Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×


Senior Member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by Tapfan

  1. At last night's condo association party here in DC, I had a chance to 'talk ballet' with circle of fellow condo members, mostly African American ladies. Please believe me when I say that most of my dear neighbors think that Misty is THE star of ABT. They have no conception of the difference between Principal and Soloist...I.e., Misty is the one who is talked about so she is the star.

    I certainly wasn't going to break their hearts and reveal the difference. Misty is THE star and that's all there is to that, in their minds. (Even their husbands know who is Misty Copeland.)

    Everybody is clamoring for tickets to one of Misty's two SWAN LAKE performances with Washington Ballet in April, although they've been sold out for a long time.

    LOL! Misty may not be "famous" famous, but as Chris Rock would say, for aspirational black people, she's certainly "black famous!"

  2. I totally get that ballet is hard. I get that it's difficult even if you are a woman who is so white that you make the British royal family look like they are from the developing world. But let's be honest, Being white in ballet has never been something that put you at a disadvantage.

    Those of us who are impatient about its lack of diversity don't want unqualified black women to be promoted. That's tokenism at it's worst.

    But we're not buying the explanation that no black woman has ever been good enough for the principle ranks. Lack of acess to good training doesn't explain everything. Nor do the idiosyncratic tastes of artistic directors..

    I don't think most artistic directors are racist so much as artistically myopic. They are just more comfortable with the familiar.(See Peter Martins) They probably don't want to rock the boat with wealthy donors, many of whom expect ballet to look like the Mariinsky in 1965. Also, AD's probably don't see themselves as social crusaders for diversity. They just want to put on a good show. I understand and sympathize.

    But for those of us who see strength and beauty in diversity, the lily whiteness of ballet just seems so yesterday. Diversifying ballet won't make it as popular in the U.S. as it is in Russia. But it will make it richer.

    Finally, I promise you that all my complaining isn't because I think Misty is the be-all or end-all of black female ballet dancers. She's just the most visible symbol.

  3. I agree Plisskin. The election of Obama doesn't mean everything is peachy. Things are better than they were but not as good as they should be.

    That includes attitudes in ballet.

    But on the list of things that are important to minority communities, racial representation in ballet that mirrors the American population is very close to the bottom of the list. As it should be.

  4. It is difficult for any woman to advance past the corps in a ballet company. First off the odds of getting into a major ballet company are small then the odds of advancing are even smaller. Copeland got into ABT because of her talent (she even turned down KM's first invitation to study full time at the school), she was promoted to soloist because KM thought her soloist material. Since that time she's built an audience for herself through self promotion. Audiences go to see her because of her various TV appearances etc. If/when she becomes a principal dancer we and she will never be sure of why.

    Ballet's PR problem? Mainstream press gravitates to drama not quality. I don't expect the mainstream press to report on ballet anymore than I expect reporting on opera, concert music or quality independent films. Unless there is some kind of incident (singer gets fired for being too fat for the costume) the mainstream press is busy reporting on the latest scandalous behavior of an actress, actor or politician.

    I know that people who have the goods to be ballet dancers are rare. Just like pro athletes. I get it. It's just that there are almost 40 million black people in the U.S. Even if the number of people with the access, interest and drive is much lower than in the white populace, you'd think there would be more than the handful that we know about.

    I know that none of the classical performing arts will ever have the attention of popular arts. But there have been times when it was better than it is now. People who didn't know anything about ballet were interested in Baryshnikov.

  5. Are there any other black women in predominently white companies who have advanced past the corp de ballet?

    Yes. At this point in the discussion, the more pertinent question is which black women you have seen dance ballet whom you feel should have advanced further than they have. Make your case for them based on what you’ve seen – if you can. You allege discrimination. Names please – if you have any. “Everyone knows black people are discriminated against, so dancers are too” is not an answer. No one disputes that they have been, but you allege that that are now. Perhaps so. Someone somewhere, no doubt, and that’s a terrible shame. But you imply widespread and systematic racism. Please demonstrate it based on personal knowledge.

    I'm not alleging anything. I'm asking a question. You're the one who's being defensive. I was asking because I honestly wanted to know if there were any other black women in senior positions.

  6. Are there any other black women in predominently white companies who have advanced past the corp de ballet?

    I know that Tanya Howard at National Ballet of Canada is a soloist, but I'm not sure she identifies as black. Also, all the relatively well-known female, black, classical dancers seem to dance for Dance Theater of Harlem.

    As I've said many, many, MANY times, it's not that black folks who like concert dance are just madly in love with Misty to the exclusion of any other black female dancers, it's just that she is the ONLY one with any visibility. And even her visibility wouldn't exist if she didn't market herself so relentlessly.

    Ballet has a PR problem if the only way they get attention from the mainstream press is when an AD at a major company gets acid thrown in his face or a black woman dancer continually points out that not a single black woman has ever been a principal dancer at one the most famous companies.

    It makes ballet sound like this weird little cult.

