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Posts posted by Tapfan

  1. But isn't merit really subjective in this case? I have read opinions of others who are not untutored in classical ballet, and they happen to like Copeland as a dancer.

    I honestly don't believe that if Stella and Sarah were so vastly superior to Copeland, her presence could hold them back.

    The other way of looking at it is that Misty is not so vastly superior to Stella and Sarah, so one has to consider what factors tipped the balance in Misty's favor for being cast in SL.

    But isn't merit really subjective in this case? I have read opinions of others who are not untutored in classical ballet, and they happen to like Copeland as a dancer.

    I honestly don't believe that if Stella and Sarah were so vastly superior to Copeland, her presence could hold them back.

    The other way of looking at it is that Misty is not so vastly superior to Stella and Sarah, so one has to consider what factors tipped the balance in Misty's favor for being cast in SL.

    This is ridiculous.

    1) This is an art form. Opinions are at least somewhat subjective. The AD thought that she was better suited to the role than they, and honestly given the generally positive views she received and my own opinion of at least Sarah's limited emotional range, I don't disagree. So opinions can vary.

    2) It is not like she's been getting all the great leading roles and the others have not. She has NOT been cast as the lead in many full lengths. Certainly in no more than the others. She got this one. In a matinee, on tour. It wasn't opening night in NY... Sarah has been cast in SB, Misty certainly hasn't. Both were in Coppelia. In fact although I believe they were made soloists at the same time, Misty waited much longer for a lead role in a full length than Sarah did. So can we please stop acting like she has been receiving some outrageous favoritism, when there is simply no evidence of any such thing.

    Some of you simply prefer the other dancers and dislike her. That is your prerogative.

    A lot of what has been said here, however, is really beyond the pale.

    When Sarah gets cast "over" Misty do we always need "to consider what factors tipped the balance in [sarah's] favor?" I don't think so. So why do we when Misty is cast?

    The answer is, we don't.

    I couldn't agree more.

    Also, what's so ironic about the criticism of Misty is that much of what she's said about ballet's lack of diversity, has also been said by Virginia Johnson, yet we never hear accusations on this board that she's playing the race card.

    There have also been complaints by Carlos Acosta about the lack of black women. Is HE a whiner?

  2. Also may I mention that any publicity given to classical art forms such as classical ballet, now very much marginalized in today's media and absent from television, is beneficial to the art form. So Misty bringing her story and her persona to the public generates interest and is beneficial to the art form. In the interview, Misty was articulate and not bitter and mentioned that everything that she is, opportunities that came to her and successes she has achieved have all come through ballet. Racism was not stressed but overcoming racial stereotypes and promoting diversity were the main theme. I don't see how any of this is bad.

    I also don't see how anything happening in her career is bad for ballet.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.


    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.


    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.

  7. Just as there is the race card, there is also the denial card. Just as some people can and do interject race into situations where it has no bearing, there are people who can and do automatically dismiss any and all racial grievances. There is a long history of denial of racial bias going back to times when it's obvious it existed.

    I'm talking about the 50's, 40's, 30's and even further back.

  8. By instituting Project Plie and making Misty the face of that project, ABT managed a cunning PR victory. There was no way they could ever tell her to stop saying or implying that there is racism at ABT. Essentially, they took her cirticisms regarding race issues at ABT and co-opted them to ABT's own advantage by creating Project Plie. They neutralized her assertions about racism at ABT. Excellent strategy..

    I don't believe that those people on the PP advisory board would waste their time with something that's being done just for show. If it is being done just for show, a lot of people have been suckered into participating. Three or four more companies have become affiliated with the program since it's inception.

    Martins has also developed Taylor Stanley and Craig Hall, both of whom are soloists at NYCB. Martins also promoted the now-retired Albert Evans to principal, and I believe Albert is now a ballet master at NYCB. It's a little disingenuous to leave these details out while mentioning that Peter favors Chase Finlay because Chase looks like Peter.

    I don't think anyone is saying Misty is outright lying. I think it's more a question of embellishment in pursuit of an objective.

    Black men have actually have had quite a bit of success in the ballet world - I agree with you in that sense. Black women are the ones who still face barriers.

    I used Finlay as an example because his fast (and controversial) ascent to the principal ranks was largely based on potential. And he and Martins are essentially cut from the same danseur noble cloth.

    Saying that Misty "embellished" her memoir still suggests that she is not being completely honest/is being hyper-sensitive about her experiences. I feel no reason to doubt her story unless some other compelling evidence emerges.

