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Posts posted by Tapfan

  1. Also, Michaela DePrince, Celine Gittens, Tanya Howard, Kimberly Braylock, Courtney Lavine, along with others who are not African-American, but of different ethnicities and definitely not caucasian.

    Oh, I've heard of all these young women. But with the exception of Michael DePrince who has a compelling personal history, because none of these women are principals, it's next to impossible to follow their careers.

  2. Tapfan, there are. Alicia Graf Mack, Linda Celeste Sims. They have high profiles in dance circles, but are not media celebrities.

    But Alicia switched to Modern after DTH went on hiatus. And isn't LCS also a modern dancer?

    It's not that I think modern is some how a lesser art form than ballet. It's just that it seems next to impossible for black women to break through to the senior ranks in ballet in a non-black majority company. I'd like to see it in my lifetime.

  3. If the new African-American fans Copeland attracts find they actually enjoy ballet, they will likely be eager to see a largely African-American company like Dance Theatre of Harlem. For DTH's sake, we can hope so.

    I think people who go to see DTH would go if Misty had never existed.

  4. Tapfan I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to say. I believe the hype is unfortunate because it makes it difficult to separate self promotion from accomplishment. I disagree that it doesn't take away from other deserving dancers. It is a zero sum game. Every opportunity given to one dancer means others lose out.

    As far as DTH not being a major company. That is the truth but neither is the Washington Ballet yet ticket prices soared for Copeland's performances. The dancers at DTH - corps, soloists and principals demonstrate the possibility of a career in ballet for African-American dancers every day but ticket sales are not good. So I guess what I'm asking - Has Copeland's publicity created a cult of personality or is she truly bringing a more diverse audience to the ballet? Will anyone new to ballet, who paid to see Misty Copeland do Swan Lake, come to the ballet again?

    How do you know it takes a chance away from other dancers? Isn't it possible that the slot was set up to be danced by a guest dancer from the very beginning?

    I also find it disingenuous that people around these parts are all of a sudden so concerned about DTH. They've been an afterthought at best around here for as long as I can remember.

    Nobody bothers to talk about them except for those times when the hot button issue of race in ballet is discussed.

    And then folks have to go all the way back to when Virginia Johnson was dancing to intelligently comment on the company. They've been back in action for a few years now. Why would anyone have to go back to VJ's dancing days if they were really paying attention?

    I think some folks who really can't stand Misty Copeland use a supposed concern about DTH and black classical dancers in general as a shield against accusations of racism. After all, how can their strong dislike of Copeland be racist if they talk about DTH and Virginia Johnson?

    I don't understand the depth of dislike directed at Copeland. But I don't automatically assume it's race-based.

    I think the lack of interest in black classical dance has more to do with artistic myopia than racism. But that's only marginally better.

  5. The one review I read called Copeland's Swan Lake a "work in progress." To my mind that's what it should be. The hype is very unfortunate. I truly don't know what to make of the ticket prices and the reported audience reaction to her entrance, as if she was an established star. Perhaps she's an established star to an audience that is totally non-critical in terms of ballet. These are difficult questions. As a long time ballet fan, I confess I've never been impressed by Copeland's imagination as an artist. If her amazing PR machine translates into more kids of color being interested in ballet and better ticket sales for DTH I'm all for her self promotion. The jury is still out.

    The hype doesn't take anything away from any other deserving dancers. Star and rising star dancers will continue to get their props and 99.99 percent of the attention in the dance writing press. This isn't about them. Nor is it about balletomanes who are irked that Copeland attracts fans who are new to ballet, and thus less knowledgeable.

    This is about a particular milestone that's important to SOME folks in minority communities. This is about a woman who shows the possibilities for a career in classical dance to historically excluded racial and ethnic groups, particularly the women in those groups. Folks who don't like it can have their hurt feelings soothed by music from of the world's tiniest violins.

    Also, why would the publicity surrounding Misty automatically transfer to more sales for DTH? She doesn't dance for them. Besides, folks are constantly being told that DTH is NOT a major company.

  6. People who don't follow ballet but who follow Misty have been asking her what's next. Will she "move on up" to Broadway or movies?

    That's a hilarious reminder that for most folks, even many sophisticates, ballet is a niche art form to be transcended.

