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Everything posted by Tapfan

  1. Bob Fosse is, well a god. People who have never heard of him have been influenced by his work and don't know it.( See Beyonce, who god bless her, steals from everyone in entertainment who is good.) I know that Americans are supposed to worship at the church of Balanchine or Graham, but I'm a heretic. I worship at the the alter of Fosse. And as Gwen Verdon said, he was a superb dancer as well as dance-maker.
  2. City ballet has convinced yet another horse that was peeing into the tent, to come inside. Ford Foundation President Darren Walker who just a little over a year ago, publicly accused NYCB of bias against women of color, is now a Vice-Chair on the board of directors?! I'm truly gobsmacked. I honestly thought the powers that be at City Ballet were largely insulated from criticism and cared little if any what people thought about their lack of diversity. After all, the problem and the grumbling about it from outsiders, has gone on for many, many, years without change. Also, snarky remarks by SOME folks in the NYCB nexus about ABT's Project Plie' implied that some folks think that the diversity problem can't be fixed and that any attempts to do so are nothing more than cynical PR stunts. But as Theresa Howard said at the Seattle Town Hall, the major arts organizations like NYCB seem to be serious about real change this go-around. Many of us who criticized major companies for lack of diversity, were weary of being told we were crazy or racist for noticing. It's so nice to see the gaslighting that insisted there was no problem, stop. Good for everyone concerned.
  3. It's not just the Brits, almost all ballet companies in the West - from the major companies to the smallest regional organizations - have at least one black male. Pick a company at random and check the head shots of the company rosters to see what I mean. While black men definitely have their own race-related issues to contend with in the ballet world, male dancers are harder to come by in the West so it is easier for black men to find employment. Also, black males don't have to contend with their skin color being a distraction when they stand in a line of white Swans or Willies. Black women do. While most folks in the black ballet community would like to see more black male and female dancers of all hues dancing in companies of all sizes, the biggest complaint they've had over the years is the dearth of black female dancers. And they definitely are not down with the presumption that no black females are or were qualified. Instead, they felt that black female dancers had to fight against hoary old stereotypes about always being poorly trained, lacking grace, being unable to control their power or having bad feet or the wrong body types. For instance, the way some people spoke about Michaela DePrince's body was disgraceful. This young woman is petite. And not just tiny for a regular young woman her height. She is tiny even when compared to other ballet dancers. But some donkey's behinds talked about her as if she was as muscled as a female body builder. It made me realize that they were not seeing her real body, or even the quality of her movement. They were seeing her in a stereotyped way that they saw all black women's bodies as either too fleshy, or hyper-athletic in build.
  4. Well, SOME are. Maybe they are blinded to her shortcomings because they want some black woman somewhere to make to the top. But these people are definitely ballet people with informed opinions.
  5. No worries. I'm not suggesting that anyone should feel obligated to support black ballerinas just because they are black. I suspect that not even the angriest most bitter, old-school black female classical dancer wants or needs that kind of condescension. Copeland's work is out there to be judged just like every other artist. What I don't get is the out-sized - at least to me- annoyance she generates in some folks as if she stole something from someone. All truly gifted dancers are going to rise, along with some who are not so gifted. Isn't that what the ballet establishment has been saying all these years? If that's true, then what happens to Misty is irrelevant. The reason I've mentioned the lack of attention given to other black female dancers is that some, not all, but some folks who've been critical of Misty's promotion to principle, have indicated that her supposedly undeserved promotion would hurt the chances of other dancers of color who come after her. Apparently, everyone will expect black female dancers to be sub-par because Misty is. I just found this concern for all the future black swans to be suspect considering the fact that the only time anyone ever talks about a woman who happens to black in the field of classical dance, is when they want to criticize Misty. The rest of the time, black women are invisible. You'd think they'd talk about somebody else who's black on occasion if just by accident.
  6. Maybe, but I have my doubts. Show business, be it pop culture or high art, has always had folks who reached super stardom despite what many felt was mediocre talent. Does anyone truly believe that Madonna became one of the biggest musical acts of all time because she was the best female singer of her era? Besides, it's hardly a universally agreed upon opinion - even by so-called "ballet people" - that Copeland is just average. Copeland's talent is controversial, like Alina Somova.