    I don't get why it's okay to say it's unfair to criticize the ballet establishment without concrete evidence of racial bias, but it's fair to accuse Copeland of embellishing her tales of adversity without proof.

  9. Martins has also developed Taylor Stanley and Craig Hall, both of whom are soloists at NYCB. Martins also promoted the now-retired Albert Evans to principal, and I believe Albert is now a ballet master at NYCB. It's a little disingenuous to leave these details out while mentioning that Peter favors Chase Finlay because Chase looks like Peter.

    I don't think anyone is saying Misty is outright lying. I think it's more a question of embellishment in pursuit of an objective.

    Once again, people ignore the fact that those are BLACK MALES. The issue is lack of opportunity for black females.

  10. Also, is anyone really shocked that NYCB passed on a dancer that didn't come up through SAB or work in a top-tier company?

    You'd better not let Virginia Johnson see that remark. :wink:

    Based on interviews I've seen her do, she definitely thinks that prior to its hiatus, DTH was a top-tier company, even if many ballet fans disagree.

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

    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.

  11. I don't want to be too hard on Copeland. She's young, and she lives in a culture that has encouraged her to do this. But in the end, I'm not sure it's honorable.

    Copeland isn't so young anymore (30, I believe). She and her PR team knew exactly what they were doing in playing the race card, and it appears to have worked. Alicia Graf always let her dancing do the talking, and she was always rewarded with ecstatic press reviews.

    Misty should give her PR folks a big bonus for all they have accomplished on her behalf.

    Actually, Alicia was quoted in that 2007 New York Times article about the lack of black female classical dancers that SOME folks found offensive and off-the-mark. She personally didn't complain, but her situation was used to highlight the fact that that talented, black, female, classical dancers weren't being given the chances they deserved.

    When Dance Theater of Harlem shut down, Alicia took class with ABT and submitted some of her reviews to both ABT and City Ballet in hopes that she could secure a job with a New York ballet company. ABT told her she was too tall and City Ballet said "Thanks, but no thanks."

    That's when Alicia switched to modern and started dancing with Alvin Ailey. She didn't whine about nobody wanting her in NYC, but Virginia Johnson complained on her behalf. Johnson was irritated that City Ballet didn't hire her because according to Virginia, Graff was the very definition of a Balanchine ballerina - tall, leggy, with impressive technique and great plasticity.

    Virginia said that she just didn't understand how City Ballet could pass on such a great ballerina and that Alicia was being wasted at Alvin Ailey.

  12. As a huge fan of musicals, I commend these classical dancers for stepping out of their comfort zones. Apparently they feel that the time lost in their short classical dance careers is worth it in order to experience another type of artistic fulfillment.

    Broadway gypsies probably don't see their field of dance as a waste of anyone's time, even a classical dancer's. Not all Broadway dancers are frustrated classical dancers. Some folks actually prefer show dancing.

    Baryshnikov danced other forms of dance during his prime years and seems to have no regrets.

  13. Well, I guess I got my posterior handed to me!

    My honest apologies if my tone was seen as dismissive. That wasn't my intent.

    In fact, I thought the tone was already implied as somewhat argumentative when I was challenged as to why I felt NYC had a prep school vibe.

    I get that that this is a Balanchine-centric site and you don't go to Rome and complain that all the food is Italian.

    Ironically, I went on the offensive because I thought people were being dismissive of my views.

  14. If you want to see smoke come out of Robert Gottlieb's ears, just try saying that within his earshot ...

    Until very recently, the general critical consensus seemed to be NYCB wasn't committed enough to the careful conservation of its Balanchine repertory ...

    Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates ballet the same way. And while nobody's gonna ask people like me who are new to the art form to write about it professionally, we can't really care about the art form and NOT have opinions. Even if they are uninformed.

    I prefer more of what I've seen in Forsythe to Balanchine.

  15. The most praise of City Ballet these last few years, has come due to the emergence of great dancers, NOT great works.

    City Ballet can't just order up great works, as the Diamond Project showed. What widely admired choreographers are languishing for lack of commissions? What great contemporary ballets should it import? Great dancers are best shown in and are in part formed by the demands of great material, and Balanchine and Robbins provide it. New dancers can make old ballets fresh again. So too, in a lesser degree, can new costumes and sets, although at City Ballet those frequently seem to be worse (costumes for Symphony in C and Who Cares, sets for Jewels).

    I know that great choreography can't be ordered like a pizza. But I seriously wonder if any other dance makers can be be fully appreciated by some folks because, well, if it's not Balanchine, why bother?

