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Misty Copeland - Divided ViewsWas, ABT on Tour - Casting for Austrailia


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#106 Tapfan

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 07:49 PM

There is an ingrained bias for what you can call a European body type in classical ballet -- it's been a part of the development of the art form. We are, gradually, shifting away from those assumptions, and accepting a wider variety of bodies in ballet, for which I am grateful, but we are not at the finish line yet. Someone can certainly prefer the 'historical norm' but unless they recognize that it comes with inherent biases then the possibility for racism, however unintentional, is certainly there.

 

While I agree that there are many factors other than racism that contribute to the lack of black women in classical dance - lack of access, few black role models, cost - I feel that body type is probably one one of the elements that is emphasized too often.  

 

Yes, most African American women are of West African decent, but it's not like that racial subgroup consists of only one heavily-muscled athletic build.

 

As the saying goes, "I've been black all my life," and I can assure you we have our  share of ectomorphs who eat like lumberjacks and still look like Alex Wek.

 

Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.  And those who are willowy or any other shape, don't seem to think about ballet

 

 
 



#107 Tapfan

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 08:17 PM

I would imagine that, at least in part, for the same reasons that the hurdles in the ballet world are higher for women than they are for men.

 

Exactly. I read somewhere that in the U.S., ballet's ratio of male to female is  the reverse of the military.  

In the armed services, you have roughly 10 men for every women.  For people trying to make it as ballet dancers, you frequently have 10 women for every man. There's less pressure on the men because there's less competition. (That's not to say that the men don't work hard.) 

 

I know that ALL women - including white women -  who make it as  classical dancers have it rough. 

 

But you don't have to be wallowing in victimhood to acknowledge the women of color can have additional hurdles. 



#108 sandik

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 08:58 AM

As the saying goes, "I've been black all my life," and I can assure you we have our  share of ectomorphs who eat like lumberjacks and still look like Alex Wek.
 
Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.  And those who are willowy or any other shape, don't seem to think about ballet
 
 


You mean you're not an internationally known, 5'11", beautiful fashion model/designer? Alas, that's not me, either.

You are, of course, absolutely right with this
 

While I agree that there are many factors other than racism that contribute to the lack of black women in classical dance - lack of access, few black role models, cost - I feel that body type is probably one one of the elements that is emphasized too often.


Intersectionality is a popular topic in criticism right now, but I do think it's applicable here -- fundamentally it's rarely just one element that affects the development of the art form. In the past, some people thought you couldn't really be a ballet dancer unless you were Russian -- that there was an ineffible something in that heritage that was crucial to becoming a true dance artist. We're past that hurdle and on to other ones, and anatomy/biomechanics is one of the places we're examining now.

I've been trying to figure out how ballet still reflects its origins, and how central those elements are to how we define the art form. For me, it isn't about who can or can't dance, but what it is that they're dancing.

In the long run, I think the art form will be stronger for all of this discussion, and will be open to more possibilities, but right now we're in the messy middle part.



#109 kfw

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 09:22 AM

Whatever resistance black, female classical dancers might find due to body type or racism is probably offset, in many cases, by goodwill from other quarters. Just as people on Ballet Alert root for Copeland because she’s African-American, there are surely teachers, choreographers and ballet masters rooting for African-American dancers. 

 

But look at the way Copeland has charged that she faced extra hurdles. Imagine yourself as one of a handful of managers at a company, reading a public accusation by someone not of your race, that some of your company’s managers are racist. How do you defend yourself without making an awkward and embarrassing situation worse? Do you even have media access to all the people who’ve heard Copeland’s charges? What do you do, announce at your next dinner party that you’re not a racist? It’s wonderful that Copeland uses her position to encourage black kids. But she’s also made her race work for the advancement of her career, and not entirely, I don’t think, in an honorable way. 

 

Intersectionality is a popular topic in criticism right now, but I do think it's applicable here -- fundamentally it's rarely just one element that affects the development of the art form. In the past, some people thought you couldn't really be a ballet dancer unless you were Russian -- that there was an ineffible something in that heritage that was crucial to becoming a true dance artist. We're past that hurdle and on to other ones, and anatomy/biomechanics is one of the places we're examining now.

 

Has this been written about online? I'd be interested in that discussion.



#110 sandik

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 10:28 AM

 

Intersectionality is a popular topic in criticism right now, but I do think it's applicable here -- fundamentally it's rarely just one element that affects the development of the art form. In the past, some people thought you couldn't really be a ballet dancer unless you were Russian -- that there was an ineffible something in that heritage that was crucial to becoming a true dance artist. We're past that hurdle and on to other ones, and anatomy/biomechanics is one of the places we're examining now.


