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Posts posted by Tapfan

  1. Alicia Graf was a ballet superstar. I saw her perform the Balachine rep, as well as other material, many times before DTH went under. She did master ballet at the highest level.

    Yes, Alicia was such a superstar that she couldn't get arrested after DTH disbanded. Going to Alvin Ailey was NOT her first choice.

    Virginia Johnson was particularly annoyed that City Ballet didn't want such a Balanchine-like ballerina.

    God Bless Boston Ballet's AD for hiring Tai Jimenez from DHT as a principal, despite her being an ancient 35 year-old.

  2. I think we all agree that more racial diversity is needed in classical ballet in the US. But Copeland has muddled the issue more than necessary. I haven't read her entire book, but have seen excerpts in which she always seems to blame racism (never her own technical limits) for excluding her from certain roles. Now, when she does get plum roles, we will always wonder how much those charges of racism had to do with it. She fails the test of "Know thyself" and seems unable to recognize that her own technical limitations might have something to do with it, at least part of the time.

    I'm not willing to wait for Black Ballerina Supergirl - whom everyone can agree is great - to swoop in and prove once and for all that black women can master the art form at the highest level. Either I or ballet will probably be dead before that happens.

    I'd just like to see a black woman dance the lead in Swan Lake. Ballet Black and DTH don't seem to be inclined to program this ballet any time soon.

    Following the careers of people with the potential to be stars like say, Precious Adams, is next to impossible and people like Kimberly Braylock and Courtney Lavine don't seem to be on anybody's radar for stardom.

    So it's Misty or nobody.

    By the way, despite having done well at the Prix de Lausanne, I can see the resentment amongst many in the balleratti building towards Precious Adams because she had the unmitigated gall to suggest that she was the victim of unabashed racism in that politics - free bastion of freedom and fairness in Putin's Russia, the Bolshoi school.

    While it's true that nobody forced her to go there, it's not unreasonable for her to expect to receive fair treatment at a place of learning, if not in the Russian society at large.

  3. Copeland will finally get to dance an iconic role after seven years as a soloist, and that won't hurt any other female dancer in any way. Nobody who is brilliant or even just good, will be held back because of Misty.

    I beg to differ. If they were going to pick a short soloist for SL, it should have gone to Lane, not Copeland. Lane is a superior dancer, and has also performed the role with Corella Ballet. Merit should win out, but it doesn't.

    But McKenzie makes that decision, not Misty. If her unyielding self-promotion is supposed to be pressuring McKenzie into promoting her to principal despite her being undeserving, it's not working very well. After all, she's been selling herself to the public for as long as I've been following her and that goes back to 2010.

    Also, it's not like Sarah hasn't had her own fair share of opportunities to dance leads in important ballets like T&V. She even had her own mini PR push with the Black Swan dance double controversy. If there is a consensus amongst in-the-know people that she is so vastly superior, why didn't that assure promotion to the top ranks?

  4. I agree with sandik and Tapfan that comparing Misty Copeland to a woman whose original claim to fame is a sex tape seems uncalled for. While I too would prefer to see a number of other dancers at ABT get chances at major roles before, this is Kevin McKenzie's decision not hers. After seven years as a soloist, is Copeland supposed to turn down the biggest opportunity of her career? And are there like comparisons for Hee Seo, Isabella Boylston and Julie Kent at this point in her career?

    And like it or not, her story is very unique like Jeremy Lin in the NBA. Maybe it is tiresome to longtime ballet fans, but if we complain about companies not reaching out to new audiences and potential new fans, should we also be complaining that Copeland, along with promoting herself, is promoting ballet and ABT to a group that has been and still is very underrepresented in the art and in its audiences?

    I know the last time I was in NY at an ABT performance, I sat behind an African-American family with two little girls, and they were very excited to see Copeland dance. They really went wild every time she came onstage. Maybe that's not how it should be, but it is. (I do remember the first time I saw Asian people not playing cooks or laundry owners on American TV. I actually called my mother to tell her there were Asian people on TV. ​And they were eating cornflakes!)

    Let the church say, Amen! Your remarks remind me of stories told by my parents about the time when they were children in the late fifties and early sixties. This was a time that seeing black people on TV was so rare, that when someone like the young comic Bill Cosby appeared on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, black parents would wake the whole family to see him.

  5. I wouldn't call Misty a Kim Kardashian. She may not be a world-class dancer in the eyes of many, but at least she does have a job in show business and isn't famous for being famous.

