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Kate Lennard

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    Avid balletgoer for more than 50 years
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    United Kingdom
  1. Marga, I agree 100% with Mashinka. The Watson is utterly atrocious and indeed libellous, just as well (as I'm sure he knew) the maligned parties were all dead and unable to pursue lawsuits. Watson's prurient judgements, wrong facts and flights of fancy were embellishing a life already so remarkable they didn't need his somewhat strange and purple additions. The Solway suffers as Kavanagh's Ashton biography by being somewhat removed from the dance world, she didn't quite understand the difference between technique and artistry so constantly contradicted herself when she wrote about Nureyev's stature as the "greatest dancer in the world", but she did address the erroneous belief that Nureyev and his father hated each other throughout their lives and poured scorn on Watson's theory that Fonteyn was pregnant by Nureyev, she'd been sterilsed. Also Watson's rather strange ramblings about Nureyev's involvement with KGB organised art crime and State assassination, came so out of left field and was so unrelated to anything else within the "biography" one wondered what Boy's Own Story album circa 1950 he'd been reading before writing that chapter. Kavanagh is a very thorough scholarly approach to writing though Beryl Grey after reading her Ashton biography said she didn't recognise Kavanagh's Ashton at all, though this recalls the Anais Nin quote "we don't see things as they are we see things as we are". Probably the most empathetic approach to dance biography of late was Daneman's Fonteyn (despite the very flowery style and approach) because Daneman was a dancer and specatator of all the cheif protagonists at their height. I'd be very interested to read Kavanagh's as she at least will have unrestricted access to interviewees and material and is a very intelligent and engaging writer. But please, whatever you do, through out the Watson. It's dreadful.
  2. VC There are several ballerinas and dancers of note buried there, it could have been Tcherina, Emma Livry or Olga Prebrajenska. Also the famous can can dancer La Goulue is buried there, as well as Gaetan and Auguste Vestris.
  3. Artspatron I think you have a few facts skew-wiffed. Kirkland joined NYCB at 15, Farrell at 16 also it wasn't until she was 18 that she replaced Adams in Movements for piano and Orchestra, which indeed launched her career as Balanchine's muse. However, it is somewhat a different kettle of fish from being launched as a genius' muse within a one-act tailored ballet to a three act work. (I have to say that this new Martins' assault in the guise of R&J on NYCB's illustrious heritage sets one's teeth on edge - I know I haven't seen it etc but mea culpa, I've suffered enough Martins one-acts to run in the opposite direction at the thought of this.) Also Artspatron, recalling Toumanova, Baronova and Riabouchinska in the context of this is somewhat specious. The baby ballerinas were a PR stunt who also happened to be brilliant ballerinas. Don't forget the Ballets Russes were launching an unknown artform on a world more or less without ballet outside of the Soviet Union and Denmark, following the death of Diaghilev and the original Russes. It was a huge venture and needed every "hook" it could get. But it was a different time and a different set of circumstances to suggest that this limited season of R&J as reimagined by Martins is comparable to the Russes venture is somewhat hyperbolic.
  4. I must say I have long read the concerns over Part's technique on these boards with at first disbelief and then worry, the recurrent themes of her inability to execute even the most basic of soloist level enchainement is very very much at odds with the young Part I saw dance Odette/Odile with the Kirov in London back in the summer of 2000. Then she was touted as the rising young star debuting in the dual role, much was made of her lushness of movement her dramatic weight, her beauty and of course her technique. In dramatic weight I was disappointed (at that time, but I saw very much the embryonic stirrings of a greatly passionate ballerina) however as the newest "rookie" of the Kirov ballerina "basketball" team, tall, athletic, Amazonian - she did not disappoint. If anything she tended to technical overkill, but I was in no doubt on leaving the ROH that here was a ballerina with a first class arsenal of technical salvos. Not that I doubt the opionions and judgement of the august posters here on Part's technical shortcomings at all, but I do ask you all, what went wrong? Seven years ago I would have queued overnight to see this ballerina's Aurora, now I find myself worried for a ballerina I no longer recognise or know from that incredible debut as Odette/Odile.