 
Has this been written about online? I'd be interested in that discussion.

 


Not sure which part of that comment you're curious about, so I'll give both a shot.

Intersectionality: I haven't really seen anything specifically about dance online -- most of the critics I've seen talking about this have been in music. The Wikipedia entry is pretty clear, as is this piece from the Telegraph, but this infographic is short and charming.

The issue of heritage has been discussed here on BA, at least tangentially. An older example -- dancers in the Ballet Russe generation often had to change their names to appear more "Russian" (Mark Platt became Mark Platoff) and therefore more appropriate to the company. Agnes deMille talks about this in Dance to the Piper, in the section describing her experience traveling with the Ballet Russe while she was making Rodeo.

 

Anatomy and biomechanics have been a growing focus in dance training for the last 20-30 years.  The general readership magazines (Dance Mag and Pointe, in particular) have run multiple articles on the topic, but they are mostly interested in functionality (how do you get your leg rotated, how do you increase flexibility in your back for arabesque).  There's less written about the intersection of function and aesthetics -- how can you achieve the specifics of ballet technique in a healthy manner, or what happens to the aesthetics when you factor good biomechanics into dance training?



#111 kfw

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 11:01 AM

Thanks, sandik. Good food for thought. I guess what I’m most interested in is the aesthetics. Does a certain kind of dance look best with a certain body type? If so, why? On a simple level, of course the answers can be obvious (on a tall dancer, for example, “we see more”). Would a company of good dancers far from the current ballet ideal change that ideal? If we could go back 200 years and watch ballet, would that change our ideal, or expand the spectrum of dancers that fit it? I would expect so. So to say it in another way, has our ideal evolved towards _the_ ideal for this particular form of dance (or just neo-classical dance), or are we just people of our times?

 
I think I can guess some people’s answers! smile.png


#112 lmspear

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 11:56 AM

 

The issue of heritage has been discussed here on BA, at least tangentially. An older example -- dancers in the Ballet Russe generation often had to change their names to appear more "Russian" (Mark Platt became Mark Platoff) and therefore more appropriate to the company. Agnes deMille talks about this in Dance to the Piper, in the section describing her experience traveling with the Ballet Russe while she was making Rodeo.

 

 

de Mille also writes about her own body not be an "acceptable" ballet body.



#113 Plisskin

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 12:02 PM

How are ticket sales going for this tour? On the website it looks like you can still purchase good seats on all(?) of the Swan Lake dates. The 3 performance dates of Bach Partita, Seven Sonatas, and Fancy Free seem to be sold out?



#114 Golden Idol

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 09:47 AM

...change their names to appear more "Russian" (Mark Platt became Mark Platoff)...

 

Ditto opera singers. Recall that Zinka Kunc became Zinka Milanov. And--sort of tangentially, I admit--Diana Fluck was asked to change her name, and she did, to Dors, because if her name were up in lights and one of the bulbs blew out... ah well..



#115 Mazurka

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 08:20 PM

Veronika Part in Swan Lake on the 29th the one Swan Lake to be simulcast regionally - too bad it will not reach us statesides
Hoping someone can and will tape and post...

#116 fondoffouettes

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:04 PM

Veronika Part in Swan Lake on the 29th the one Swan Lake to be simulcast regionally - too bad it will not reach us statesides
Hoping someone can and will tape and post...

Wow - even if it's not with Gomes, I would be thrilled to be able to watch this. Fingers crossed!



#117 mussel

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 09:42 AM

Veronika Part in Swan Lake on the 29th the one Swan Lake to be simulcast regionally - too bad it will not reach us statesides
Hoping someone can and will tape and post...


Do you have a link? Which channel? I have a friend there, he's not a ballet fan but I can ask if he can DVR the performance and transfer it to DVD for me. I'd be more than happy to share if he comes thru.

#118 volcanohunter

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 10:09 AM

The performance will be broadcast to movie theaters and other venues in Queensland. Something similar was done with the Bolshoi's Le Corsaire last year, as you can see from the photo in the link below. I don't remember any footage of that performance popping up on YouTube.

 

http://www.qpac.com..../simulcast.html



#119 mussel

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 10:47 AM

Thanks, I thought it's simulcast on TV. Many simulcasts end up on DVD, I hope it will be the case. Blessed Aussies.

#120 balaw

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 12:29 AM

Just thought I would say how excited I am to see the brilliant ABT come Downunder to perform in Brisbane. I am looking so forward to seeing Swan Lake and Three Masterpieces performed at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. So looking forward to seeing Stephanie Williams perform once again on the Australian Stage.


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