  7. I thought you might have some hard data to hand since you seem interested in the topic of dance company diversity in general. I'm open to your case, but it would be helpful if you provided the data to support it rather than suggesting that I look at a couple of dozen company rosters myself.

    What do you think an appropriate percentage of dancers of East Asian origin might be? Should we expect a dance company's diversity to roughly match that of the US in general? Of the company's geographic region in particular?

    I'm not suggesting quotas for anyone. Although outreach IS nice.

    Its just seems strange that City ballet doesn't have any female dancers of East Asian heritage when practically everyone else does. It still seems strange even when you take into account the fact that City ballet likes Ballanchine ballerinas and the fact that Asians and Asian Americans stress the study of hard sciences for a career.

    Even with all that, women with Asian heritage still become classical dancers. 'Cept at NYCB. Even if city ballet doesn't care one bit about diversity, you'd think someone would make their roster.

  8. All you have to do is look at the dancer rosters. You'd be hard-pressed to find any from the internationally known major companies to the regional companies in America's heartland that don't have two or more male and female East Asians dancers.

    But not NYCB. That just strikes me as odd.

    Reminds me about Chris Rock's comment about the lack of Mexican American talent in the corporate offices of Hollywood when you consider the Latino population of Los Angeles. You almost have to go out of your way not to hire someone.

    The lack of women from the East Asian diaspora at City Ballet seems as unlikely as not seeing Asian women in the nation's top colleges. It's just not very likely.

  9. When I watch a performance I see the artistry of the dancer, not the skin color and I suggest so do most people including choreographers and ballet administration. It is more likely that a dancer be overlooked in casting because of their artistic choices or technique or height than because of skin color. Do dancers say they are discriminated against because they are too short to be cast as The Siren? Do dancers with a short neck say they were discriminated against because they didn't get hired? No one in this discussion has been playing the "denial card" and does not advance the discussion to suggest that.

    It is a relatively recent development that girls of all skin colors believe they can win Olympic Gold in competitive gymnastics - Gabby Douglas has inspired so many girls (of all skin colors) and now the group of dedicated girls in our local gym reflects that. The same process has been happening in ballet. Does that mean after 10+ years of dedicated training, hearts will not be broken? No, it doesn't. And it likely will not be because of skin color. Ballet companies today are looking for diversity in their ranks and for the well-trained, well-proportioned girls, jobs await.

    I disagree that nobody plays the denial card when these very people are dismissive of first-hand accounts of discrimination that have been made by brown ballet dancers.

    They say it's unfair to accuse people in power of racism without giving specific examples but still complain when those examples are given.

    Also, the choices of AD's will never be questioned because they can always say no black female dancers are good enough. It's vicious cycle.

    Do I think most AD's sit around in smoke-filled rooms coming up with schemes to keep black women out of classical ballet?

    Heck no. I don't think they think about black women at all. They just aren't on their radar and THAT's the biggest problem.

  10. This conversation is very difficult because one has to make an assumption that a person was or was not cast because of the color of their skin. There is no way to know that.

    I disagree that there is no way to know these things happen in general when there has been an admitted history of widespread blatant discrimination against people of color and black women in particular in classical dance.

    Virginia Johnson guest stars with the Royal Ballet several years ago so everything now is fine?

    I feel that pretending there is no problem with race in classical dance is one of the reasons the problem still exists. One doesn't have to believe there are no other reasons other than racism for lack of advancement for black women in ballet, to accept the fact that racism can and does play a part even to this day.

    People freely admit that those in power have all kinds of preferences and flat-out prejudices when it comes to developing and promoting certain types of dancers. Some like tall dancers or those with a beautiful port a bras, impressive musicality or a swan neck. Some like dancers who remind them of themselves as young dancers.

    People also freely admit that that some dancers get roles because they've caught the eye of wealthy patrons.

    But these same folks clutch their pearls in disbelieving horror at the suggestion that some black dancers with darker skin may face additional hurdles because they stick out in the corps de ballet.

    As someone mentioned before on this topic, the only way that some people will believe that discrimination existed and still exists is for little black girls to wear body cameras from the time they take their first ballet class to prove they have encountered additional hurdles in pursuing a career in classical dance.