  5. Found this concerning the Clarke affair. I think it pretty much hits the nail on the head regarding the stupidity of the whole situation. http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/brussels010507.htm
  6. OF I feel that this is going around and round and coming back to the same place where it started. Yes, it is deeply unfortunate that anyone would be taken in by the propaganda of the BNP. And deeply unfortunate that the practitioner of an art form with a perceived agenda of tolerance should also be a member of the aforesaid party. But it's her choice, her political stance and if a journalist on the look out for an easy target for sensationalism hadn't gone after her - it would have remained private, as Clarke herself states she wishes it had. And this is the thing I do at least respect her for, she came out and stood by her views, she was not honourbound to do so despite the article, nor was she expected to - but she did. One can levy the same criticism at Ulanova, Fonteyn, Dudinskaya, Sergeyev and a host of others could not their private morals and politics been more palatable? Certainly it would have been more fitting to our liberal mindedness, our collective sense of decency - but at the end of the day it's none of our business. I'm not supporting the BNP agenda in any way shape or form - it's hateful, and it's worrying yes, this new cosier, more civically minded persona the BNP is adopting - no one argues that. And fight this, certainly if one is moved to do so in the arena of politics, but calling for the a rather misguided, silly and ignorant woman to lose her means of livlihood isn't the way forward. Nor should Clarke be expected to bear the weight of a party's sins, of which she knows next to nothing.
  7. Papeetpatrick I think you're getting yourself a little bit worked up over a very naive, stupid woman and what will prove to be a storm in a teacup. Yes, the BNP is at its core founded on neo Nazism, fascism evil ideals. But I do not believe Clarke to be evil. Misguided, none too bright sure - but evil? The BNP is gaining a frightening foothold in the British cultural and political landscape precisely because they seem to directly address issues which concern left-wing voters as well as dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives (Republicans). The Daily Mail article was carried out after she'd been "outed" by the Guardian and I really do advise you to read the Guardian article as without that there would be no media debate. And Clarke was singled out precisely because the arena of ballet and the Cultural perception of the ballerina as a fey, inoffensive political non-entity was too good an opportunity to miss for a journalist seeking extra gravitas or sensation for a rather uninspired article. Yes, her wages are partly paid for by tax pounds, as are those of MPs, right wing policemen, civil servants should we ask that all workers in all sectors drawing wages from public tax funds and whose political stance we find repugnant be made unemployed? There'll be more jobs created than there are people to fill them. The problem here is that ballerinas are not expected to hold political opinions, stances that are non-liberal. Fonteyn was a thoroughbred Conservative, who funded fascist South American coups, was best friends with Pinochet, Noriega, the Marcoses and who danced in South Africa at the height of Apartheid, a place no other ballerina would touch with a barge pole and who was totally unapolgetic in her actions. Nureyev infected countless homosexual partners with HIV despite knowing he was HIV+ and knowing many of his partners did not have access to any form of medical help - there are seven definite cases of HIV infection in Ufa linked directly to Nureyev's visit there in the late 80s. Ulanova was a fervent supporter of the Communist regime with its quashing of civil rights, liberties, artistic freedom, its eradicating of counter Communist dissidents, imprisonments, concentration and labour camps. I'm not bringing this up to denigrate these artists, but to enjoy their art one has to divide the artist from their personal life - if one can. That's up to the individual. But Clarke has done nothing wrong, absolutely nothing. The Daily Mail article at least showed she had the courage to support her convictions, something Fonteyn never did in print - I think it's just terribly sad the silly woman can't see past the fools' gold of the BNP bumpf and truly analyse the the party. But as she said much of the literature went over her head. The stance of cutting her off from her life because of her political views is fascistic, right-wing and intolerant. We will not tolerate her because she doesn't think as we do.
