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miliosr

With a Chance of Rain

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I’ve been thinking out loud about “With a Chance of Rain” for a couple of days worth of posts now, and haven’t been as articulate as I’d like to be. Here are a few points in summary that I hope will better crystallize what’s going on in my head:

1. Even though “With a Chance of Rain” is not a story ballet, IT IS STILL THEATER. (Apologies for shouting.) Copeland, Whiteside, Lane, and Forster are not portraying themselves on stage: they are artists creating theatrical personae through movement. We don’t think that The Siren in Balanchine’s "Prodigal Son" is in any way representative of what the role’s originator, Felia Doubrovska, was like as a person. Why is it any more appropriate to assume that the woman whose boobs are jiggled* in Scarlett’s “With a Chance of Rain” is representative of who Misty Copeland is as a person? I am frankly stunned that this point even needs to be made.
2. I find The Siren to be one of the most disturbing depictions of a woman—or of a human being, for that matter—in all of ballet. (And thirty years of watching hasn’t dulled my response: if anything, she troubles me more now than she did when I was in my 20s.) Yet I would never, never expect a ballerina walk away from the role because the Siren’s frankly and aggressively sexual persona didn’t comport with her personal values or the norms of polite society. (And I’d certainly say something intemperate if it were suggested that the role be toned down to appease the pearl-clutchers.)
3. I just don’t get all the fuss over the boob-jiggling and twerking in the first place, much less why it would somehow be righteous for a dancer to refuse to participate or to demand that the gestures be toned down. I don’t think the gestures worked as theater because a) they were tonally out of sync with much of the rest of the piece (though not the later episode where the men drop their partners or the—what’s the word?—uneasy duet for two of the men) and b) because we hadn’t yet been told enough about the ballet’s community—i.e., the (social) world it implies—to put them in context. Maybe they were supposed to look juvenile; maybe not. I just couldn't tell.
But I don’t think that they were in and of themselves somehow unworthy of the ballet stage or beneath the dignity of the dancers who did them. I simply didn’t know what to do with the information Scarlett was giving me; I’m even willing to accept that the problem might have been as much about my dance watching skills as Scarlett’s choreographic chops. I thought those gestures looked out of place in the kind of ballet “With a Chance of Rain” seemed to be, but I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about them if they’d cropped up in a work by Mats Ek (this one, say), Jiří Kylián, or Jorma Elo. I’d like to see the ballet again with more careful eyes.
* Somehow, "breasts are fondled" doesn't quite capture the gesture wink1.gif

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Kathleen, maybe you’re thinking of another poster, I don’t know. Otherwise, with respect, what amazes me, although it shouldn't be now, is that an argument that dancers share responsibility for what they choose to dance is equated with some larger presumption about who they are as persons. And why would it just be a presumption about Copeland, since I’ve consistently mentioned Whiteside as well? He’s the guy who actually made the move in question, after all.


As I said earlier, it’s obvious that character is made up of many, many decisions. It’s the mom informs us that Whiteside’s a great guy. May I say, I’m not shocked that a guy who would do that on stage is a great guy. wink1.gif As for Copeland, I’m on record as being skeptical of some of her story, but her discipline and determination is admirable, and she makes an excellent impression in interviews. Likewise, because one bad move doesn’t demonstrate a person’s overall character, a criticism is not by definition a put down. “Righteous” is a word loaded with all the wrong connotations. Some people object to seeing twerking and breast-grabbing onstage (but see the paragraph below) for the same reason we’d object to seeing it on the street. You may disagree, but we think it belongs in private. If that opinion is “pearl-clutching,” then goodness, what is most of the human race for most of human history? If you guys don’t want us calling you non-objectors . . . I don’t know, “loose” or some such silly thing, please give us the same benefit of the doubt.


What I think is that if – if – those dancers were uncomfortable with what they were asked to do, they had the power – certainly Copeland did – to say so. With that said, I think your second point bears on whether the Prodigal Son comparison is apt. The parable of the Prodigal Son is a story of mercy and forgiveness, and although the Siren in the ballet is Boris Kochno’s invention (I guess), the ballet illustrates the same thing. So it takes a definite point of view, and not a flattering one, of the Siren. So as I said earlier, here’s where I’m hampered by not having seen the ballet, but if Scarlett was attempting to depict something crude as crude, as Balanchine did, that puts the dancer’s choosing to do it in another light, and I see no reason for objection (although I. as an audience member, would still rather not see it). But it sounds like his intentions were obscure, at least to the audience if not the dancers. If they were clear, we might not be having this discussion.

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I didn't see the Copeland/Whiteside twerk, but it must have been good to create all this fuss...

I didn't see the work in question, but I'm pretty sure we've spent more time discussing it than they did performing it!

I think it was all over in a couple of shakes.

Oooh, you win the bad pun contest today!

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kfw - My comments reflect my response to a number of comments made earlier in this thread, and not to any one poster in particular. Copeland was the primary target of many of them, but please note that I included Whiteside, Lane, and Forester in my post as well.

