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Posts posted by Tapfan

  1. The fear of languishing in the corps is not a phenomenon that is unique to ABT.   It's a problem  for many large and even mid-sized companies. Dancers like free agents in sports,  move around much more frequently than in years past. And some like powerhouse soloist Derek Dunn formerly of Houston Ballet, now dancing with Boston Ballet, don't necessarily leave because they are unhappy, but because they want  other challenges.

    Also, I believe  as surely as the president loves to tweet, that there are pockets of talent, administrative and programming mediocrity that exist in practically all of the so-called prestige companies.  The concept of unyielding artistic brilliance or even uniform excellence is a largely a myth.

  2. On ‎7‎/‎30‎/‎2017 at 6:28 AM, California said:

    These reports about Copeland's performances in Orange County and Milan sadden me. She's not the first dancer to struggle with the hops nor the first to wear clunky/noisy shoes (Cojocaru comes to mind, e.g.). But she seems to be the first dancer many have seen who represents the effort to diversify dance in North America and she, most unfortunately, confirms for some their worst stereotypes of "affirmative action," viz., dancers promoted for reasons other than artistic merit. Bolle knows how to sell tickets, but this casting didn't do American ballet supporters any favors in the continuing effort to diversify dance.

    The people who use Misty's supposedly bad performances as proof that black women can't be great ballet dancers, were going to believe that anyway. Who cares what they think?


    I'm less fascinated by the  crimes against art that Copeland supposedly commits every time she sets foot on stage, than what her mere presence proves. A black woman can pack a concert hall as the central figure in a classical performance art that isn't opera. 


    It may be depressing and vulgar to balletomanes, but the box office power that Copeland and Gilda Squire have unleashed has got most ballet companies at least pretending to care about racial diversity.  They actually care enough that some are regularly poaching ballerinas from DTH. I bet Virginia Johnson is both thrilled and extremely annoyed all at once.


    Not all little girls want to wear the tiara. But many do, including little black girls. That this fact escaped so many in ballet for so many years is very strange. But now they know.


    For years, ballet people have lamented about the lack of the next big thing that is supposed to wake  ballet up from it's doldrums and push it into the future. Who's the new Balanchine?  Where's the next Nureyev or Baryshnikov?  Where would the next big center of ballet emerge? Would it be in Asia? 


    What if the next big thing in ballet is that none-white people under 50 actually start to care about it?  Could that be the thing that "saves" ballet?   

  3. On 7/30/2017 at 7:36 AM, Natalia said:

    ABT has a great history of diversity with Hispanics (Alonso!) and Asian-heritage (not just Hee Seo or Stella) ballerinas. I'm sure that they'll have a truly worthy black ballerina for the classics in due time. (I like Misty in contemporary.) It's too bad that ABT let Michaela De Prince "go" after she graduated from their school (eventually to Amsterdam). Maybe she'll be one of ABT's promised "exchange guests" in the future? 


    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.  

  4. 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. 

  5. On 6/24/2017 at 8:38 PM, cubanmiamiboy said:


    It is tough for me since I haven't encounter too many of them in any company I follow-(ABT...MCB...NYCB...BOLSHOI...MARIINSKY...POB). On the contrary...I do remember following Jose Manuel Carreno and Carlos Acosta since the very early stages of their career, and up until they left Cuba. They were both AMAZING...and being black had nothing to do with it. I hadn't seen Copeland dance a full evening ballet until I saw her SL...and dear...it was just a sad spectacle...whatever race she might be.

    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.   

  6. On ‎7‎/‎24‎/‎2017 at 11:16 AM, sandik said:


    Last thing first -- your English says what you want it to say.  Which means it's far better than my Italian, German, French, or Japanese. 


    I agree that in the US we tend to frame diversity in terms of black and white, when in fact we are a much more colorful country.  I live in the Pacific Northwest, and around here, our Asian and First Peoples populations are sometimes more numerous than our African American.  But even though those groups have a long history of unfair treatment from the white majority, we still, as a country, are grappling with the after effects of slavery.  And these struggles play themselves out in almost all parts of our culture.  It's messy, it's painful, and in some cases it does push other peoples aside, which also makes it unfair.  But honestly, it is such a stain on our heritage, that we really do need to do this work, as strange as it may seem to someone looking at it from the outside.


    Explanations are not excuses, but they are explanations.

     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?

  7. 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.  

  8. 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.

  9. 10 hours ago, Mashinka said:


    Of course Acosta danced with the Bolshoi when the numbers of suitable dancers for Spartacus were down, it wouldn't surprise me if they invite Brooklyn Mack to fill the role in the future.


    Francesca Hayward is mixed race and therefore never stood out in the corps.  Interestingly, she impresses those London fans whose interest is solely Bolshoi and Kirov, these are the ones who only go to the RB when the likes of Osipova and Muntagirov are dancing, but they've spotted Ms H and very much like what they see.


    ENB have darker complexioned Precious Adams in the corps, I've never heard anyone comment negatively on her presence there.  ENB also invited over Michaela dePrince, a young lady of African birth to dance in Giselle, a bit puzzling as they have company members capable of Queen of the Wilis, I would much have preferred her to have danced it at the RB where the failure to produce an outstanding performance of that particular role (along with the Lilac Fairy) is an embarrassment.


    Pretty much all the British companies have black male dancers, the RB has several, the majority seem to thrive.

    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. 

  10. 1 hour ago, vipa said:

    I think any Somova controversy is different. She had ardent fans who were blown away by her and then she had detractors. In ABT Part is an example of that type of controversy. I don't think there is much disagreement about Copeland. No one is calling her a great ballerina. 



    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. 

  11. 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. 

  12. 13 hours ago, Jayne said:

    There is a female US hurdler named LoLo Jones who embraced social media and garnered media attention and corporate sponsorships.  


    Fast forward to the London Games and she finished fourth....a great disappointment to the media that hyped her.  The media has been critical of her ever since.  


    I think the same could happen to Misty. 

    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.  


  13. 2 hours ago, Mashinka said:


    Would you care to name the writer please?


    Misty Copeland has no significance in Britain, I believe I saw her in a small role a few years back, after reading about her here I discovered you tube clips show a mediocre talent.



    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.   

  14. On 6/14/2017 at 0:36 PM, Natalia said:


    You are 100% spot on, Cubanmiamiboy. As someone who began to follow Copeland during her early soloist years, with great hope for what she could become, I feel as if I've been scammed by the hype. I've enjoyed her Juliet but little else. Since she's now in her mid-30s, I wouldn't be surprised if she forms her own modern touring group and/or takes over the KennedyCenter  dance series after Farrell leaves next year? They seem to be grooming her for that sort of thing.


    For a beautiful ballerina of color with great technique and musicality, worthy of principal status, keep an eye on Francesca Hayward of the Royal Ballet.

    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.










  15. On ‎6‎/‎16‎/‎2017 at 8:01 PM, sandik said:



    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.

  16. 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. 



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