  7. Luke Jennings. He had praised Misty a few years back when ABT performed in London, although the piece she was noted for was not classical. Over the years, he has used her rising profile as evidence that despite the the nearly non-existent numbers of black women in major companies, some black woman would break through to principle status and that it might be her. This was of course, before the emergence of Miss Hayward. Mr. Jenkins took issue with Carlos Acosta who stated that there was a small, lingering bias towards black women because they supposedly disrupt the harmony of blanc classicism. Jenkins argued that training and access was all that held back women of color and that company AD's would love to have black female dancers as principles.
  8. According to at least one British dance writer, Ms Hayward could attribute her meteoric rise not only to her talent, but also to Misty's rise to principle status. According to said writer, a company like The Royal doesn't wish to be seen as being on the wrong side of history by appearing to impede the progression to principle status of any woman of African descent. So Miss Hayward of the Royal and Miss Gittens of the Birmingham Royal were both fast-tracked to Principle status. Is it fair to suggest that they have advanced to principle status for any reason other than their talent? No. But that's how it is with black or mixed-race black dancers. Ballet's history of unabashed institutional racism - especially towards black women - causes all career advancements made by black and mixed-race female dancers in predominately white companies, to be called into question. If they advance, it's due to affirmative action. If they don't, it's due to racism. That Miss Hayward has expressed having had no racial issues in her career or the fact that she doesn't seem to be a crusader for diversity and inclusion the ballet, has itself been been unfairly politicized. Is she implying that black women who have encountered bias are lying or being too sensitive? Is she just going along to get along? Is racism is less harsh or prevalent in the UK? Does she care only about herself? Perhaps it's as simple as the fact that her own experiences HAVE been universally positive. Besides, as Theresa Howard has said, sometimes you just want to dance. You don't want to be Sojourner Truth in a tutu and pointe shoes. And it goes without saying that all she owes the ,public, is her best dancing. I understand why some people are horrified by Misty. They think she's an average dancer who was promoted over more deserving dancers (although some of the dancers that they feel are so much more deserving are real head-scratchers in my book.) I also get why they are put off by her endless self-promotion and I can see why these feelings of distaste for her constant shilling aren't mitigated by the fact that she is an inspiration to little brown girls. It's totally understandable. I just wish that people would express some interest in black ballerinas other than when they want show how annoyed they are are with Copeland's status. There ARE other female black ballet dancers out there, some of whom are quite talented. But many ballet fans can't seem to be bothered to know or care about any of them. Virginia Johnson who is long retired, is usually the only one anybody can mention. I suspect that until there emerges a black female dancer who has the technique, musicality, stage presence, acting ability, perfect ballet physique, perfect feet, versatility, charisma and western standards of beauty (biracial or biracial-looking) who is obviously so superior that she towers over the rest of the ballet world in the same way that Michael Jordan towered over the rest of the NBA, only then, will a sister get her due. She'll be Superballerina! Nobody has to jump on the Misty bandwagon to prove they hold no bias. But erasure of black women from the conversation about the art until you want to talk about how undeserving Misty is, can come across as hinky.
  9. What's most remarkable about Ms. Howard's article is the amount of access she was apparently granted to SAB. As this 2010 article from Dance Magazine shows, she's been highly critical of City Ballet in the past. http://www.dancemagazine.com/rant__rave_and_now_a_word_from_the_darker_side-2306875242.html The organization deserves credit for allowing one of its most vocal critics to be allowed to see inside their diversity initiative. And according to their website, they now invite responsible criticism. It's good to see arts organizations not be on the defensive when discussing diversity. (And yes, it's good PR as well.) Anyway, good for them. And I sincerely mean that.
  10. Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck have split. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/married-ballet-stars-robert-fairchild-tiler-peck-split/2017/06/19/1bc0c540-5521-11e7-840b-512026319da7_story.html?utm_term=.de863d60bef4 I thought the news pop-up was going to say they had a baby on the way.