    I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to suggest that Balanchine was the Shakespeare of ballet. It's going to be a while before an equivalent genius emerges. Until then, we're going to have to take our pleasures where we can with John Gay, Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan -- and hope that at the very least there's a George Bernard Shaw in the offing.

    I thought Petipa was the Shakespeare of Ballet and Balanchine was more like Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill. Has Balanchine been dead long enough to declare him the greatest of all time?

    I feel that Balanchine's fans are sometimes too defensive. It's as if nobody is allowed to appreciate anything or anyone outside the City Ballet nexus or it's offspring companies if you don't want to have your taste, if not your sanity questioned.

  16. I think it's a good thing that people still respect Balanchine and that having worked with him and able to teach what he taught them is seen as a positive.

    I agree. But I also agree with Sarah Kaufman when she says that those people who love Balanchine and those who are in charge of his legacy, frequently get stuck at worshiping what he made instead of being inspired by it.

    To me, that supposed commitment of preserving the old works and creating new ones, seems to be in reality, more heavily weighted towards caring for and re-staging the old.

    The most praise of City Ballet these last few years, has come due to the emergence of great dancers, NOT great works.

  17. Puzzlingly, I remember you asking on another thread why NYCB even bothers with choreographers other than Balanchine/Robbins when they are so great--perhaps you were being ironic and I missed it. That sometimes happens on the internet...)

    I was indeed attempting to be somewhat ironic. It appeared to me that having such a treasure trove of legacy works at their disposal, many of City Ballet's biggest supporters and fans really weren't interested in seeing anything new. So why waste money and time on new works if you know that the critics and audiences are predisposed to hating them simply for not being Balanchine or Robbins?

    One crucial choreographer you left out who belongs to a different nexus: Ratmansky. NYCB works with him regularly

    Yes, they almost hired him but let their rival ABT hire him. If he was so great, and City ballet is all about presenting great works, why'd they let him get away?

  18. The SAB specific training is one of the reasons and yes, I know that most major companies have affiliated schools.

    And of course, I'm not talking about them having high standards. Who would complain about that? Nor am I talking about uniformity of style. I like that about companies like POB.

    I'm talking about the feeling that us outsiders get that the City Ballet/SAB nexus is a very exclusive club that tightly controls who gets into the club, who should care about the club, why they should care or even who watches the club.

    It seems that everybody who works or teaches there is only important by way of their relationship to Balanchine.

    It's always about Dancing for Mr.B or designing costumes for Mr. B.,cooking with Mr. B., fighting with Mr. B., staging Mr. B's works, marrying Mr. B or picking up Mr.B's cleaning. It's like,"Look at me!, I'm relevant because I had contact with Mr. B!" There's a whole industry that's sprung up for cashing in on having come in contact with his genius.

    These folks make up a sort of priesthood in the church of Balanchine and they lay their much-sought-after blessings on the dancers/priests too young to have known Balanchine.

    As to their new works, the only ones that seem to matter to the Balanchine faithful are those that come from in-house. Robbins, Peck and Wheeldon are or were all members of the Church of Balanchine.

    That thing with the artist and Lil' Buck? Puleez. Horrible pandering all around. Its failure surprised nobody.

    And have you seen Peter Martins in the City Ballet Web series with Sarah Jessica Parker? Geez, the man acts like he's the first and only person to ever run a ballet company.

    As to Balanchine himself, like Jesus Christ, I have fewer problems with the man himself than I do with some of his followers.

  19. I think it's good news that the book and subject have excited interest for a feature film. I hope Copeland got a nice paycheck for the movie rights.

    It's always best for a dancer to play a dancer. Given that this will be the story of someone who's still young and in mid-career, it would likely be ideal for her to play herself -- as an adult, of course; I expect there will also be scenes involving a very young Misty.

    All this assumes that the project comes to fruition in timely fashion, which isn't always the case.

    Jasmin Perry is a dancer. She went to SAB.

  20. Misty's Mom was a former NFL cheerleader so somebody more like Carmen Ejogo. For Susan Failes Hill, Paula Patton. For Kevin McKenzie, Peter Gallagher. For the woman who discovered Misty and was her first mentor, Sutton Foster.

    For Misty herself, I don't like the idea of people playing themselves, so I'd say an unknown. Maybe Jasmine Perry who was featured in the Teen Vogue series about SAB.

    Beyonce?! Good Lord no!

  21. It appears that there's a film producer who thinks that Misty's life story would make a good film.

    I suspect this forum will become the home of debates about the worthiness of this topic, that are far more entertaining than a film could ever be.

    I actually would prefer a story on the life of Raven Wilkinson.

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