  8. I'm sorry, may I call a halt to the direction this topic is heading, as it beginning to degenerate into silliness. Please, be assured I find the BNP repugnant and I feel that Ms. Clarke is rather naive and silly but not evil as papeetpatrick is suggesting. Firstly, the Guardian story was little better than gutter tabloid journalism, mitigated or rather elevated by the broadsheet "quality" nature of the paper. An undercover journalist posed as a member of a right-wing political party and what did he find? Right wing politicals. Hold the front page? What caused the furore is the upper class/professionals he found within the organisation - again Right wing upper classes, I've yet to become hooked but then aha amongst their midst a ballerina! This is better than homosexual, kickboxing, defecting or blind ballerinas all rolled into one - and a media frenzy is born, sort of. The paper "quoted" Clarke out of context or rather in context of the party - she said "immigration is getting out of hand" a sentiment held by many UK residents, many of whom belong to left wing political parties - and the sad truth is yes, in Britain we are facing a crisis in regards to our lax immigration policies, ballettalk is not a forum for political debate, so I shall leave it there, but Clarke, now a poster girl for the BNP is the repository of fascism, Nazism et al or rather is painted as such. Clarke is also grossly misserved by a quote out of context. In an unrelated interview she stated that the pressure of spending so much time within a company means she rarely socialises with her colleagues "it gets a bit much". A sentiment shared by many dancers in companies throughout the world. The Guardian misrepresented this a a fascist statement against immigrants. The truth is that dancers are apolitical and not always intellectually well-rounded due to the hermtically sealed and intensive nature of their profession and training. Gelsey Kirkland wrote that when introduced to Henry Kissinger, not knowing who he was, it had to be explained to her that he was the "Baryshnikov of politics", Ulanova was directly linked to extremist politics of Communisim, Nureyev was known for making grossly anti-semetic statements. And this brings us to Clarke - yes, she should have done her homework, she states she joined after reading the mission statement of the BNP, and it's sad that she has such little understanding of the history of the party or it's leader that she didn't use this awakening political awareness to galvanise herself into greater research about political activism. But, she was duped by a journalist - and it's strange that a board such as this where journalism is taken with more than a pinch of salt most of the time, is now taking a journalist's agenda as being the word of law. Yes, I think she's greatly confused, but is she a Nazi? No, is she a fascist? No. I have no doubt she would lay down her life for her daughter and partner and it's sad that she didn't recognise the double think needed to make the jump from partner of an immigrant, to BNP member. For what it's worth the BNP article reports of a man refused BNP membership on the grounds of being married to a Phillipino immigrant. The BNP were obviously all too ready to relax the criteria for Clarke - and as such one could argue that she's being used by them more than she realises. She had no desire to become a BNP spokesperson and her interview with the Daily Mail was restrained - all I feel is a bit of sorrow that someone can be so misguided. However, she has every right to belong to her party of choice. And she has every right to earn her living and it's repugnant that we would ask that she be deprived of her living and passion because of her political bent. I won't be booking tickets to see her, but I support 100% her right to dance. Papeetpatrick, FYI Clarke is a virtuoso performer, perhaps in a great company she would have stayed at First soloist/soloist level, but she can deliver the goods. I only hope that with her growing political awareness will lead her to research the history and implications of her choice of party and realise there are alternatives.
  9. All allegations are specious without evidence, and requests for evidence have produced one example from the 1950's. KFW What exactly do you mean by this? There's a huge amount of evidence anecdotal and documented about the difficulites faced by black dancers within traditional ballet companies. The KKK/Wilkinson story, offered up as an amusing tidbit is not amusing when you consider what could have happened. The Ballets Russes, perhaps inadvisidely took the gamble of trying to introduce Wilksinson to the deep South. What saved her was her relatively pale complexion rendered white by pancake make-up and white lights. They intended to drag her off the stage and...? God knows. And this marked the beginning of her end. Andrea Long and Aesha Ash talk feelingly and with much pain of their struggle to achieve promotion with NYCB, Ash, most powerfully being told not to stick around if she wanted to make soloist, it wasn't going to happen. Yes, the evidence is scant, because the number of black dancers who have risen to any kind of position of worth or note within a classical or neo classical ballet company can, as a previous poster so rightly said, be counted on two hands. In that case, there is no basis for the charge that ballet is, consciously or otherwise, racist. If we're talking about trying to reach out and introduce more people to this great art form, that's another subject. Here, you very much misread what I was trying to say. Does ballet have a duty to operate an equal opportunities policy extending to all aspects of the hiring of corps etc? Of course not. Does ballet have a multi cultural imperative of presentation or outreach? No. Should it be forced into this? No, of course not. However, when a criticism is raised against the ballet world or rather the established classical or neo classical tradition within Europe and the US, of racism based on the empirical (and let's remember this was the motivation for the whole topic) it can hardly defend itself with any integrity or rather with any answer that will be satisfying to the first time viewer or ballet novice.