    I agree that her constant self-promotion can get tiresome. But the fact that deserving white dancers like Sara Lane and deserving minority dancers like Stella Abrera don't have higher profiles or jobs as principals isn't Misty's fault. Heck, the fact that most ballet superstars aren't as famous as Misty isn't her fault. The PR hustle Copeland engages in is open to most of the people of stature in ballet who are willing to do the work.

    I personally think that ballet could do with more "vulgar" profile raising.

    I agree with Virginia Johnson who said that in an ideal world there would be 15 or more great black female classical dancers whose career trajectories at major companies were so steep that we could be certain of finally seeing black women in the senior ranks.

    But right now, for those black ballet fans who want to see reflections of themselves on stage in lead roles, Misty is all we've got. There isn't another black woman anywhere else in the world who comes close to her seniority at a major company. The fact that she obviously generates lots of haterade in some people is a fact most of us are willing to overlook in order to see a black woman get a chance at lead roles.

    Copeland will finally get to dance an iconic role after seven years as a soloist, and that won't hurt any other female dancer in any way. Nobody who is brilliant or even just good, will be held back because of Misty.

  6. I'm glad to hear that he seems interested in diversifying the racial makeup of POB. I'm happy that this is important to someone who runs a major company.

    I read that he's interested in developing new choreographers. I assumed that meant people other than Peck, Wheeldon and Ratmansky. That's why I don't fear that he will try to turn POB into City Ballet on the Seine.

  7. Yes, that's right. I remember reading somewhere that she started off as a child actress and that she thought she might return to acting when her ballet career ended.

    Still, it's been a while since she worked as an actress. Good for her.

    Gosh I wish movie musicals would make a comeback. Unfortunately in this day and age of un-yielding irony and loud, action "event" movies that crowd out every other genre of film, that's very unlikely.

  8. City ballet's prep school vibe annoys me to no end, but big props to Megan, Robert and Tiler for stepping out of their comfort zones to try something new.

    I deeply admire Broadway musical theater artists who dance, act AND sing. The ability to do all three at a professional level is quite difficult.

    Just ask Miami city ballet dancers who were asked to dance, act and sing in their production of West Side Story.

  9. I'm very much looking forward to Flesh and Bone. I've had a crush on Sasha since I first saw him in Center Stage.

    But even if F&B gets good reviews and good ratings, I suspect that most ballet people will hate it.

    Despite it being a high art form, many people in ballet circles have the annoying habit of behaving like they are the members of a historically persecuted minority group.

    Because so few films or tv shows about ballet or with a ballet backdrop are made, ballet folks want every representation to be the be-all and end-all of ballet stories and to have the fidelity of a documentary while bathing everyone involved in a flattering light.

    When these shows don't meet this impossibly high bar, ballet people complain that nobody understands or appreciates them them and that everyone is out to get them.

    I understand the need for the art form's gatekeepers to push back against outsiders who would dumb down ballet in order to make a buck. But sometimes, these folks are just too hypersensitive.

    Does anyone truly believe that anyone who saw The Red Shoes, The Turning Point, Center Stage or Black Swan, mistook them for documentaries?

  10. Thanks for the info. I knew that Desmond had been on Broadway and in film. I also knew that Makarova had won a Tony and an Olivier Award for her work in musical theater. Didn't know about the others.

    I assumed there was still quite a bit of snobbery existing in the world of classical dance that implies that when ballet people do Broadway, they are slumming.

    When I think of how many in the the ballet establishment may view other dance forms, I'm reminded of how the Hollywood movie industry used to look down on the Hollywood TV industry as an inferior art form.

    Or how Ethel Barrymore initially referred to theater people doing films as "prostituting" oneself.

    Funny how larger, more mainstream audiences and great goo-gobs of filthy Hollywood lucre can make wh---s of just about anyone.

  11. What has broadway got against ABT dancers? ;)

    Or DTH dancers?

    Heck, what have they got against fellow Broadway gypsies? Don't many have extensive ballet training?

    I smell a conspiracy orchestrated to lock anyone who isn't connected to the house of Balanchine out of the game!

    Everyone knows that City Ballet is the only thing that matters!

    End of rant.

    Tapfan takes her meds and lies down.

  12. I have mixed feeling about Misty Copeland. If she brings in a new audience great, at the same time one hopes that the people she brings in get hooked and return even if she isn't dancing. I don't know if that is the case.

    The novelty of seeing a black woman dancing prominent ballet roles may draw in some new audience members, but it's the quality and entertainment value of those productions that will keep them coming back.