  11. In recent years,it does at least seem that many of the ballet students of color that you hear about making it to prestigious schools and/or companies - especially when it comes to black females - are usually the offspring of upper middle class or wealthy parents. Think Precious Adams, Michaela dePrince, Jasmine Perry or SF ballet student Raquel Smith.
  12. I've got to give credit where credit is due. I've been highly critical of NYCB in the past, but they seem to be trying hard to become a more diverse organization. Good on them. As Delores Brown says in the documentary film Black Ballerina, it's about time that American ballet companies started to look like America, especially in a city as cosmopolitan as New York. Even if the numbers of black female students at City Ballet remains low for the foreseeable future, seeing all those adorable little Asian American girls trying out for the children's division does my heart good. Has NYCB's diversity initiative surpassed ABT's Project Plie'? We aren't hearing much from PP lately. Promoting Misty to principle and having five other black dancers in the corps de ballet doesn't give ABT an excuse to stop trying to be more inclusive. What have they done for communities of color lately? As for voices from the black ballet community, Theresa Ruth Howard is my hero. Thank you Theresa for not being polite and well-behaved. http://www.dancemagazine.com/school-of-american-ballet-diversity-2441800858.html
  13. Judy Tyrus in Creole Giselle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3kFFzdhV5A
  14. Here's link to an interesting interview with the sublime Debra Austin, former principle dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet. She has really lived the issue of diversity in ballet. I'm also taken with the remarks from Sherry Holmes who remarks that change as far as diversity is concerned, seems to be coming about because audiences are demanding it. http://wunc.org/post/black-ballerina
  15. Sincere thanks for this link. It's so great to hear from someone from the black ballet community other than Arthur Mitchell or Virginia Johnson. God bless those two. They're great people and very knowledgeable. But just as Misty isn't the only or even best black female dancer of note, Arthur and Virginia aren't the only knowledgeable and important black former dancers. Ms. Howard really hit the nail on the head with her anecdote about people from San Francisco Ballet being surprised to see well-trained black students at Sandra Fortune-Green's dance school. As Theresa said, there have ALWAYS been well-trained black dancers out there. Even during the days of unabashed segregation when it was darned near impossible to find a school that would take black youngsters, some kids still defied the odds and managed to become good ballet dancers. But too many people in positions of power truly believe that good black ballet dancers are more rare than unicorns and that the few that are good, are always male. And since Virginia has said that she has encountered SOME black dancers who didn't get the training they deserved, well, that just fortifies the prejudices of people who believe that NO black female dancers ANYWHERE are good enough. Yet as Atlanta-based ballet teacher and choreographer Angela Harris says, when she choreographs a piece, she never seems to have problem finding excellent dancers of all races to cast. And yes, the word on the street is that her standards are quite high. I think the myth of the excellent, black, classical ballerina being non-existent, became the conventional wisdom. It's understandable. AD's have so much on their plates that racial diversity just wasn't a priority. But whatever you think of her ability - and she HAS suffered through major injuries that required a rod in her leg that robbed her of much of her jumping and turning ability - Misty has proved that black audiences are thirsty for representation on the stage. To those people who are so annoyed that Misty is better known than their own favorite dancers who they feel are more deserving, well, Misty's not the first person in the classical arts who learned how to use the press to reach stardom. There may be more deserving dancers, heck there are probably other BLACK women ballerinas who are more deserving, but I don't see anyone crying about the injustice to them, probably because nobody has ever heard of them. And if she does nothing else, Misty can stay on message as well as Bernie Sanders does when he's talking about the 1%. Misty is tireless about promoting diversity. Unfortunately, the need to do so remains. . One more thing. I'm impressed as hell and amused by the black female students from SAB that Ms. Howard interviewed. Not only are they talented, but based on previous quotes from some of them in print interviews, they are really shrewd. They have learned all too well the importance of code-switching, a type of behavior that middle and upper class black folks learn in order to succeed in predominately white environments. It boils down to "Don't make white people uncomfortable." When speaking about their instructors at SAB in a NY Times article, some of the young ladies went out of their way to say to the reporter how color blind their teachers are, how they don't feel bias in the least and how they saw no barriers to how far they could climb through hard work and perseverance. Wow, how wonderful, a ballet school that is an egalitarian utopia! Yet in an all black girl setting, they felt free to talk about the slights both small (snotty parents wondering what they are doing at a ballet school) and large(no black teachers) that they constantly experience in a setting where black women have always been rare. That's why role models like Andrea Long are important. Come on SAB. Prove those folks wrong who bad-mouth you about your insularity. Hire a black ballet teacher.