  10. 'Colored dancers' is not far removed from 'colored people.' I don't find this offensive personally, and do agree, Herman, that non-U.S. people probably are bewildered by these distinctions. I think that 'colored people' is probably associated more with Deep South 'colored only' signs in the hard-segregation days, separate water fountains so marked, etc. People from elsewhere may also not care for 'people of colour.' (I don't particularly). However, anytime you hear local programs on PBS, such as 'Black Journal' (I'm not sure that continues) or shows about the Dominican or Puerto Rican communities of a city, you will hear the black and/or Puerto Rican hosts and guests always use the term 'people of colour.' You should note this, Kate, because if is offensive in the U.K., it is nevertheless the term that black leaders use here. Hard leftists always use it, too, although I am not concerned with pleasing either the hard left or the hard right myself. This is a minor point perhaps to some of us, but not to everyone. Patrick I've stated this on several occasions. There is a difference between the term "people of colour" and the term "coloured person" or any use of coloured as a descriptive adjective for a black man, woman or child. And here is another issue coloured is used predominantly to describe black skin. It's not merely in the US where it is offensive, it's offensive in English speaking nations. The response is always the same: "if a black man is "coloured" is a white man "colourless"? I'm sorry if this seems splitting hairs, but it is an important semantic issue. One which one must be black to feel the true implication of in the life that is lived. I am well aware the term "people of colour" is reclaimed through civil rights. And what is the issue here related to this topic, is the face of ballet to "people of colour". It's not a face they recognise. I realise too this is an extremely sensitive topic, but I feel that to do it justice one must be sensitive to the semantic implications of discussing ethnicity in this forum and related to ballet. KL
  11. Sorry to split hairs Herman, But this is the line I was drawing attention to, I have absolutely no doubt that it was meant in no way to be a racist slur and that's not what I'm saying at all. The unacceptability of the adjective colour has its roots in the US. But it is unacceptable and causes offence amongst the black community. The occasional hiring of black dancers on ability alone is what it's all about, no one would argue, however how far those black dancers progress is the issue. And the ratio of black dancers to white is the issue. Also relatively darker is a somewhat of a cop out. The day that a corps is composed of an eclectic mix of ethnic backgrounds, and this must be based on dance ability and nothing else, is the day that allegations of racisim, founded, unfounded, unsubstantiated etc will be utterly specious. Bart, it's not an unsubstantiated claim. All I am saying is, that any environment where there are no, or at best one or two black people the overriding impression one will come away with is not of inclusivity. I am not saying that this is set in stone, or that it's the artisitc policy, ethos of the company BUT one is aware of the relevance of any art or subject to oneself, it's subjective. And a person notes this. When travelling around one's own city one is aware if one is in an area one is not used to. I recently went to a friend's birthday in Catford, a predominantly black area of London, and there I was aware in a way I rarely am of being white. It was an issue. A ballet audience/performance is white. My husband was entirely conscious of this, as was Def Jef and regardless of whatever agenda we bring to this topic, history, cultural referencing employment policies the fundamental issue is that a black man/woman/child visiting the ballet for the first time will see little or nothing relevant to them in terms of their ethnicity. Should they? No. Will this be an issue to them? It's of course up to the individual. Should this be an issue to us? Well, how many black people are currently following this topic? How many is it even of interest to? No one is saying that ballet is consciously racist. That's not the topic. But, what is the topic is does this matter? Should it matter? And Bart it's not a question of substantiation. It's a question of responding to the physical evidence and fact before one. A topic started by Def Jef on the basis of the empirical on his first viewing of ballet. That's the issue this thread is really about. Or so I believe. And I feel it's a vitally important one as seeing ballet through my husband's eyes, I remember seeing it a new and a fresh for the first time and many of the questions I had to ask myself were troubling ones. Not easy ones.
  12. Sorry Hans, It was Herman who wrote that, I apologise. KL
  13. Mel, This is a somewhat sanitised version of events. Wilkinson never reached the status of principal, one which both she and most importantly her colleagues in the Ballets Russes felt should have been hers by right by dint of talent alone. Zide speaks feelingly and angrily even of this fact. Wilkinson stopped dancing, and joined a convent, so traumatic were her experiences of battling the ingrained race and class barriers. Barriers she never wanted consciously to fight against, she wanted to be a dancer. And this is the crux of this argument and thread, even though ballet may not actively be racist or promote a racist agenda, by the mere fact of the ethnic make up of all major ballet companies in the US and Europe. True Wilkinson did return to dance, in the more liberal Netherlands, where she rose to soloist and there it stopped. Those many happy years were not "happy" in the sense of a fair and just conclusion, they were contentment in the form of compromise. "This is what it is, and sadly all it will be, so at least settle for this." As other posters have rightly said the number of black dancers dancing with companies who've made any kind of impact, regardless of talent is tiny. Tidwell is another example. It's not fair to say dancers such as Mitchell and Acosta have smashed race barriers within ballet. If this were the truth the ethnic make up of ballet companies would be far more eclectic than it is. The success of these dancers would have led to reform and restructuring - the only fair thing to say is that these dancers challenged the barriers. Their success is personal, sadly not a universal reflection of reform. I was castigated for semantic jiggery pokery a little earlier, as I took up the gauntlet of a remark "colored dancers". I'm not disputing the term "people of colour" is a reclaimed but to colored as a collective adjective isn't. And I'm sure Hans meant this in the term of "people of colour". At the end of the day this is a debate that one can choose to enter into if one wishes to see a more diverse ethnic mix within ballet or not if one is happy with ballet the way it is. However, the fact is that if one does wish to enter the debate than one has to take on face value the make up of ballet, both company and audience. It appears by its very state of existence to be racist, any organisation, not just ballet with such a huge predominantly white make up both historically and presently is.