    Yes, there is the race card. But there is also the denial card. And it has existed just as long.

  11. Changing the tone of this conversation .....I've been watching videos of Precious Adams--has anyone seen her? What a beautiful dancer--I can see her in a few years becoming an extraordinary Odette/Odile. She has a glorious upper body and she has that quality of transfixing her audience into a timeless hush--which all great ballarinas have.

    It's hard to follow the careers of most black women in ballet because so few have senior status in companies. I'd like to know more about black women in ballet other than Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince, but ballet in general gets so little attention in the press that it's next to impossible.

  12. You have obviously and most definitely seen more than enough to be qualified to make a judgment, Helene, and I've seen enough to share your opinion. Tapfan, from what she's said, and from what she's declined to say when asked, is not. To put it another way, her opinion is not "colorblind." There is some irony here.

    So now only balletomanes are qualified to have an opinion? They may have an informed opinion. But it's still an opinion. And hardly objective. They have their prejudices like everyone else.

  13. Huh?

    As America gets browner, it's cultural institutions should reflect that. And it can reflect that without sacrificing quality.

    Call me pushy and obnoxious all day if you want. Change never comes unless you help it along.

    Without some pain in the behind pushing, AD's will continue to put off diversity until some vague, perfect time in the future.

  14. With all respect, that is my point - to say Ratmansky casts "despite" color assumes that his artistic judgment somehow "sees" the color of a dancer's skin. It also assumes that dancer/artists with darker skin are somehow "different" from dancer/artists with lighter skin color. Those are notions that, for me, do not reflect the actual artistic process that occurs in most cases.

    Of course they see the color of someone's skin. They'd be blind if they didn't.

    I'm of the opinion that a lack of racism doesn't mean pretending that everyone looks the same. It means knowing that people do indeed have different amounts of melanin in their skin, while not allowing that to matter.

    Who really wants everyone to look the same?

    I want ballet companies to be like a floral arrangement where part of its beauty is in the contrasting colors and types of flowers, as opposed to the more tradition arrangement where the flowers are all identical long-stemmed red roses.

  15. Th

    My point was not about Courtney's comment but regarding Tapfan's post:

    That Ratmansky, a man who comes from a country that is infamous for its cultural insularity and casual racism, has given more chances to black and brown dancers than some supposedly more enlightened Westerners, is beyond ironic.

    I think it is a leap in assumption to say that he has "given more chances to black and brown dancers..." as that implies that having a darker skin color influences Mr. Ratmansky's decision making.

    My point was that people who use color blind casting DON'T allow color to influence their casting choices. They cast despite color. Not because of it.

  16. all the while the talented beautiful chic beautifully trained perfectly proportioned and hardworking Courtney Lavine continues to grow as an artist and a dancer wthout making a big deal out of her skin color.

    Courtney posts at Brown Girls do Ballet, a website devoted to aspiring ballerinas of color. She may not be a high profile evangelist for diversifying the art form like Copeland, but she is not unconcerned about the lack of black and brown women in ballet.

    She recently expressed heartfelt gratitude towards Alexei Ratmansky for chosing her and Calvin Royal to dance a pas de deux in Sleeping Beauty. Why? Because in her opinion, not all choreographers are comfortable with colorblind casting.

    That Ratmansky, a man who comes from a country that is infamous for its cultural insularity and casual racism, has given more chances to black and brown dancers than some supposedly more enlightened Westerners, is beyond ironic.

  17. I think the fascination with Michaela can be either of those reasons or both.

    I have not compared her to Copeland. You have.

    De Prince's story is fascinating because her father was murdered, her mother died of starvation and she was dumped in an orphanage. The fascination does not have to do with the fact that she was adopted by white parents.

    I think the fascination with Michaela can be either of those reasons or both. Depends on who is doing the observing.

    As to Viriginia Johnson's remarks about Michaela leaving DTH, I think she may have felt that Michaela's leaving was an indication of her lack of gratitude at having been given employment when none of the companies she was interested in, seemed to want her.

    DTH seems to have always had a scrappy underdog, culture wherein it's management feels it has to prove things to the classical dance world at large. Outspoken former DTH dancer Nikkia Parish said that Arthur Mitchell would frequently keep rebellious dancers in line by reminding them that he'd taken a chance on them when other companies - meaning white companies - hadn't given them the time of day.