    In this, black audiences are no different than any other people.

  13. I was the one who steered the conversation to the topic concerning the number of possible open positions at NYCB.

    I wondered about the number of potential hires because I figured that the larger the number of open slots, the better chance a person of color might join the ranks.

    Another reason I wondered about the lack of East Asian dancers in City Ballet, was because I was under the impression that ballet was becoming very popular in parts of Asia.

    That lead me to assume, evidently incorrectly, that this would mean an increase in the number of foreign Asian students in top American ballet schools like SAB.

  14. NYCB places a great deal of emphasis on new work (the captions at the beginning of "Ballet 422," the new documentary following the creation of Justin Peck's Paz de la Jolla, describe NYCB as a "creative ballet company." I puzzled and puzzled over this until I decided they were making a point about their tradition of new choreography).

    In some ways, they more closely resemble a typical modern dance company, with the usual emphasis on making all things new, than older models of ballet companies that depend on the historic repertory.

    Is there a feeling among City Ballet fans that this emphasis on new work post Balanchine and Robbins is worth the time and effort? Are there really that many works of note that have been created since their deaths? I ask because it seems that the critical reception of many recent works - with the occasion exception of Wheeldon and Peck - seems to imply that the new stuff falls short of the master.

  15. Does City Ballet try to keep a fixed number of dancers on their roster or does the number vary? Is the number of new dancers that that they hire as apprentices each year, based on the number of people that retire from the ranks of the corps de ballet or the number that retire from the entire company?

    Since city ballet has such vast Balanchine and Robbins repertoire, why do they need ANY outside choreography? If they danced nothing but Balanchine and Robbins they couldn't go for years and never repeat themselves?

    Does the the core City Ballet audience really want to see other works?

  16. The current issue of Pointe Magazine has a nice survey of racial issues in ballet by Gus Solomons, Jr., including the episode with the Ballet Russe and Raven Wilkinson that Helene mentioned: http://www.pointemagazine.com/issues/junejuly-2014/moments-time

    Thanks for mentioning the Pointe magazine. Their latest issue tackles the topic of diversity in ballet and has as one of its cover girls, DTH dancer Ashley Murphy, a native of Shreveport, La. which is just thirty miles from my hometown.

    That someone from Shreveport made it as a classical dancer is a minor miracle. That means there is hope for everyone!

    Another one of the June/July Pointe magazine cover girls is Misty Copeland. I don't know enough about ballet to give an informed opinion as to whether she deserves to be a principal. But I do know that those people who claim to care about the importance of making the ballet world more welcoming to new audiences in the U. S., should bend down and kiss her pointe shoes. This woman is introducing ballet to girls and their families who would never have given it a second thought.

    Copeland is hands down, the best PR machine that U.S. ballet has. For a ballerina, her profile is stratospheric. The fact she has become a relentless, and some would say shameless self-promoter that has probably made herself a millionaire many times over, isn't really the story.

    The story is that she's shown the possibilities, not for getting rich, but for simply having a career.

    And I truly think she enjoys being a role model.






  17. The fact that there is if anything a positive prejudice towards believing that people of Asian descent excel at difficult-to-master, classical, Western performing arts, is one reason why the lack of several artists on the NYC Ballet roster struck me as odd. As my politically incorrect nana would say, "Those Asian people love to do stuff not in spite of it being hard but because it's hard!" I felt that surely if East Asians were underrepresented at City Ballet then that could signal the fact the powers-that-be were at best, indifferent to their company's lack of diversity.

    When it came to ballet, I was definitely indifferent. I was much more concerned about African American under-representation in STEM occupations than in classical dance. If anything, I was dismissive of the classical dancers of color who complained that the unfair treatment experienced by people like Delores Brown was not totally a thing of the past but that still exist in ways that are much more subtle.

    Why, I thought, would you want to be part of an art form that according to you, has so many petty, lingering, little, biases? Why do that when you have so many more options open to you today? I also had uninformed and unfair opinions that categorized ballet as a frou-frou art form that didn't actually mean anything to most people and that this fact was fine with balletomanes. But having a child who has shown a serious interest in ballet has changed all that for me. I'm trying to learn about the art form. If she should choose this as a career, I want her to have as level a playing field as possible.

    I believe Virginia Johnson when she said that she frequently gets calls from AD's who are looking for her to recommend good, black, dancers. But that tells me that AD's want and expect brilliant black dancers to show up on their doorsteps, fully developed. When they don't they say, "Well, we tried." In my opinion, they don't try hard enough.

