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Posts posted by Tapfan

  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. This artlcle in Atlanta Black Star highlights other black ballerinas.

    Believe it or not, some of us black folks are interested in other black female dancers other than Misty, but because it's hard to get info on ballerinas of any color, for ballet dancers of color, it's next to impossible.

    I'm proud to say I'd heard about all these dancers except the young woman from POB. And even she was on the radar of some black ballet fans because we saw her in the POB defile du ballet.

  8. The publicity generated by Copeland's camp that some folks in these parts see as so intolerably vulgar, doesn't hurt ballet in any way.

    All your favorite performers are still dancing your favorite pieces and are still getting an overwhelming majority of the attention of those people who write about classical dance.

  9. Of course there are basic skills that everyone must master before they can call themselves a ballet dancer.

    But perfection of body isn't always paramount, Margot Fonteyne would never have had a career otherwise.

  10. I have enjoyed watching Misty grow as a dancer. I just saw her dance Peasant Pas in two performances of Giselle, and she is looking better than ever.

    I'm curious how people make so much over her status/ possible promotion and whether she "deserves" it, when little was said about Hee Seo, who, in my viewings has more technical shortcomings (but is perhaps more versatile in terms of casting?) If you go to performances where Hee Seo is cast, you will see more Asians in the audience just as if you see Misty you will see more Black audience members. The difference, from my perspective, is that Misty brings out the young dancers (of all colors) who are inspired by her backstory and her pop appeal. I think this is good for ballet, kind of like what happened in the 70s with Barishnykov. Misty has a slightly curvaceous body for dance, which I think inspires a lot of girls who don't fit the stereotypical waif-type. Moreover, she was a late-starter, as far as ballet goes. I think this inspires a lot of students who didn't get to start ballet at 6 or 7, because of geographic or socioeconomic limitations.

    One aspect of Misty's dancing that is overlooked is her epaulment. Her shoulders and arms are always carried beautifully. I saw her in Coppelia last year, and she was a fantastic comedic actress. I do hope that she can develop a partnership with Cornejo and though I'm not clamoring for her promotion right now (STELLLLLA!), I despise any suggestion that McKenzie would be promoting her *because* of her skin color or publicity efforts. As I said earlier, I find her much more technically assured than Hee Seo. And I wish Isabella Boylston, also a principal, would learn to control her hands and arms like Misty.

    We seldom hear from people on this board who like aspects of Misty's dancing.

    It's nice to be reminded that when judging art and artists, it's ALL just opinion, not fact.

  11. Hmmm. It came up when I googled NYCB videos.

    I thought Devin was into photography and twitter where he's pretty funny in a smug sorta way.

    And I thought City ballet had some control over what is posted concerning their organization, especially after Devin joked about Martins' DUI on social media.

  12. I saw several casts of NYCB's Nutcracker this season and 1 of the 3 casts featured an Asian Marie and Fritz.. Just because you can't read about them doesn't mean Asians aren't attending SAB.

    I also attended last summer's SAB summer intensive performance, In the 2 works performed (1 by Peter Walker, the other by Silas Farley) several African American students performed. One had a featured solo. Again, this was not written about.

    Where any of these schools' black females? Because that is the problem within a problem. When people speak about African Americans that they see in schools or companies, more often than not, they are talking about MALE dancers.

  13. from today's NY Times - interview with Amar Ramascar. “I have never really thought about race, just what I could do as an artist,”


    Well good for him. And just because there are black ballerinas who have made mention of the additional hurdles they face because of race, doesn't mean that's all they think or talk about.

    Most love their jobs despite the additional challenges.

  14. I've never believed or stated that lack of racial diversity in ballet was due to racism only! There are many contributing factors, ALL of which must be addressed.

    But race is such a thorny issue in ANY context, that when it's brought up, people get defensive and claim it's a problem that no longer exists in ballet or one that can't be solved without hurting the quality of classical dance.

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