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On Pointe

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Everything posted by On Pointe

  1. Kudos to Amanda Morgan for the work she's doing. But she, and Nicholas Rose, are taking big risks. Speaking out can put a big target on your back. I'm sure that they would prefer to "just dance". Black people in largely white organizations are often judged as "disloyal", not sufficiently grateful for being hired if they point out inequities in the workplace. Company heads don't like being chastised for their shortcomings by their employees, especially when they are black.
  2. Maybe I've become cynical and emotionally exhausted by the events of the past months, but I can't believe that Theresa Ruth Howard's detailed and passionate call to action will actually make much difference in the ballet world or any other arts organizations. It's too much work, and the upside isn't going to be sufficiently rewarding (at first). There was an illuminating article in the New York Times about similar problems in the opera world: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/16/arts/music/opera-race-representation.html I was particularly struck by this: Ms. Slack’s demand, she said in the video, amounted to no more than “humanity”: “I’m not asking for your seat. I’m asking that you move over so I can sit in mine, and you be OK with that.” Arts organizations are reflective of the world at large. Ballet and opera companies are not going to become more progressive than society in general.
  3. Police violence against black people is a problem in Toronto just as in other North American cities. Here's an article about the horrific case of a black woman thrown or driven to her death by the police from a twenty-four story building in Toronto a few months ago: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/regis-korchinski-paquet-toronto-1.5596811 From the article: "A CBC News investigation found black people made up 36.5 per cent of fatalities involving Toronto police, despite accounting for just 8.3 per cent of the city's population, in the period from 2000-17."
  4. Sorry if I misunderstood your point. I really don't understand why you bring up the treatment of indigenous Canadians in this discussion. Apparently you don't believe that Canada is as racist toward black people as the US. I do. But what we think has no bearing on Mr. Rose's lived experience. You seem to be discounting it when you say "he may not understand that the reality of his bosses is different", . And you suggest that his discomfort is his fault for daring to dance with a big classical company, with white male choreographers, in the first place. Please correct me if I am wrong, but that's the message I got.
  5. You seem to be arguing that Canada can't be as racist toward black people because indigenous Canadians appear to catch even more hell. But it's possible and quite evident that societies can harbor more than one prejudice at a time. Canada, like the US, Mexico and the Latin American countries, is racist against indigenous people and black people. (Black Mexicans weren't even recognized in the Mexican census until this year.) Both groups have to deal with racism, but it's expressed in different ways, in different circumstances. It is not logical to bring up police shootings of indigenous Canadians in a discussion of Nicholas Rose's situation, just as it makes no sense to bring up the prejudice faced by Native Americans in NYC in a discussion of racial politics regarding black dancers at NYCB (although they don't seem to be complaining). Canadians have been paying lip service, and little else, to "First Nations People" for years. There is no evidence that they are more sensitized to indigenous concerns than black concerns. It's performative, not actual. And it's got nothing to do with Mr. Rose.
  6. That is what you seem to be implying, that Rose should chill because First Nations people are being shot. The common denominator is racism, but the situations are not analagous.
  7. Racism manifests in many ways. As far as I know, the police were not shooting at Nicholas Rose. The subject is Rose and the NB of C.
  8. i am well aware that many indigenous Canadians live in the big cities. There are hundreds of thousands of Native Americans living in the NYC area, and they have their challenges, but I doubt that the management of the NYCB is traumatized by their plight. The subject was Nicholas Rose, a black man, and the National Ballet of Canada. Citing the struggles of indigenous Canadians is "whataboutery", a diversion.
  9. How can you quantify racism statistically? Racism is experienced at the individual level. Your post implies that Nicholas Rose's concerns are invalid because indigenous Canadians living a thousand miles west of Toronto have it worse.