    As to role models, we may want to pretend that having someone who looks like you onstage is unimportant, but it actually is important. I've seen it work.

    And the gate swings both ways. My brother coaches basketball camps in the summer. On several occasions he's been told by little, white, boys that they can't do something because they "have white man's disease" and they are therefore too slow or can't can't jump high. Hearing that from a nine-year-old is heartbreaking.

  18. Prioritizing diversity is only a purely political goal if the dancers don't meet the standard, and quotas work both ways. Although we pretend that many things are meritocracies, particularly when standards are high in spite of racism and nepotism, these are two forces that undermine it by ignoring those of merit and creating an artificial elite.

    Where is the evidence that dancers of merit are being ignored? That argument equates not actively seeking out with ignoring. It equates passivity with activity.

    All the evidence I've run across has been anecdotal. Unless someone does a scientific study, there will be no hard evidence.

    As to diversity being political, well, what's wrong with that? Since when does art have to be free of political content? I'm sure Balanchine could have cast Agon with a white male dancer. Surely he was trying to make a statement or many statements.

  19. Maybe tutus don't come in vanity sizes. I think the point being made by the person who remarked that Michaela wore a size zero,

    was simply that this young woman was tinier than people thought. The person making the remarks said size zero tutu, but she MAY have meant size zero street clothing. I didn't think or know to ask.

    I don't want to see bad dancers of color onstage simply for the sake of diversity. That's condescending to minorities and it produces bad art.

    But not seeking to diversify the art form with qualified dancers, just perpetuates the cycle of ballet being an art form that says it's for anybody but really isn't.

    And it's not like ballet exists in some vacuum that can't possibly be tainted by any hints of bias, be it size or color.

  20. By the way, I suspect they'd turn up their noses at a wonderful white powerhouse like PNB's Carrie Imler because she in't stick thin.

    Sara Mearns is far from stick thin but she is one of NYCB's most lauded ballerinas.

    There are a number of NYCB dancers in addition to Mearns who could be added to the "not stick thin" list and it's to the company's credit that we get to see them dance regularly, despite some carping from the critics.

    Okay here's where I'm certain to get into trouble. I do think that unconscious biases influence how SOME people think about the bodies of non-Caucasion women.

    Months ago on this forum, I remarked that Michaela DePrince was tiny, she reportedly wears a size zero tutu and that she was certainly no bigger than say, Sarah Mearns. Yet some folks remarked that this size could be meaningless because retailers that specialize in Junior size clothing often label clothing with vanity sizing to make young women feel they are smaller than they really are.

    Some folks even implied I was trying to compare Michael DePrince's, talent and skill as a dancer to Sara's. Including some self-described black folks. I'm ignorant of much concerning ballet, but even I am not that naive.

    My point is that because black women are more often associated with athleticism - think women track and filed athletes, who are themselves typically smaller than many people imagine - some people think all black women are muscular behemoths.

    They obviously have never seen Michaela DePrince when she is standing next to real, live, female ballet dancers who happen to be white. She's no bigger than most of them and is indeed, smaller than many.

    I know I'm off topic. My apologies.

  21. Edwaard Liang Taiwanese. Georgina Pazcoquin filipino. Puanani and Likolani Brown Hawaiian. Misa Kuranaga Japanese was offered an apprenticeship to NYCB. Sokvannara (Sy) Sar Cambodian

    Geez. Today's roster doesn't reflect that.

    Once upon a time, NYC Ballet even had three black women; Andrea Long, Debra Austin and Aesha Ashe. But in the very long history of the company, that's hardly something to stand up and cheer about.

    There are undoubtedly other factors in play other than racism as to why there are so few people of color in general and people of Asian descent in particular in the company's ranks. But despite all those supposedly benign reasons, Asians and Asian Americans seem to break through in larger numbers and with some consistency at other world-class companies. Why not City Ballet and SAB?

    Having read the remarks of some classical dancers of color, I'm inclined to believe that there is some unconscious racial bias among the folks in charge.

    As has been stated repeatedly on this forum, AD's don't have to justify their hires or promotions to anyone. Do I think Peter Martins and company are racist?. Nope. Or at least no more than the average decent human being. But I do think their concepts of how beautiful dancers are supposed to look is very, very, limited.

    By the way, I suspect they'd turn up their noses at a wonderful white powerhouse like PNB's Carrie Imler because she isn't stick thin.

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