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Posts posted by Tapfan

  1. 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 woman. 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 that women of color can have additional hurdles.

  2. 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

  3. Did Albert Evans, Aesha Ash, Carlos Acosta, and Desmond Richardson become the controversial figures Copeland has?

    Of course not, because none of them had anywhere near as high a profile as Copeland. She's arguably the most famous ballet dancer in the country of any race. I can understand why that might irk some balletomanes who feel that based on talent, she's undeserving of such fame, but it doesn't explain the level of vitriol directed at Copeland.

    Copeland isn't to blame for the fact that dancers who are better than her aren't better known or that ballet doesn't get the respect or attention from the great, unwashed, masses that balletomanes think it deserves.

    And Lord knows it's not her fault that Abrera and Lane's careers are stuck at the soloist level.

    And why do Copeland's detractors keep bringing up black, male, dancers? The controversial issue is the lack of black, female classical dancers.

  4. When Linsanity hit, I was amused because, frankly, I didn't see why so many Asian Canadians and Asian Americans were so exited. Why would people who are the so-called "model minority," care that this guy was making a splash in the NBA? Wasn't it more impressive that he was a Harvard grad or a proudly devout Christian?

    Then I read some columns by Asian American sports writers who said that he was getting folks so exited because his run was so unexpected. It seems that Asian Americans like everyone else, don't like being put in boxes that say they care only about studying medicine or the violin. They want to be free to be as individual as anyone else. That includes jocks in America's most freewheeling major sport.

    When you turn a stereotype on it's head, people who are the victims of that stereotype love it.

    So many black women who are frequently stereotyped as super athletic, hyper-sexual, and grace-challenged, love it when one of our tribe makes it in the field that is synonymous with feminine grace.

    I think Jeremy Lin's case is a really interesting comparison with Misty Copeland. Here's a guy with a 4.2 GPA at Palo Alto High School, the most elite public high school in the state, captains the team to to the state Division II title and is Division II player of the year, and has NO NCAA Division I athletic scholarship offers. He's evaluated as a Division III college player. After a standout college career at Harvard, he's still undrafted by the NBA but perseveres against the odds and makes it into the league.

    For Asian-Americans, him breaking into the NBA was a big deal because it was a big statement not only on sports, but the fact that an Asian-American could hang in elite sports, something that is very not in the model minority stereotype of engineers who play the violin. More than one coach has come forward and said since, that they should taken him more seriously as an athletic candidate, but quite frankly, he wasn't African-American or white and despite the objective statistics, they just didn't see him as a candidate for big-time sports. For arts, in which there is no baseline statistical measure, I can only imagine what the implications could be if you just don't fit the expected "look".

    It's also a big deal in that Lin's journey was seriously hampered by not getting that initial scholarship offer. Once he was turned away from an NCAA scholarship, the odds were seriously against him ever making it to the NBA. Going to Harvard is great, but it's not really someplace scouts take seriously as a breeding ground for NBA players. So the chance than an Asian-American could make an impact as an NBA player is seen as big deal so that the next kid might not be dismissed quite so easily.

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Sidwich, you beautifully expressed what I was struggling to say. Lin and Copeland are so admirable because they are both so darned scrappy!

    The mere fact that both made places for themselves in unlikely fields, is in itself, a victory. Many people identify with with that.

  5. I don't think that any of the black women who take on the difficult task of pursuing careers as classical dancers do so because they've seen other black woman do it. The task is just too great. They do it because they love ballet. But they draw strength and a sense of pride from other black women who came before them who managed to have careers when doing so was even more difficult than it is today.

    Of course, Identity politics or tribalism or whatever you want to call it, is a bad thing when it's used as a crutch for failure or to hurtfully exclude or make people outside a particular group feel inferior.

    But it CAN be benign. It's natural to want to see people from your group do well whether you're rooting for your school football team, pulling for your country's World Cup soccer or Olympic teams or hoping that someone from your home state who's up for an Oscar, wins.

    No African Americans would be successful at anything if black role models was the only thing that accounted for their achievements. And as a black woman, my hoping that a black woman reaches the apex of the ballet world, doesn't mean that I've reduced her to being nothing more than her race and ethnicity. It just means I see a rare, but more familiar reflection of myself in her. That's not weird.

    And yes, I have seen reflections of myself in non-black performers. In fact most of the artists I identify with are non-black.

