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Lawrence

Race, Equity, and Otherness in Ballet and Society

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sandik   

A big chunk of the talk, and the subsequent Q/A, is currently on the website.

 

It seemed to me that the three of them were addressing very familiar issues, and while they were able to articulate a concise description of the current scene, they didn't have any solitions to offer that we aren't already working on.  Which is not to say that we haven't made real progress, or that there isn't still a great deal of work to be done, but mostly that they don't have any suggestions for miraculous cures.  It takes time and self-awareness to change mindsets, and that's what we're trying now.

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Tom47   

      Lawrence, thank you for posting this link.  I just viewed the video in the article and found it interesting and thought provoking.  I see there being at least two parts of this issue.  First, is there is a problem with dancers who don’t look European being in a ballet set in Europe?  This is the easiest to answer and I would say emphatically not for me.  To me ballet is fantasy and fantasy does not have to be accurate.  In fact for me not being accurate adds to the fantasy.  But, if one only wanted European looking dancers in a ballet set in Europe and I don’t, then what about “La Bayadere” or “Le Corsaire” or the Chinese Dance and the Arab Dance in the “Nutcracker” and there are others.  Second is the aesthetic issue.  Is white skin more suited to ballet than dark skin?  Again I would say no and since I enjoy variety I would prefer dancers with different shades of complexion.  Another part of this has to do with uniformity.  Is it more aesthetically pleasing for all of the swans or all of the snowflakes to have light complexions?  I feel aesthetically pleasing is like beauty and I feel beauty as well as aesthetically pleasing is in the eye of the beholder.  To my eye it would not be more aesthetically pleasing to have all of the swans and all of the snowflakes have light skin.  But even here it seems to me that only casting light skinned dancers for those parts would limit the number of dancers to choose from and therefore it is possible that a not as accomplished light skinned dancer might get the part over a more accomplished dark skinned dancer.  But even then uniformity does not applied to all dancers in a ballet.  I see no problem with a dark skinned Odette/Odile, a dark skinned Prince Siegfried or dark skinned dancers in act one or act three.  Lastly any aesthetic pleasure I may get from viewing only light skinned dancers and it is actually the opposite for me as I would prefer to see dancers of different complexions, would be more than negated by knowing that a dancer was rejected simply because she/he had a dark complexion.

      Tom,

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Tom47   

      Michaela DePrince was born in Sierra Leone.  She was ostracized by the people in her community because of a skin disease – vitiligo – so this is when she first became an “other.”  At a young age she became an orphan and was placed in an orphanage.  She found photograph of a ballerina standing en pointe and decided to become a ballerina and was able to pursue this goal after being adopted.  Michaela is now with the Dutch National Ballet’s main company as a Grand Sujet.  Here is a website featuring Michaela http://www.michaeladeprince.com/ and here is Michaela De Prince dancing the pas de deux from Don Quixote (just over 11 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znoG4XnCv_E.

      Tom,

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