  14. I seem to have opened something of a Pandora's box with my husting-style post. I suppose the sad truth is that ballet will always be racially biased. I noticed and I'm sure this was a slip and not intentional that a previous poster described ethnic dancers as dancers of "colour" and this is the crux of race issues. The term colour to describe ethnicity is regressive if blacks, Asians, chinese etc are "coloured" what are caucasians, colourless? The argument trotted out (and not here) by the regressive balletomane that one black face will be out of place in a line up of swans, is a non argument. Rather one must ask the stater of such a dubious truism, will it be out of place to anyone but you? And if so, why is this so if the black swan (no pun intended) has the dancing chops? Acosta, for all his magnificence, is I'm afraid, I very much feel, not a good example of the rise of the black dancer, male or female. He came to prominence within Alonso's company, was selected as part of her gentrification or rather urban salvation ballet programme - and it was in this freethinking milieu that he became a star and was brought to international attention. One wonders were he to have been selected within the criteria of a major international school POB, RB, SAB, Marinsky etc Would he even have made it to audition or had the will to go. And that is part of Acosta's mystique, his rise from crippling slum poverty. And by this I in no way denigrate him or his achievements, but rather we have to discuss the black dancer (and in terms of race and ballet black really is the issue) and their rise and place within the traditional structure of school and major company. The list of black dancers whose careers were blighted by the colour of skin is a sad litany of missed potential, frustrated talent and careers ended far too soon. From the delectable Raven Wilkinson, (who I saw dance years ago as a soloist with Dutch National) to the contemporary careers of Aesha Ash, Andrea Long, Jerry Douglas - the common conclusion to all these fine dancers' blighted careers makes any counter argument sound hollow, I'm afraid. One wonders what is to happen with Eric Underwood, whose career seems to be following the path of Douglas's, only in reverse. I sincerely, sincerely hope this young man does not spend years relagated to the back of the corps, as Douglas did, before calling it quits.
  15. May I say in defence of DefJef. Perhaps yes, his tone was agressive towards omshanti, however I don't blame him in the slightest for becoming frustrated and losing his "cool". His point is an exceptionally valid one and he has been accused here of "white guilt", had his pertinent and very real concerns belittled, mis construed and had his relative ignorance of the ballet world and history used as a weapon against him. The truth is that if we are to address the art as it is lived today, performed today and represented today within society then we have to recognise the fact that the product onstage is woefully underrepresetative of a huge proportion of western society. As is the audience demographic too. And this is a concern for the seasoned balletomane, we've all sat there in the half empty houses, wondering just how the art we love is going to survive, we've all bemoaned the egregious excesses of technique and flexibility which provide the mainstay of companies whose artistic ethos is in decline, but these excesses are necessary to attract audiences. My second husband was black, and before we married I'd had a good thirty plus years of ballet going, and at the start of our relationship I tried to instill my love of ballet into him and I remember his first visit with myself, under duress, to the Royal Opera House. And his verdict - it's all white. There was nothing there which he felt spoke to him, to his ethnicity to his experience either on stage or off. I do worry about this rule of no politicised debate, because I truly feel that certain areas of any art must be discussed on a political level, without which an art cannot survive. It is a part of society, if it has no political agenda, relevance then it has no relevance full stop. I'm sorry that DefJef has laid down his gauntlet or perhaps just not bothered, because his was a sincere, sensitive and intelligent approach to trying to understand an art form he was new to and which he was trying to reconcile to his political and cultural self. This is most unfair to DefJef, it was he who was wronged not vice versa. And this is something the seasoned balletomane has to get into our heads. We have to listen and really listen to new converts to ballet. And listen to their very real concerns. Poor DefJef has had practically every insult heaped upon him and he didn't deserve that. He deserved better, he deserved to have his views taken in as much seriousness and value as recollections of Ulanova, Fonteyn et al Because the Def Jef's are the future without new audiences recollection is all we'll have.
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