    When Linsanity hit, I was amused because, frankly, I didn't see why so many Asian Canadians and Asian Americans were so exited. Why would people who are the so-called "model minority," care that this guy was making a splash in the NBA? Wasn't it more impressive that he was a Harvard grad or a proudly devout Christian?

    Then I read some columns by Asian American sports writers who said that he was getting folks so exited because his run was so unexpected. It seems that Asian Americans like everyone else, don't like being put in boxes that say they care only about studying medicine or the violin. They want to be free to be as individual as anyone else. That includes jocks in America's most freewheeling major sport.

    When you turn a stereotype on it's head, people who are the victims of that stereotype love it.

    So many black women who are frequently stereotyped as super athletic, hyper-sexual, and grace-challenged, love it when one of our tribe makes it in the field that is synonymous with feminine grace.

  6. I think that in a visual medium like dance, role models of the same color take on more importance than in other art forms.

    Obviously, the first American blacks to succeed at anything from which they were traditionally barred - whether it was pilot Bessie Smith, physician Rebecca Crumpler, or businesswoman C.J. Walker - had to do so without role models that looked like them.

    But ballet is very hard, even for white women who look like Blake Lively. Women of color and particularly women of color who stand out because their skin is darker have an added obstacle.

    That doesn't mean that some dark-skinned women don't keep trying. But it doesn't strike me as strange that it would be discouraging.

  7. If Copeland falls on her face while dancing O/O, that's on her. I've never been under the illusion that she's a caramel-colored Guillem or Ferri. Heck, I don't think she's a caramel-colored Kent or Murphy. But I just don't think it's so outrageous that after 7 years as a soloist, she's being given a chance to dance a major role. Even if she's a mediocre dancer in the eyes of many.

    I also don't think that her getting one chance is going to hold Sara or Stella back. If they haven't been given more classical leads or haven't been promoted to principal after all this time, it's got nothing to do with Misty's presence. That's on McKenzie and his import-a-star ways.

    Finally, It may drive many balletomanes mad, but anomalies draw interest. Misty is an anomalie.

    I'd love it if there were other, less controversial black women in senior positions at major companies to cheer on, but there aren't. Heck there are barely any black women in any ranks at any companies, for various reason.

    I'm hoping the Bolshoi School - trained Precious Adams rises quickly and high at ENB. But then, she's just one woman. As long as there are so few black women in the pipeline, the chances of any of them making it to the top remains low.

    The fewer black women that are seen in lead roles, the fewer role models there are for black girls. And the cycle goes on.

  8. I'm surprised Adams went to ENB. In an interview after the Prix de Lausanne, she expressed an interest in NBC, SFB and the Dutch National Ballet.

    She never indicated that ENB was on her radar.

    I know that some folks think I care about Misty Copeland only. But if other black ballerinas had higher profiles, I'd follow their careers as well. I hope Adams does well and that her skill as a dancer doesn't become a source of controversy.

  9. Michaela DePrince is also cashing in on her "uniqueness" in a traditionally fair-skinned world. Since she joined The Dutch National Ballet, she's done interviews, photo spreads and has a book coming out that was co-written with her mum.

    People are fascinated because she's a war orphan, she's a Jewish American Princess by way of adoption and she's a dark-skinned black woman in a world of delicate white swans. And although she seems to have improved a great deal in the last year in the Dutch Junior Company, her quality as a dancer is an almost an afterthought when compared to her tale of hard luck in her toddler years.

    Is it fair that she gets all this attention before she's accomplished much professionally?

    Does a major backlash await her?

  10. Whenever the arts are expanded to a wider audience, people complain that the art form is being degraded.

    Were Lil' Buck's projects with Yo-Yo Ma and City Ballet really necessary? Nope. Were they successful artistically? No. But did they cause the worlds of ballet and classical music irreparable harm? I don't think so.

  11. If she was a black dancer who was not an ambitious self promoter, it wouldn't have happened. If she was an ambitious, publicity seeking white, hispanic or asian dancer with a marketable, sympathetic backstory story who was an aggressive self promoter, that person would have been given the opportunity.

    Which, if that's the case, is indeed the problem, in my opinion. Talent and aptitude - not backstories, corporate or individual - deserve dance opportunities.

    And we know that always happens. And when it doesn't, it always generates the same amount of indignation as Copeland dancing a Swan Lake matinee on the road.