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kfw - My comments reflect my response to a number of comments made earlier in this thread, and not to any one poster in particular. Copeland was the primary target of many of them, but please note that I included Whiteside, Lane, and Forester in my post as well.

Noted, and thank you for explaining.

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As for whether any dancer could refuse to dance in a work that they found offensive and be disciplined for being in breach, if the contract language is the same as the language in Boston's, since nudity is the only example mentioned specifically, factors such as precedent and interpretation ("I know it when it see it") would come into the negotiation. The most obvious action that a company would take is to replace a dancer who had objections, active or passive, if it came to the morality provisions. Nudity, they have addressed up front before casting, which saves a lot of grief.

Lots of people find the "Agon" PDD and "Bugaku" vulgar and offensive. Or to use an example of a work with 15 seconds that make people walk out and/or vow to never see it again, there's Mark Morris's "Dido and Aeneas." (More room for me.)

I certainly don't see why dancers should object to choreography they're given, or why they wouldn't do them to the best of their ability -- ie, their contractual obligation -- just because someone else finds it vulgar or offensive, unless they do it voluntarily out of deference to someone close to them.

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As for whether any dancer could refuse to dance in a work that they found offensive and be disciplined for being in breach, if the contract language is the same as the language in Boston's, since nudity is the only example mentioned specifically, factors such as precedent and interpretation ("I know it when it see it") would come into the negotiation. The most obvious action that a company would take is to replace a dancer who had objections, active or passive, if it came to the morality provisions. Nudity, they have addressed up front before casting, which saves a lot of grief.

The contract says "morally unacceptable to the Artist." Hard to imagine an AD objecting to a dancer finding breast-grabbing morally objectionable, even if he personally didn't.

I certainly don't see why dancers should object to choreography they're given, or why they wouldn't do them to the best of their ability -- ie, their contractual obligation -- just because someone else finds it vulgar or offensive, unless they do it voluntarily out of deference to someone close to them.

No, I don't know why a dancer would refuse to do something they find unobjectionable just because someone else finds it is. Who brought that up?

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No, I don't know why a dancer would refuse to do something they find unobjectionable just because someone else finds it is. Who brought that up?

At least one commenter in this thread indicated that Copeland made a bad choice, presumably either by appearing in the work or by not following Lane and Forster's example and toning it down.

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No, I don't know why a dancer would refuse to do something they find unobjectionable just because someone else finds it is. Who brought that up?

At least one commenter in this thread indicated that Copeland made a bad choice, presumably either by appearing in the work or by not following Lane and Forster's example and toning it down.

Yes. But the question was who suggested she should have refused to appear in work "someone else finds it vulgar or offensive" but she didn't. Did someone really say that? Seems to me people are rebutting things no one said.

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kfw

Here’s a quote from the post that appears to have kicked off this whole discussion. (It is still in the original thread; it didn’t get moved to this one.) In the quote as I read it, Copeland is unfavorably compared to Lane because she did the steps in a way that members of the audience found offensive. The implication seems to me to be that Copeland shouldn’t have let Whiteside touch her breasts and shouldn’t have twerked because other people, not Copeland, were offended by the gestures. (As we all know, it is easy to misread online comments, so a heartfelt apology to the original poster if I’m doing so now.)

As for Sarah's dancing, did anyone see both her and Misty dance Liam Scarlett's new work? There was a world of difference between them. Misty was vulgar; her partner jiggled her breasts and she twerked. Sarah didn't let her partner touch her breasts (he just made the motion) and a slight hip bump substituted for twerking. Several people I know were so offended by Misty's performance, they immediately walked out. Sarah made the role into a humorous affair. The NYT reviewed both performances and noted the difference.

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Well I'm impressed by your research skills, or dedicated digging, or something. With multiple posters posting, it would be helpful if people would specify who they're responding to, especially if the comment they're addressing was made awhile back and has been followed by a lot more discussion.

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"Morally objectionable to the artist" is also subject to precedent, if the artist has already performed in a similar work happily, as well as context, if the artist is having other difficulties with a work. I'm not saying either is the case here, but I doubt it's as cut-and-dried as a simple announcement, unless the AD wants to make it that simple. It's also simpler to replace a featured dancer in many instances and give the opportunity to work with a sought-after choreographer to a dancer who is willing, if the choreographer is not interested in making a change. It is a breach to disregard the choreography rather than invoking the morality clause, defending/explaining making that decision if asked, and bowing out.

Unless Lane specifically pushed her partner's hand away or blocked it, Amour's statement that Lane wouldn't "let" him touch her breast assumes that she was a reluctant one and that it was her decision to change the choreography or demand a change, not her partner's. Even if she had pushed him away, the statement assumes that it was not the choreographer's intent, something the choreographer thought looked better on that couple and/or an agreement between the partners. Instead it reads as a unilateral choice, whether it be moral and/or aesthetic, on her part, and a choice to be vulgar on Copeland's.