    Emotionally blackmailing people in to staying with a company even when you aren't artistically fulfilled out of some form of racial solidarity isn't fair. But I wouldn't be surprised if that didn't occur on some occasions at DTH.

    The irony of DePrince's situation is that in her case, and her case alone, she might have been better if she'd stayed with DTH, at least an extra year. Having seen her dancing after she graduated from JKO school, I can honestly say that she lacked polish and she may have been turned down by the big , white, companies she dreamed of, simply because she needed more seasoning. That being the case, she should have been grateful to DTH for giving her more time to grow. After all, one of their goals is to develop minority classical dancers. Perhaps she was grateful, but still wanted to move on at the first available chance.

    Also, DTH powers that be, are frankly, just sensitive to the assumption that because they aren't a big, classical company with a huge endowment, they are therefore, second-rate. Hearing that kind of talk does not make Virginia happy. So leaving for that very kind of company probably doesn't make her happy either.

    But then, Michaela isn't the only person as who's recently left for a white company. Gabrielle Savatto also left to go to Ballet West. But then, other black dancers whose careers have stalled at a white companies, like Alison Stroming, have filled the gaps at DTH.

    I want Michaela to succeed because she wants it so much and because I want to see diversity in ballet. But would she have all this attention without her unique history? Probably not.

  18. I thought he'd retired as a professional classical dancer and was focused on becoming an actor.

    If he's fallen out of love with ballet, how good can he continue to be?

    He has stage presence and loads of charisma. I was looking forward to seeing him try his hand at acting.

  19. Resented by who? Why do you assume that Mearns, Peck, Bouder or anyone else resents Misty because she is "better known". What's the basis for that assertion?

    Why, the posts of some folks at this very forum.

    Surely you've seen that Misty is a lightening rod for controversy amongst some balletomanes.

  20. But exactly what is stopping Tiler Peck, Ashley Bouder or Sara Mearns from doing a better job at publicizing themselves AND their art form?

    These ladies don't need a PR machine to gain fame. Their dancing speaks for itself, and they engage in numerous projects outside of NYCB that they find artistically gratifying. Tiler Peck starred in a musical recently, and also recently starred in a televised NY Philharmonic production of Carousel. Bouder performs all over the world. She receives invitations from many top ranked ballet companies and international festivals. Mearns has numerous outside projects, and was recnetly dubbed by the lead critic of the NY Times as one of America's leading ballerinas (not an exact quote, but that was the gist. That's publicity enough.

    My point isn't that they need a massive PR system to be recognized as great artists.I know that they are held in high esteem within ballet circles.

    My point is that Misty is resented because she's better known than any of them.

    I also agree that fame isn't everything. But evidently some balletomanes don't know this because THEY are the ones who seem to be angriest about Copeland's high profile.

  21. From a recent interview with Michaela DePrince:

    What is the main difference between living in Europe and the US?

    Europe is great, especially for dance. It’s a lot more accepting than the US – there I struggled with the fact that I was black and there weren’t a lot of black dancers at the studio with me. Although in the US, at least I could look up to [other black ballerinas] Misty Copeland or Lauren Anderson.

    What bothers me about this statement is that she says she was uncomfortable with not having black role models around, yet she leaves DTH. I'm not of the opinion that SOME black dancers have that something that is predominately black is automatically inferior.

    She wanted to dance for a large classical company, but none in the U.S. wanted her.

  22. I know Misty Copeland irritates the hell out of some folks. But darn it if this woman isn't the best PR machine U. S. ballet has ever seen.

    I used to think she was a role model for black and brown girls only and that her ballet evangelism was reaching only non-whites. As Chris Rock would say, I thought she was just "back famous."

    But you see so many young white girls at her book signings and public appearances. Whether it's the underdog resonance of her story, her relentless selling of said story or some combination of the two, she's stirring up interest in the art.

    I can understand why her stratospheric profile would be annoying to those who feel other ballerinas are more deserving of all the attention.

    But exactly what is stopping Tiler Peck, Ashley Bouder or Sara Mearns from doing a better job at publicizing themselves AND their art form?

    If they aren't as famous as Misty, that's hardly Misty's fault.

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