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Everything posted by Tapfan

  1. Actually, Michaela de Prince has been knocked by some balletomanes as having more of a compelling story than actual talent. She gets slammed as being nothing but atheletic and being a distraction to classical harmony. I suspect that any black ballerina of stature, will be tarred as having reached that status due to affirmative action only, especially if said black dancer is promoted BEFORE a favorite white dancer. As I've said before, the only black woman who will escape such judgments, will be someone who is so clearly superior in every way - technique, musicality, physique, feet, stage presence, acting talent, versatility, European standards of beauty and offstage affability - that she towers over the ballet world in the same way that Michael Jordan towered over the rest of the NBA. You have be twice as good to get half as far. In other words, superballerina. And even then, she'll be the ONLY one allowed lofty status even if some other black woman with equal credentials comes along. ( Because isn't one black ballerina enough to satisfy those always complaining social justice warrior people?) To our European friends it may be different in Europe but in the U. S., practically all advancement for racial minorities in a field previously dominated by whites, is NOT achieved on a level playing field. Yes, ballet is very, very, difficult for everyone. But people who are not white have additional burdens no matter how much some folks may insist otherwise. As Virginia Johnson has said, far too much was riding on Misty Copeland's ascendance. There should have been 15 or so black women ready to step up and help break the glass ceiling that has prevented black women from having a ballet career, let alone reaching the principle rank. Since there were so few in major companies, many who view RACIAL diversity in ballet as important, had pinned all their hopes on Misty. As someone who believes that ballet diversity that extends beyond white Latino and East Asian women who are fair skinned, I see better days on the horizon. There are several very promising black, biracial, Afro-Latina and Native American, dancers in the pipeline who feel empowered because Copeland made it to the highest rank. Kaeli Ware, Kamala Saara McDaniels, Olivia Winston, Alexandra "Sasha" Manuel, Kelly E. Hicks, Olivia Bell, Eliana Vaha'i Feao, Alysia Johnson, Raquel Smith, Destiny Wimpye, Tais Vinolo and Helga Paris-Morales are just a few truly excellent prospects along with others too numerous to name. And of course, many want to dance at ABT like Misty and some are already training at JKO. Ware, aged 17 and McDaniels almost 15, are such formidable talents that, both have been offered professional contracts with DTH. (Both declined in order to continue training at prestigious schools elsewhere.) After seeing the wealth of truly exceptional non-white female talent coming up, a friend of mine remarked half-jokingly, that maybe the ballet establishment put so many obstacles in black women's paths all those years, because they secretly feared they'd take over the field like they have in many sports. Laugh all you want. Stranger things have happened. Representation is important. It is something many folks take for granted when EVERYTHING defaults to their group.
  2. I saw that at another news site and was tempted to post it. But seeing as how I've been critical of Martins in the past, I figured people would think I was being mean. This whole thing is so bizarre. The story is begging to be made into an edgy indie film or a sensationalistic Lifetime made-for-TV movie.
  3. Precious Adams of English National Ballet has been promoted to First Artist. Good for her. I know she received good reviews for her dancing in "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated." I just hope she doesn't get typecast as a contemporary dancer because she has a lovely port de bras, clean pointe work. beautiful lines and a graceful Russian back.
  4. It's different for men. The fact that men like Acosta - despite lingering bias - have in rare cases risen to international stardom when black women have been unable to do so, has been a major concern for the black ballet community. And yes, there is such a thing as a black ballet community. They meet every third Thursday at secret locations across the Americas to plot their systematic destruction of the evil, Western ballet establishment. I'm their spokesperson ;) Good folks, nobody wants quotas. Nobody wants to see bad black female ballet dancers. Nobody. Yet some of us insist on seeing racial diversity in ballet because it can enrich the art form and because we KNOW there WERE and ARE black women dancers who are more than deserving to be given the chance. Some of us also believe that there should be more acknowledgement of excellent black ballerinas from the past who didn't get their due. They exist and are part of ballet history. They are not unimportant just because some ballet fans don't know or care about them. I just wish some folks were as concerned about the fact their beloved art form was for the longest time, NOT open to everyone who wanted to master or appreciate it if those people happened to be the wrong color. And the great gods of ballet didn't suddenly snap their fingers and everything in ballet became an egalitarian utopia. Copeland's promotion to principal did not plunge ballet in to a state of soul-sucking mediocrity. Mediocrity could already be found everywhere you looked long before she came on the scene.
  5. Well said. As someone who is an unabashed cheerleader for greater racial inclusion in the classical arts in America, I agree that the term "diversity" is too often used only as shorthand for "lack of black representation." And I wholeheartedly agree that it is ridiculous to expect to see what we in the West would define as "people of color" in ballet companies like the Bolshoi and Mariinsky that are so closely tied to national identity and are located in a largely racially homogeneous country. What I disagree with is the attitude still held by some in the West, that brown bodies shatter uniformity and are therefore an attack on classicism. Evidently, uniformity of style, movement and purpose is always trumped by the distraction of that dark girl in the line of Willies, Swans, Sylphs or Shades. Evidently, other things in classical ballet may evolve, but not the need for everyone to have glowing white skin in Act II of Giselle. And the fact that these attitudes are expressed by some folks whose artistry I greatly admire like Mathias Heymann, is doubly disappointing. If due to his Moroccan heritage, his complexion were darker making his being cast as James in La Sylphide a distraction, would he be okay with that commitment to white being right?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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
  18. Judy Tyrus in Creole Giselle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3kFFzdhV5A
  19. 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
  20. 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.
  21. 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."
  22. It would have been better for Ratmansky to have kept quiet about the backlash. Now he just sounds disingenuous.
  23. 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.
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