  16. Film director Darren Aronofsky of "Black Swan" infamy, said that during the research and pre-production phases for that film, he found the people in the ballet establishment to be very insular. Of course, we should take what he says with grain of salt. He may have simply been disappointed that he and his Hollywood gang wasn't met with what he felt was a suitable amount of enthusiasm for the fact that he was spotlighting their "fringe" art form. But then, too many gatekeepers for the classical performing arts are pretentious and off-putting towards laymen when extolling the virtues of their art forms. We plebs get it. We know know that opera, Shakespeare, classical music and ballet are difficult arts to master and perform at the highest level. Just be careful not to put people off with snobbery before they've had a chance to sample your art. The culture at too many ballet companies, just doesn't seem to value what color and gender diversity in dancing, choreography and administrative talent might bring to their organizations. People in positions of power keep saying that they don't want to live in museums while being reluctant to change anything. And those statements by the powers that be about being willing to hire more non-white female dancers and women choreographers if only they were out there, is the equivalence of saying "Some of my best friends are black."
  17. It would have been better for Ratmansky to have kept quiet about the backlash. Now he just sounds disingenuous.
  18. It's good to see ballet people other than Virginia Johnson being asked to speak about lack of diversity in the art form. While Johnson is certainly knowledgeable, she's hardly the only person of color with worthwhile opinions on the matter. Besides, the fact that she's practically the only black woman in classical dance that anyone knows about other than the heavily marketed Misty Copeland, means Virginia's comments are frequently used not only as proof of the bias against black classical dancers, but also as an excuse for the frequently whiter than white status quo. After all, she once remarked that some of the students showing up at DTH schools hadn't received the training they deserved. That's been taken by some to mean that NO black dancers ANYWHERE - especially females - are properly trained. Therefore, their near non-existent numbers at companies across the country is justified. After all, Virginia Johnson had said she'd encountered insufficiently trained dancers. Therefore, it must be true that no black female dancers are up to snuff because surely, Virginia knows them all.
  19. This article found in The Amsterdam News has a few notable factual errors like the one that gets the timeline wrong as to when New York's biggest ballet companies launched their diversity initiatives. ABT for instance, had established Project Plie two years before Misty Copeland became a principal, NOT as a result to her having been promoted as the article suggests. Also, City Ballet did not have representation at the International Association of Blacks in Dance-sponsored auditions for women of color that were held in January. Dance Theater of Harlem was the only New York-based company with representatives present, according to the IABD's own website. But these mistakes aside, what is most notable about the article is that a prominent leader in the arts community, Darren Walker, publically accused NYCB of bias against women of color. To those of us who follow black dance and dancers, the accusation itself was not surprising, but the fact that it was said publicly, was. For years, many black female dancers have quietly, but bitterly complained that they have been on the receiving end of a culture at City Ballet that fosters what comic Chris Rock has referred to as "Sorority Racism," a subtle, smile-in-your-face, hard to quantify type of racism that can frequently be found in liberal circles. It's the petty, cliquish kind of prejudice displayed in this statement; "We like you Rhonda, but you're just not a Kappa." Those folks who dare claim that such bias exists, are frequently dismissed as paranoids who love wallowing in victimhood or losers who can't face their own shortcomings. It's true that not everything is about race. Some of the black women who've complained about being rejected or overlooked by City Ballet may not have been good enough. But it's highly unlikely that none were.