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Well I'm impressed by your research skills, or dedicated digging, or something. With multiple posters posting, it would be helpful if people would specify who they're responding to, especially if the comment they're addressing was made awhile back and has been followed by a lot more discussion.

Considering that this post triggered much if the discussion on this thread and that it was not an isolated opinion, another option is to trust that people have been following it rather than assuming a bad-faith strawman argument.

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Well I'm impressed by your research skills, or dedicated digging, or something. With multiple posters posting, it would be helpful if people would specify who they're responding to, especially if the comment they're addressing was made awhile back and has been followed by a lot more discussion.

Considering that this post triggered much if the discussion on this thread and that it was not an isolated opinion, another option is to trust that people have been following it rather than assuming a bad-faith strawman argument.
Quoting is easy, and so is identifying who you’re responding to. I’ve done a whole lot of good faith, putting the best spin on what someone said debating. It would be nice to get more of it back. Like a casual "oh, sorry, I see why you thought that." No big deal and the discussion moves on.

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kfw

Here’s a quote from the post that appears to have kicked off this whole discussion. (It is still in the original thread; it didn’t get moved to this one.) In the quote as I read it, Copeland is unfavorably compared to Lane because she did the steps in a way that members of the audience found offensive. The implication seems to me to be that Copeland shouldn’t have let Whiteside touch her breasts and shouldn’t have twerked because other people, not Copeland, were offended by the gestures. (As we all know, it is easy to misread online comments, so a heartfelt apology to the original poster if I’m doing so now.)

As for Sarah's dancing, did anyone see both her and Misty dance Liam Scarlett's new work? There was a world of difference between them. Misty was vulgar; her partner jiggled her breasts and she twerked. Sarah didn't let her partner touch her breasts (he just made the motion) and a slight hip bump substituted for twerking. Several people I know were so offended by Misty's performance, they immediately walked out. Sarah made the role into a humorous affair. The NYT reviewed both performances and noted the difference.

That was my quote and I did not mean to imply Sarah had somehow raised an objection to the choreography. I meant (and should have) to say simply that Sarah's partner did not touch her breast. I was simply trying to be descriptive and my poor choice of words made it sound much more than that.

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That was my quote and I did not mean to imply Sarah had somehow raised an objection to the choreography. I meant (and should have) to say simply that Sarah's partner did not touch her breast. I was simply trying to be descriptive and my poor choice of words made it sound much more than that.

Reading the quote again, I see there is nothing in there about the dancers not doing the move because someone else objects to it. That's not what's been under discussion.

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That was my quote and I did not mean to imply Sarah had somehow raised an objection to the choreography. I meant (and should have) to say simply that Sarah's partner did not touch her breast. I was simply trying to be descriptive and my poor choice of words made it sound much more than that.

I'd hoped that when I used the word "implication" it would be understood that I meant just that: that the quote implied something rather than stating it explicitly. I was careful to make that distinction.

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Yes you made that distinction, Kathleen, but first of all I was responding to Helene's words, which I see I should have quoted for clarity myself, and secondly, I don't think that's actually the implication, because it wouldn't make much sense. I can see a dancer, or anyone else, refusing to do something with their own bodies that offends them. If it doesn't offend them, they can't worry about the audience's response. It seems to me that's the choreographer's job.

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Well, we all get to experience that PDD again, this time with Boylston, Gomes and Stearns on Jan. 26th at the Joyce as part of Dancers Responding to Aids. I've had enough of this piece, but if anyone sees it, please report back.

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Many of the points in this thread not in direct response to any one poster, but were triggered by not only Amour's post, but several in the discussion in a similar vein and resulted in a number of opinions about "What should/could Misty have done" which reflected the progression of the discussion itself. That's the way a lot of our threads roll.

A quote is not necessary or even advised if it either the post directly follows what would be quoted and is a clear response to what comes before, because it makes difficult reading on a phone or tablet, or the post is in response or extension of many points in the discussion, so that the people quoted don't rightly say, "??? I didn't say that."

A board housekeeping issue is that the quote function is not elegant functionality and creates many nested quotes -- although the other, more common implementation, also has its limits -- which are difficult to edit without clicking the "light switch" icon in the upper left under the "B" (bold key), and many people eschew it altogether.

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I saw both casts of A Chance of Rain at the Koch, and I need to point out an incorrect statement in this thread. Amour stated that “…we all get to experience that PDD again, this time with Boylston, Gomes, Stearns….”. This is actually incorrect as there are two PDD in A Chance of Rain. One lead PDD that was danced by Seo/Gomes and Boylston/Stearns, and a second PDD danced by Copeland/Whiteside and Lane/Forster. The PDD performed on January 26 at the Joyce is the lead PDD which I found quite beautiful and tasteful at the Koch. No vulgar moves in this PDD, and in my opinion the best part of “A Chance of Rain”. The second PDD is the “boob/twerking” pas, which is not going to be performed. The Jan 26 program also states that Gomes will be dancing a piece choreographed by himself. I’m hoping to still be able to get a ticket to the Joyce benefit, and will report back. But expect no “twerk” report. Sorry....flowers.gif

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