

The American story is coming from poverty and, very often, overcoming ethnic prejudice and fierce resistance against great odds through hard work, discipline, self-sufficiency at a young age, grabbing opportunities when they present themselves, and character. I don't know why her story is any different or should be judged by different standards.

Webster's dictionary defines "race card" as follows:

: the issue of a person's race as it relates to a particular contest (such as a political campaign or a court trial) —often used in the phrase play the race card

It is well documented in her book and her interviews that Misty has raised the issue of her race as it relates to her employment as a ballerina. Based on the definition of the term, I don't see how stating that she has played the race card is inaccurate.

The Webster's dictionary definition's "neutrality" ignores the pejorative meaning it has assumed in context and,as a result, is a distortion of its common usage, which is to shut down discussion with a simple, short-hand phrase. From the Urban Dictionary,

1.

Race Card

Calling someone racist, even if they aren't, just to get away with something.

Jalen played the RACE CARD and all the charges were dropped.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Race%20Card

As to Graf's lack of SAB training, couldn't her skill as a dancer be considered a game-changing factor?

Bruhn, Baryshnikov, Verdy, Martins pere, Martins fils, Luders, Andersen, Sylve, Verdy, Kaye, von Aroldingen, De Luz, Garcia, Tomasson, La Fosse, Bonnefous, Kozlovs, and Fischer are some I can think of off the top of my head for whom this was true. Many more men than women, but not as exclusively male.

And weren't Balanchine works a significant portion of DTH programming? Even if she wasn't trained in Balanchine technique, she most certainly had experience dancing his pieces.

Not only through Arthur Mitchell, but wouldn't Graf have overlapped with le Clercq at DTH?

SAB's training was a lot more eclectic back in the day, too, with the old school Russian teachers, Stanley Williams, Dorothy Littlefield, and Muriel Stuart.

I maintain that if ABT had a serious issue with Misty's comments in to the media, they would have shut her down by now.

Imagine the bad publicity _that_ would bring them. That would be pretty dumb, don’t you think? They have no way of responding without drawing scrutiny from a wider audience, and as this thread demonstrates, an awful lot of people are inclined to accept her story without evidence it’s true. On the other hand . . .

ABT could have made it very clear without being explicit ad getting themselves in legal trouble.

I think most of us are inclined to accept her story as *her story*: it's a memoir, not a legal brief.

Teaching them nuanced and charitable thinking – ‘Although I want to change the tradition, I can see it’s not designed to keep you and me out’ – would have been a real service.

A service to whom?

Edited to add: the quote from Drew is in the voice of an objector, not Drew:

for being unable to 'prove' what is, after all, often going to be subject to interpretation (gee, Alicia Graf IS prone to injury),

Darci Kistler was prone to injury, too, and she was allowed to receive her salary for over a decade (at least) of questionable performances as a result of her injuries. (I'm not sure which would have been worse: getting ca salary without dancing -- Balanchine famously kept the non-dancing Kent on the payroll so she could feed her children after her husband snorted everything she had earned-- or getting paid for substandard dancing.) When a company wants to make exceptions -- and NYCB did for several years for Kathryn Morgan, or Martins did against board objections -- it does, and the exception was made when Morgan *was* injured, not when she *might* be injured. She was only rejected after she had been away, and from recent videos she's made, before she was in shape and is still a question mark after being off the stage for several years.

There was a time at NYCB where Graf's height would have been considered great asset, and I wished that PNB had snatched her up.

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This is not the only online source which has raised issues regarding Copeland. Since it is the policy here not to mention other blogs or boards, I will not make a specific ID. The discussion here on Ballet Alert has been extremely civilized and respectful compared to elsewhere.

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Helene wrote:

I somehow missed this thread altogether.
I was wondering. ;)
I could argue against pretty much every promotion at PNB in one way or another and point to dancers I think are more deserving. Consensus is rare, and there are no perfect dancers: the greatest have said this about themselves. Any audience member or AD can find fault anywhere, and it's not surprising that her dancing is controversial when people here argue the minutia of every soloist.
Yes. Which I think reinforces my point – racism might not be a cause here.
I don't think its news to black people that black dancers meet resistance in the ballet world. The message has been told a number of times before. The other half of the story is that she's been successful, in an age of social media where she can tell her story as she sees fit and not just wait until the NYT came calling, which is a big generational difference.
There has been discrimination so hers must be a case of discrimination as well? Could be. But she’s also been successful in an age where most people oppose racism, and where opposing racism is, at least in polite society, mostly the accepted thing to do. But as I see it, the issue is whether the resistance nowadays is because of skin color (racism) or because of a traditional aesthetic, and if the latter, whether resistance to expanding that aesthetic is racist. Few people have wanted to address that question, but it’s the question that the charge of racism clearly begs. Essentially what my criticism of Copeland comes down to is that she too has refused to acknowledge that question, but has gone the simplistic, sure-fire route to sympathy and support – a route which tars unnamed people at ABT, putting any number of them under suspicion.
It's an athletic theme for athletic wear. I don't know why this would engender depression and poor self-esteem any more than Nike's "Just do it," and "I will what I want" is actually an accurate description of what most ballet dancers experience, as few become professionals without having to have great fortitude and discipline to adjust to puberty and growth spurts, injuries, mind-numbing competition, and constant scrutiny and criticism.
Because life will teach most everyone that they can’t just will whatever they want, especially if what they want is a soloist spot with ABT. I think there are ways to encourage hard work, determination and self-esteem and hope without raising quite likely false hopes and fostering self-aggrandizement. But that’s an argument not so much with Misty Copeland as with the culture at large.
The American story is coming from poverty and, very often, overcoming ethnic prejudice and fierce resistance against great odds through hard work, discipline, self-sufficiency at a young age, grabbing opportunities when they present themselves, and character.
Indeed. But see above.

ABT could have made it very clear without being explicit ad getting themselves in legal trouble.
I think most of us are inclined to accept her story as *her story*: it's a memoir, not a legal brief.
I think in this day and age, people are primed to accept her particular story as truth.We hate racism. We sympathize with people who say they've been victimized by it, and we're inclined, by that sympathy, and for other good and bad reasons, to accept their stories at face value. For example, here on BA, those of us who have wondered if she has conflated racism with something else have all but been called racist by one poster (I’m not complaining because I’m not surprised and I understand why people are primed to see things that way). I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others posters who think the same thing. In the press, Copeland has essentially said that some people at ABT were racist. Were they to rebut that, I think they’d just draw further attention to her charge, and likewise without changing anyone’s mind. Their refusal to accept her understanding of events would be seen as doubling down on their racism.
Teaching them nuanced and charitable thinking – ‘Although I want to change the tradition, I can see it’s not designed to keep you and me out’ – would have been a real service.
A service to whom?
Er, I think learning nuanced and charitable thinking would be good for anyone, no?
abatt wrote:
This is not the only online source which has raised issues regarding Copeland. Since it is the policy here not to mention other blogs or boards, I will not make a specific ID. The discussion here on Ballet Alert has been extremely civilized and respectful compared to elsewhere.

You can say that again. Thank you to Alexandra for establishing that tone and to the board moderators for reinforcing it.

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