  12. Has Acosta said Copeland deserves an ABT Swan Lake? I have no opinion on whether she does or not, although I hope she dances well in Australia. I just think that if skin color should have nothing to do with casting, then skin color should have any thing to do with casting, Why the presumption that hers is a case of "lingering effects," when in fact people who know her dancing disagree about her merits?

    To my knowledge, Acosta has never discussed Copeland. And we actually agree that skin color shouldn't have anything to do with who gets cast in certain roles.

    Where we differ is our perceptions of whether that actually happens.

  13. I can't fault Misty Copeland for being an aggressive self-promoter, and I think the ballerina situation at ABT extends far beyond Copeland getting a Swan Lake over Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane (i.e. guest stars vs. homegrown talent, Boylston/Seo promotions, Part only getting matinees, etc., etc.)

    Every artistic director in the country with any sense, not to mention human decency, is surely eager to hire and promote black dancers.

    But where is this movement to find, develop and promote black female dancers in the American ballet world? I would be much more amenable to criticisms of Copeland if the American ballet world in general and ABT in particular had a sterling track record in this record. In its 75 years of existence, how many black female principals (or even soloists) has ABT had? How many has New York City Ballet had??

    I can only speak for myself but I can't get too worked up about Copeland getting an out-of-town tryout in Australia. As others have said, it's not like that tryout was going to go to Abrera or Lane.

    Yes! I couldn't agree more. Copeland is being scapegoated for the AD's casting and promotion practices. A wednesday matinee performance by Copeland in Oz does not wreck Lane and Abrera's careers.

  14. I think the problem isn't Misty taking a role away from someone more "deserving" (which I agree that there are better dancers in the soloist rank, most notably Stella Abrera), but the complete lack of opportunities for soloists and corp de ballet dancers to dance in these roles. In companies like the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, or the Royal Ballet it is not an anomaly to see soloists and corp de ballet members dancing lead principal roles like it is for ABT.

    If it wasn't such an anomaly I think people wouldn't be so hard on dancers they consider "less than" being given a chance. But then, that opens up a whole other can of worms with ABT like the lack of adequate coaching. If Misty had proper coaching to fix her issues, would she be considered a dancer only accomplished in modern works? It makes me wonder.

    Exactly. Misty didn't take the opportunity away from Sarah or Stella because THEY WERE NEVER GOING TO GET IT. Mckenzie's actions have made it very,very clear that he doesn't see those dancers as O/O. I'm sure he doesn't see Misty as O/O either, but she forced his hand by going out and developing her own following, by creating demand. In addition to the appearances & Payless deal she has been a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance 5 times so far this season. 5 times! Do you know how big that audience is? McKenzie didn't need a small O/O, Hammoudi is a big guy. If he hadn't given her the O/O he would have given a second performance to Part or Hererra. It wouldn't have gone to Stella or Sarah.

    Also, I think Misty is quite fine in terre a terre classical work. She was a good Gamzatti (barring the performance just coming back from that horrendous leg injury) and an excellent Gulnare. I just don't think she's particularly suited to O/O, but with the right coaching, who knows?

    In any case, most role assignments aren't based solely on talent or suitability for the role. Just look at Seo's Fouettes, or Boyleston's gangly elbows . How much were those role assignments and promotions based on powerful patrons or one man's taste in dancers? I admire Misty for taking her future into her own hands.

    Misty would probably be even more underutilized than Stella Abrera if she didn't promote herself. And the bolded is why I can't bash her for it. You have dancers in the principal rank who have glaring technical and artistry issues. Since role assignments are obviously not based on talent, why not campaign for a Swan Lake?

    Amen to that. ABT is just too obsessed with nabbing the latest superstar to nurture what they already have.

  15. I don't understand why in an art form with an undeniable history of racial bias, people who complain about its lingering effects are slammed and frequently accused of playing the race card.

    Yet, AD's and other gatekeepers of the art form are always given the benefit of the doubt that the lack of black women on their rosters means there simply were and are no black women who are good enough. Case closed.

    Carlos Acosta is one of the greats of classical dance. When you consider his privileged position in the ballet world, one wonders why he doesn't just sit back, shut up and reap the awards and accolades coming in as his career winds down.

    But even though it does him absolutely no good personally to rock the boat, Acosta has nonetheless expressed a belief that subtle bias continues against black women in classical dance.

    Why should he stick his neck out for what many believe is nothing more than racial paranoia unless he really thinks bias against black women is a thing?

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

    Barring that Never-Neverland fantasy, I wish there were more predominately black companies like DHT or Ballet Black. More self-segregation may not be the best or the ultimate goal, but not having to deal with every kind of race issue has got to be a relief for all concerned.