  7. Since A Raisin in The Sun debuted on Broadway in 1959, the relevance of the line you quoted from the play in 2014 America, where a black president is serving his second term, is certainly debatable, but that's a topic too far afield from ballet.

    I think the election and reelection Of President Obama has revealed both advancements in race relations AND the existence of stubbornly outdated racial attitudes. The fact that the president's very citizenship has been and continues to be questioned, shows that some people are simply unwilling to accept him as the legitimate Leader of the Free World.

    Such attitudes have an effect on the ballet world because no art form, not even ballet exists in a vacuum.

  8. I really wish there were more high profile female African American ballet dancers. I appreciate that Misty is turning many black girls on to ballet but I want to hear from other black women. I also want to hear from them as they speak about the art and not about being a black woman in that art. Trouble is, there are so few and none have senior positions at major companies. So who cares?

  9. I don't think that the criticism of Misty is based on race. If Stella Abrera, Sarah Lane or Isabella Boylton posted a topless photo while at the same time portraying themselves as role models for little kids and visiting youth centers people would have the exact same concerns.

    There has been plenty of criticism of Copeland not just about this photo issue, but also along more race specific lines. I brought up racism here specifically in response to KFW's cries of woe is me, people are trying to paint me as racist and sexist.

    Also it may be picking nits, but let us be accurate. The photo is risque, you can see nipple, but it is not a topless photo:


    I guess I have become desensitized to things that many people find offensive or just tacky. Living in a world with Miley Cyrus, Nikki Minaj and Kim Kardashian can do that to ya.

    I think the photo is beautiful and sexy in a tasteful way.


  10. The photo of Ferri is more tasteful and less obvious than Copeland's photo. Copeland previoulsy had a photo where she was completely topless, but then removed it. I think you have mischaracterized what YID and kfw are saying. Is it necessary for a woman to send out topless photos of herself in order to prove that she is not ashamed of her body? I don't think so. That's not empowerment of women. It's the same sort of objectification of women that has been going on for a long, long time. Misty is sending out a message that in order to get ahead you should use your sexuality to advance and get attention. It's the absolute wrong message to be sending out to young girls. Empowerment comes from merit and strength, not objectification and willingness to display your boobs to the world.

    I co-sign your post re the Beyonce of ABT. There have been more, eh hem, prurient photo spreads of dancers. For example, I remember Guillem's full nude split pose in French Vogue when she was in her prime, and the discussion that prompted at the time. I think that the culture as a whole is becoming desensitized, where nothing shocks anymore. As far as Misty's artistry is concerned, no amount of skin exposure can back that up. Misty isn't another Stephanie Dabney or Virginia Johnson, two pioneering ballerinas who were indeed role models for their race.

    "Role models for their race." Yikes. That sounds pretty retro.

    I don't think there can be such a thing as a one-size-fits-all role model for an entire race. Is Tiler Peck a role model for all white classical dancers?

    Misty gets most of the attention because she pursues it. HARD. But there's room to notice other black female classical dancers. And the importance of modesty in a role model, is quite subjective.

  11. Misty has been appearing at dance festivals for years. This is nothing new. And I dare say that she has white fans who want to see her not because she's some unicorn, but because they like her dancing.

    Also, most black people are middle or working class. Not everyone lives in the ghetto and not everyone depends on public transportation.

  12. Tapfan wrote

    Where was the outrage about the attention paid to these artists?
    Well it wasn’t coming from me, because I stopped listening to contemporary pop years before their time. wink1.gif Also, where’s the “outrage” about Misty Copeland? OK, to be fair, I’ve seen it on another site. But not here.
    But some black critics pointed out the fact that they were paying so much attention to these too artists because they wanted to prove that they actually cared about black musicians while, they proceeded to ignore 99 percent of them.
    Prove? Maybe they just didn’t like that much black pop of that era. Is that racist? Did black critics like second and third tier white stars? I have a white friend who was so upset when Michael Jackson died that he couldn’t go to work the next day, but give me Otis Redding or Miles or Monk or Muddy instead. Or Eric Owens. Appreciating diversity doesn’t mean loving everything equally. No one does that, or can – or should have to. Diversity entails accepting diversity of taste too. I think that’s the ideal.

    I don't think they were saying these white critics were racist. I think they were implying something far less sinister. They were implying that they were artistically and sociologically myopic.

    Black critics were annoyed that white critics could find time to cover the most obscure and marginally talented or relevant white male bands if those bands had an indie cache, but they couldn't be bothered with anyone else.

    Some black critics felt that excessive praise of Prince and MJ was being used to mask that fact that some of those guys had a very narrow appreciation of pop music and couldn't be bothered to notice anyone else.

    Being a pop music critic that only cares about certain types of pop music, is like being a movie critic who hates certain types of movies. How can they be expected to judge fairly?