  20. To those folks who use the argument that " Nobody complains about the NBA being too black, so why pick on ballet as being too white?," well, that is indeed a specious argument. Nobody before or since has systematically barred whites from being in the NBA. Indeed there was a time many, many, years ago when it wasn't a majority black league. Ballet like other classical performance arts, DOES have a history of denying access to training and employment to people of color in this country. That's not a fairy tale. It's a simple fact. Just snapping your fingers and declaring that the playing field is now level is absurd. I admire the stones of those folks who one minute complain that we're all just Americans and if ballet remains overwhelmingly white, it's only due to lack of interest, some sort of racial inadequacy or lack of finances on the part of people of color. Yet when folks of color form arts organizations of their own to prove otherwise, they get accused of being segregationists. Can't have it both ways. Also, why is ballet supposed to get off the hook for it's lack of diversity just because other art forms and sports do a poor job at diversity? That's hardly a mature attitude. It sounds like a thirteen year old complaining about being called on the carpet for getting into trouble because "Johnny did it too." And if diversity is unimportant, then why do all arts organizations pay lip service to it? Why give in to the "oppressive p.c. police" if diversity isn't important to the health and vitality of the art form?
  21. I'm not surprised to see that Hayward and Golding have a different attitude than Misty when it comes to navigating the world of identity politics in ballet. It's definitely a generalization to say this, but many black and and black/white mixed-race Brits seem to have much more relaxed attitude concerning race in the UK than most African Americans have in the U.S. Neither philosophy is wrong, They're just different. I think our vastly different histories and experiences have a lot to do with it. Golding and Hayward's comments remind me of Thandie Newton's remarks when she first gained attention in Hollywood. She, like Ms. Hayward has a black African mother and white English Father . Hollywood found this black version of the English Rose actresses they so love, to be fascinating. Quite a fuss was made over her beauty, talent, and posh education. I don't recall how the subject came up, but when Thandie was asked in an interview if she thought that being a woman of color might put limitations on the roles she was offered, she said "People in the U.S. are so race conscious. I wasn't raised that way." I understood what she meant and totally agreed that she shouldn't put limitations on herself and should go for all the roles in her age range. After all, most Ingenue roles aren't race-specific. And it a perfect world, it wouldn't matter. But neither Hollywood nor America is perfect and I'd seen far too many women of color who were just as beautiful, talented, well-educated and ambitious disappear without a trace because there were no roles for them to play and they weren't given the chance to compete with white actresses for parts. I pulled for Thandie to break through to major stardom. God knows I did. But when I saw her in that Eddie Murphy monstrosity, Norbert, I knew she just wasn't getting the chances she deserved. If you asked her today, she'd probably say that along with talent and ambition, a level playing field DOES make a difference. Other talented Black Brits who thought America was the acting promise land, have found the obstacles in Tinseltown to be frustrating. (See Idris Elba and David Oyellowo.) It's not because Hollywood is filled with racists. It's because the men who are in charge, make movies they want to see about characters they can relate to. People never think out of the box because of fear or simply due to a lack of imagination. Likewise, I think the overwhelming female whiteness of most ballet companies isn't due to blatant racism . Nor is it only due to a lack of exposure to the art form in minority communities, the high cost or the quality of training or because women of color supposedly don't show up to audition. I think many folks in positions of power, simply find it easier to say they never can find talented ballerinas of color. Unconscious bias wins because diversity isn't a priority. But as America becomes more diverse, that makes no sense.
  22. I'm hoping for more recognition for Ashley Murphy of Washington Ballet, She is a gorgeous classical artist who was with DTH for 13 years. Although I miss her at DTH, she definitely gets more exposure at WB. Poor DTH. They are frequently ignored by those who write about classical dance. And on those rare occasions when they are mentioned, it's only as that company that Arthur Mitchell founded and where Virginia Johnson danced. The end.
  23. Even if this film wins rave reviews, ballet insiders are bound to loathe it. Ballet has such a small, pop culture footprint, that many people who love it, tend to be bitterly disappointed when the few ballet films that are made, fail to be unadulterated hagiographies about the people of the art form they love. Many classical dance people remind me of some members of racial minority groups who become upset when Oscarbait films about minority lead characters inevitably fail to encapsulate the totality of that group's experiences in this country. (See The Help, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances with Wolves, The Joy Luck Club) Any honest film about a man as revered AND complicated as Balanchine, is just a crap storm waiting to happen. I suppose the film makers are counting on controversy to sell the film.
  24. Bronzer isn't typically used in an attempt to "pass" as a member of another racial group.
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