  10. Alexandra Waterbury and her supporters have tried to "cancel" NYCB in particular and ballet overall, and have managed to generate high profile negative discussion in the NY Times, the Washington Post and even Law and Order SVU. If the Corona virus hadn't shut down Broadway and ballet, they might still be demonstrating in the street. (Although it's likely that her mostly teenage supporters would have moved on by now.) Ballet has a PR deficiency. Right now companies are just preaching to the choir instead of reaching out to the public.
  11. Latinos can be any race and many of them in ballet are white or white passing. But they face discrimination as an ethnicity or presumed culture. That's why Ramon Estevez and his son Carlos, who are of partial European Spanish descent and not Latino at all, became Martin and Charlie Sheen. However overall, they face fewer barriers than black performers. It rarely happens now, but lightskinned black Americans in theatre have been known to take on a fake Latino identity to increase their casting opportunities. Conversely, black Latinos like Zoe Saldana are rarely if ever cast in Latino roles. On stage and screen, colorism is more powerful than racism.
  12. Having spent a fair amount of time in Canada, which I love, I can assure you that it is just as racist toward black people as the US.
  13. I haven't seen either one dance, but based on their photos, Nicholas Rose and Alexander Skinner both have wonderful instruments for ballet, beautifully proportioned bodies, long lines, articulate feet. But Skinner looks very young and non-threatening, and he's lightskinned, whereas Rose is tall, muscular and darkskinned, for some white people, the very embodiment of the "scary black man". Rose has to navigate through life very differently than Skinner, because he's treated differently by the greater society, which includes the National Ballet of Canada. Constant micro-aggressions can take their toll and can be more damaging than an overt racist act. It is frustrating and tiring trying to convey this to those who aren't subjected to it. You get accused of complaining about "nothing" and being a troublemaker or attention-seeker. And you get left out of things, like being featured in social media. I hope that well-meaning white people understand that these are perilous times for black people. We are suffering from the trauma of seeing black people lynched and murdered by the police, shown over and over again on cable news. I was up much of the night unable to sleep because of the murder of Elijah McClain, a young black man walking home, only 5'6" tall, 140 pounds, who died of a heart attack after being thrown to the ground and choked by three police officers because he "looked suspicious". He was a delicate soul who liked to play the violin for animals in shelters. You can hear the encounter online if you missed it on cable, but only if you want your heart broken.
  14. Lol - your "racial radar" needs a tune up. Jordana Daumec doesn't look remotely white to me.
  15. Dancers "get in where they fit in", and there are Americans dancing in ballet companies all over the world. It's logical for dancers to go where they want to dance the repertoire and can get paid well. It's a bit of a leap to go from wanting to see black American dancers to have a chance to "nativism". But it's especially ironic given that black Brazilians come to the US because they have almost no chance of dancing in a ballet company at home.
  16. Possibly you're over-thinking this. I don't think anyone expects the makeup of ballet companies to precisely reflect the demographics of their home cities or even the nation as a whole. There are a lot of highly-accomplished Asian dancers in American companies and by American demographics they are definitely over-represented. Whether it is Hispanic dancers or Asian dancers, taking note of their numbers is an observation, not a criticism. But if you include Brazilians as "Hispanic" (some people don't) they are over-represented at Joffrey Ballet Chicago. If you add in the Asian and two Black dancers, it is actually a majority minority company. And that's fine.
  17. Purely by the numbers. In some companies, dancers from China are over-represented. Nobody's eyebrows are raised by the presence of South Americans. The subject is the lack of black Americans. All of this is very true. Except for the last sentence. Black dancers are not rare and companies do not have to reach very far to find them. It's difficult to convey tone over the internet, but I sense a hostility to even the idea of hiring black Americans. As I've said before, it's not a zero-sum game.