  13. I've been reading all comments with interest. I believe that frank, well intentioned discussions about race happen too infrequently in our country, and so think it is a good conversation to be having.
    Copeland has been offered/created mass marketing opportunities, and has taken full advantage. I say good for her. Why not raise the profile of ballet and attract a more diverse audience? I will be interested to see if DTH ticket sales benefit, or if Copeland herself is the sole beneficiary.
    Personally, I don't care for Copeland's dancing. What disturbs me, is that when I mention this to some ballet fans that I know, a few insist that what I'm really saying is that I don't like the "black" body type in ballet. When I say I don't care for Hee Seo (which I don't) people accept that there are things about her performance quality and technique that I find lacking, and it has nothing to do with the fact she is Korean. Clearly there is a lot of racism in this country, but that doesn't mean that racism is behind every reaction to an individual of color.

    I can appreciate that someone can dislike Misty's dancing and it have nothing to do with her figure or race.

    The problem is that for various reasons, there aren't more female, black classical dancers who are well known. Miss Copeland has become the symbol for all black women in classical dance. So she gets all the attention even if there are other black women who may be more deserving of the high profile Misty enjoys.

    While I am thrilled to see Misty bring new audiences to classical ballet, I want to see and hear from other black women. Right now in her interviews, Misty is just repeating the same things over and over.

    The mainstream media has a bad habit of concentrating too much on just those black celebrities with the most buzz, while ignoring others who are worthy of notice.

    When Michael Jackson's Thriller and Prince's Purple Rain were topping the record charts, white popular music critics couldn't get enough of either guy.

    But some black critics pointed out the fact that they were paying so much attention to these two artists because they wanted to prove that they actually cared about black musicians while, they proceeded to ignore 99 percent of them.

    The same thing was said by black entertainment writers when some white folks went out of their way to gush about Halle Berry after her Oscar win. You'd think they'd never seen a beautiful black woman before.

    My point is that really appreciating diversity means knowing there's always more than one.

    And when I say there's always more than one when referring to ballet, I DON'T mean only retired black dancers like Alicia Graff, Lauren Anderson and Virginia Johnson. There are black women dancing today that are great and ignored.

  14. Although he is very talented, I think Eminem got more attention because he was a white rapper in a field dominated by black males. Same thing with the Beastie Boys.

    Where was the outrage about the attention paid to these artists? The fact that they were white undoubtedly added to their appeal and the ability of white audiences to identify with their music.

  15. I'm not a fan of City Ballet or its AD, but I commend SJP for trying to make the dancers seem less elitist. (Yes, that's important to some of us.)

    Also, I noticed that both this series and the one on SAB have gone out of their way to show racial diversity, particularly when it comes to FEMALE dancers of color.

    That is refreshing. (I don't believe they're indifferent to criticism about their lack of diversity). It was particularly nice to briefly see Olivia Boisson, the only black female in City Ballet AND Jasmine Perry who was a student at SAB and is now with Los Angeles Ballet.

    City Ballet has frequently looked like the Mariinsky of 60 years ago.

  16. Abatt, I take it you think doing so is unfair.

    I remember an article in which Gorak said his goal is to make it to principal. Everyone knows that is the ultimate goal. What's unique about Misty is that she links her goals to her assertions regarding race.

    Doing so is unethical only if she implies that she does not make it to principal just because she's black. Otherwise, aspiring to be the first black woman to advance to a position in a profession which was until fairly recently largely closed to women of African descent, isn't seen as a bad aspiration by all people.

    Some black women would embrace such a distinction, other's wouldn't. Depends on the person.

    I still don't see why Misty ticks off so many people. They behave as if she's attacked them personally. I don't see all this outrage coming the ballet establishment. They seem to be pretty darned good at ignoring her.

    Most seem concerned with the same old things, the latest Russian sensation and Balanchine worship.

  17. If what Copeland's been doing is indeed campaigning for a promotion, it hasn't worked so far. She's been saying she wanted to be a principal since at least 2010.

    If McKenzie has felt unfairly pressured by what some view as impolitic campaigning for principal by a dancer whom some find undeserving, he's held up well. Very, very well.

  18. I think it's always good to analyze what factors lead to certain dancers being cast in certain roles. Isn't this board about examining details and critical thinking? Exchanging ideas?

    I think Lane was cast early on as the lead in SB because of her strong technique, which is also why she was cast in Theme & Variations. She can handle technically demanding choreography, and so she has, in the past, received parts which are technically challenging.

    Isn't that circular logic? Why not give her a chance. They've all been given chances.

  19. I think it's always good to analyze what factors lead to certain dancers being cast in certain roles. Isn't this board about examining details and critical thinking? Exchanging ideas?

    I think Lane was cast early on as the lead in SB because of her strong technique, which is also why she was cast in Theme & Variations. She can handle technically demanding choreography, and so she has, in the past, received parts which are technically challenging.

    I've also read criticisms of her that say her dancing is dull. Clearly Lane's fans disagree. Yet some folks behave as if their opinions are facts.

    I don't believe that most people who follow ballet feel that the difference in skill among the female soloists at ABT is so stark that Copeland landing leads amounts to some form of robbery. To me, such accusations verge on the hysterical.

    It's not like Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane are Judi Dench and Maggie Smith to Misty's Meagan Fox. The difference in ability among the three is not that vast.

  • Create New...