  17. Alicia Graf did a lot to raise the profile of the Ailey company, I think. The reviews, expecially in the NY Times, of her performances were always very positive, sometimes ecstatic. I'm pretty sure that a number of years ago, the NY Times listed her performances in its top ten end of year roundup as among the most pleasurable dancegoing performances of the year. She has a skill set - a classically trained ballet dancer - - which most of the Ailey women lack. Although Ailey is a "modern" company that does not perform on pointe, Graf just looks better than almost any other Ailey women in the choreography she is assigned to perform. In addition to her high skill level, her proportions are awe inspiring. In addition, she has beautifully arched feet and a gorgeously flexible back. Sadly, the same cannot be said of a lot of the other Ailey ladies. The difference is palpable on stage. That's why, among other reasons, they took a chance on Graf despite her history of illness/injury. She is capable of a much higher level of dancing than almost any of the other women in the Ailey company.

    Personally, once I learned that Graf was injured, I decided to skip their engagement at the Koch in June. If Graf doesn't return for the December 2014 Ailey seasons at City Center, I will probably take a break from seeing the company. They do post their casting in advance.

    I greatly admire Alicia Graff Mack. But in all the articles I've read about her, I've never gotten the feeling that she felt she "saved" Ailey by joining the company.

  18. In that infamous 2007 NY Times article about the lack of black ballerinas, Delores Brown said that she feels heartbroken when she speaks to talented black ballerinas who tell her they'd rather go to Broadway or a modern company than keep feeling they have to be twice as good to get half as far in the ballet world.

    Are some of these women incorrectly assuming that they are being left behind because of their race when it really is due to a lack of talent? Yes.

    Are all black female classical dancers with racial grievances about the ballet establishment paranoid whiners? No way.There are just too many of them. Most of these women don't want to be victims, they just want to dance.

    As to the evidently unending highway robbery committed against Stella Abrera, well why hasn't another company snapped her up?!

  19. Graf danced at Ailey for a few years then retired due to injuriies. After about 2 years, she returned to Ailey and came out of retirement because her injuries had healed. Most recently, she had significant back surgery and has been out of Ailey since April 2014. Not sure if or when she will return to the stage. Based on her history of significant injuries, I can't really dispute NYCB's unwillingness to take a chance on her. Once you have a long history of illness or injury, NYCB does not go out of its way to hire you (see Kathryn Morgan).

    If she was so physically broken down, why would Ailey want her? I would think she would be unemployable anywhere doing any style of dance. And why would ABT say they were turning her down because she was too tall, not because she was too physically fragile?

  20. Misty has lots of endorsements, for which she is most assuredly well compensated.

    But she doesn't just sell products OR herself. This woman has done scores of interviews in black media and has appeared in countless dance studios preaching and teaching about ballet.

    I would love it if some other black woman like Precious Adams was to become a star dancer because her mere presence turns the notion of how a beautiful dancer is supposed to look on it's head.

    When Adams did her Aurora variation at Lausanne, the act of simply wearing dark, flesh-colored tights when everyone else wore white, was downright subversive.

    But alas, Precious is just beginning her career.

    And I wonder what made her decide on ENB when she had expressed interest in NBC and The Dutch National Ballet?

  21. I was in Payless earlier this year and there was a special kiosk with Misty's Payless ballet and tap shoes. Their were 3 African American girls crowded around it (and from their dress I assume they were ballet students) and I overheard them gushing about Misty, how much they want to be like her, etc. Incidents like these makes me see how much her self promotion has been inspiring a lot of young, black girls, to take up classical ballet. I think more ballet dancers should welcome the media like Misty and Hallberg have. Maybe ballet in the U.S. would be less of an art form seen as elitist and elusive. That's one thing I admire about how ballet is seen in Russia.

    Yep, it is ironic that perhaps the most prominent evangelist for ballet in America is someone that many balletomanes don't see as worthy of carrying the message.

    Stranger things have happened.

  22. But Calvin Royal is on my radar screen, for sure. Thanks to Ratmansky for giving him such a prominent role in the third Shostakovich piece. I'm eager to see how Ratmansky casts his new Sleeping Beauty. I'd love to see Calvin in Blue Bird, e.g.

    Black men don't have the same glass ceiling as black women. Just look at the head shots of American ballet companies. Most have at least one black male. Not so with black females.

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