  18. I don't think anyone is expecting ballet companies to "fill their ranks" with black dancers. Although that may be an unconscious fear. Who could have imagined even ten years ago that young black women would completely dominate American tennis? Tennis requires years of training that is even more expensive than ballet training (unless your father is Richard Williams, who taught his daughters Venus and Serena using tennis manuals and videotapes). There is no guarantee of success and careers can be short in both fields. (The financial rewards of bigtime tennis compared to ballet is where the comparison diverges!) The point is that you don't have to go out into urban neighborhoods searching for potential black ballet students. There are plenty of motivated, professionally-trained black American dancers who have already made their way into the major schools. If a company can hire black dancers from thousands of miles away like Brazil and South Africa, they can hire home-grown dancers. You don't have to fill the ranks. In most companies, two or three will do. NYCB has far more than that, yet when the stage is full, you hardly notice the race of the dancers, only the quality of the movement.
  19. You can't compare the reception that Latino dancers receive in ballet with the experience of black dancers. In the formative years of ABT and NYCB, in the 1940s and 1950s, unlike black Americans, Latinos were not legally subject to Jim Crow laws. They could travel about the country without complication. (Although they certainly dealt with prejudice, especially in the southwest.). Ricardo Montalban, Cesar Romero and Fernando Lamas were Hollywood heartthrobs. Alicia Alonso was a Broadway and ballet star. Nicholas Magallanes, Fernando Reyes and Francisco Monción were cast in leading roles opposite white ballerinas. Of course most of them were white or white passing, although Monción, born in the Dominican Republic, obviously had black ancestry. If his name had been Frank Jones his prospects would have been significantly more limited. The point is that, for many reasons, ballet companies have always been more welcoming to Latinos than black dancers. It's interesting that black Brazilian dancers seem to be more employable than black Americans. Maybe because Americans view them as "exotic".
  20. Latino and Spanish dancers are well represented in American ballet, possibly over-represented in some companies. When Ballet Theatre (precursor to ABT) was founded, it was even planned to have a Latin American wing. Lincoln Kirstein had intended for Ballet Society, later NYCB, to have equal numbers of black and white dancers, but that idea fell by the wayside.
  21. That's pretty telling - what did their social media look like on June 18th?
  22. Maybe I'm a pessimist, or a realist, but I think the pool of potential audience members who are clamoring for more black ballet dancers is quite small. That doesn't mean black dancers should have their opportunities curtailed. I just don't think most people see it as a problem to be solved, unlike a number of us who comment here. Truth is, more often than not, black dancers hired are the skin color a friend of mine dubbed "blendo beige". White audiences scarcely notice them anyway. Kudos to NYCB for having not only the largest number of black dancers in its history (all American as far as I can tell), but for hiring people who actually look black on stage, and the world didn't end. Some companies may be over-thinking the issue. And some artistic directors and board members may just not want black dancers in their companies.
  23. I first became aware of the MacKay brothers when I caught a late night story on CNN about their attempt to return home to see their gravely ill father. Julian is a beautiful dancer (I believe his brother is more interested in photography now), but given his youth and lack of experience with a contemporary repertoire, it might have been a better idea to bring him in at the soloist level. He seems totally invested in the Russian approach to ballet and enamored with their culture. Having spent his formative years abroad, living and working at "home" is going to take a major attitude adjustment. In my opinion, that photo does him and SFB no favors. The "heroin chic" look is so 20th century, and if I hadn't seen Julian MacKay in interviews, I would have zero interest in seeing the person depicted dance.
  24. Why is it so hard? You tell me. The link for the people roster didn't work for me, so I have no idea how many visible minorities work in administration at PNB. But looking at the company photo on their website, finding the black and/or brown dancers is like playing Where's Waldo. While you don't have to have a ballet background to do many administrative jobs in a ballet company, you do have to have a fairly high ballet profile to become the artistic director of a ballet company. Ballet companies tend to prefer that company teachers have a significant relationship with the company they're teaching, like former soloists and principals, and that's completely legit. But if the company doesn't hire black dancers in the first place, those individuals are going to be in short supply. By all means ballet companies should make an effort to diversify their administrative staffs. But ballet is a visual art. If year after year, there are no visibly black dancers on stage, the logical conclusion is that black dancers are not welcome.
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