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On Pointe

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Everything posted by On Pointe

  1. I remember years ago when a pantyhose maker (I think it was Hanes) hired football star Joe Namath to model their product, which was quite scandalous at the time. They had discovered that some football players wore pantyhose under their uniforms for warmth and support in cold weather games. Now there is almost no distinction between football pants and tights.
  2. Modesty, for one reason. Comfort, warmth, the fee!ing of support are others. Sweaty, hairy bare legs are not all that attractive. Tights allow the costume designer to continue the line of the design. You could paint the dancers' legs but that's messy and makes quick changes impossible. The materials developed in the last few years are versatile in look and practical to care for. Tights on men have become so mainstream that I see guys jogging and even strolling down the street in them.
  3. I'm disappointed that there isn't more of Justin Peck's choreography visible in the trailer. Like the Dear Evan Hansen trailer, it looks like they're trying to underplay the fact that these films are musicals, which is crazy in the case of a show as well-known as West Side Story.
  4. I know that Tony Kushner is a highly-acclaimed playwright, but his contributions, as heard in the trailers, sound clunky and overwrought. Also considering the kerfuffle over skin color in In the Heights, the Sharks all look pretty lightskinned to me. You can barely tell them from the Jets. Fun fact, there was one week when WSS and ITH were shooting only a block apart in Washington Heights. Each director had to make sure that the one film's props and extras didn't end up in the other film's frame.
  5. I watched the 48 Hours piece about the Benefield case tonight, and found it oddly uninformative. Ashley Benefield has been charged with murder, but she's out on bail and her trial won't occur for months. Meanwhile there are defendants all over the country charged with far lesser crimes who haven't been convicted yet, but they've been languishing in jail for years. There were some nice visuals of the dancers though.
  6. Broadway gives ballet dancers the opportunity to branch out and try their hand at acting and singing. Performing the same material eight times a week also helps to strengthen abilities. If you fall a bit short at the Wednesday matinée, you can redeem yourself at the evening performance. Broadway shows are products as much as they are artistic expressions, so there are constant notes and frequent rehearsals to keep performances consistent. Broadway producers are not interested in your longterm potential. You get hired for what you can deliver now. All of this can be very freeing. You get treated like an adult employee - no one refers to Broadway performers as "boys and girls". You don't have to put much effort into personal relationships, unless you want to. And you can always leave without it affecting your career negatively. What you can't do is expect your understudy to cover for you on a whim. You are expected to perform eight shows a week, unless you're contracted to do fewer because of extreme vocal or dance demands. Broadway performers are famous for their " the show must go on" work ethic, even when they're suffering physically or emotionally. And while the pay is not high by Hollywood standards, the lowest paid performer in a Broadway show makes over $100,000 per year. Someone with a ballet reputation, like Megan Fairchild, Robert Fairchild or Misty Copeland can negotiate for a lot more. Misty actually increased the box office for On the Town, which bodes well for any future Broadway endeavors. It's not for everyone, but dancing on Broadway can be a pleasant respite for a ballerina. Personally though, while I never tired of dancing in Nutcracker because of Tchaikovsky's glorious score, I would have gone bonkers in Cats!
  7. Well Martins is a white European male, and he was the boss, so mimicking (or mocking) his accent could be considered punching up. But it's an odd stylistic choice for someone dedicated to eradicating Asian stereotypes in the theater. If she gives her Black and Latino colleagues the same treatment, which she hints at in the Elle excerpt in print, it may not be as acceptable to listeners of the audiobook. I haven't decided to buy the book yet, but I hate the cover. Pazcoguin looks like a drunk sitting on a transparent toilet, not an artist offering insight to her creative process, which is my main motivation for reading books by performers. Gossip gets old faster than slang.
  8. There is a "trend of predation" in the world at large. Unfortunately it seems to be human nature.
  9. This reminds me that I actually saw Macaulay Culkin play the Nutcracker Prince and sat next to his very excited parents. Not long after that, he was cast in Uncle Buck, then Home Alone, and the rest is history.
  10. There have been a number of shows where children have prominent roles, like School of Rock and Matilda. But the adults know that going in. I've been in shows with kids, but I've never heard of adult actors considering them to be competition. If anything, they are treated pretty much the same as any other actor. If they "upstage" the grownups, it's because they're better performers. Many Broadway shows have elements that are a lot more dangerous than Nutcracker snow. That's why you get hazard pay. The late, unlamented Spiderman musical took out actor after actor with serious injuries. You get your thanks at the end of the show when the audience applauds, and at the end of the week, when you're paid quite well to do what you love.
  11. And yet so many NYCB dancers perform in Broadway shows, where you do the same show eight times a week for months and years on end. GP herself did a stint in Cats, which would have been tough on a lot of people. There was one member of the original cast who got a story in the NY Times after being in the show for fifteen years! (During which time she was able to buy two houses and put her kids through school, so there's that.) I read the Elle excerpt - not bad. I never noticed that NYCB had enough minority dancers to have a white cast and a non-white cast for Nutcracker. She's talking about the corps and solo parts of course. The only "non-white" Sugar Plum Fairy that I can recall is Maria Tallchief. I saw her when I was very young and she made an indelible impression on me, with her glossy black hair, brownish skin and dazzling white smile. Pazcoguin is absolutely right about Tea being yellowface minstrelsy. Honest question - has anyone ever raised concerns about the Arabian dance? Meanwhile the Times has a nice story about corps dancer Clara Miller's singer-songwriter ambitions, and a shocking one about ex-Boston Ballet ballerina Dusty Button, who apparently is more of a rogue than GP in her wildest moments.
  12. I guess she didn't slap him hard enough. What a weird story!
  13. You're right. "Kick him in the balls" was my immediate reaction, not necessarily a plan of action. But the story and Pazcoguin's reaction to it still strikes me as weird. One wonders if there was a previous intimate relationship? It doesn't excuse the behavior. Ramasar denies it. In the same article, Merrill Ashley's recollection of a conversation with GP doesn't accord with what GP claims she said. Recollections can differ. As for the "greedy little principal", would it have been less hurtful if a soloist or corps member angled for the role? If that's actually what happened - how would GP know who the other dancer was texting and what it was about? Since she was injured and couldn't dance anyway, it wouldn't matter who got the role, or how they got it. Bottom line, when you write a book, you get to tell your version of what happened in your life. Others' memories may differ.
  14. I'm not saying that Georgina Pazcoguin should have done any of those things. I'm saying that there were remedies available to her that she could have used. She's alleging that she was subjected to unwanted touching by a fellow employee for years, yet apparently did nothing to make it stop. No way do I believe that NYCB would "side" with someone committing a criminal act on their premises, no matter what their rank. Unlike the Waterbury case, that would definitely put them in a vulnerable position legally. GP's book hasn't come out yet. It's possible she will be more forthcoming about the circumstances in print. Or it may just be something she relayed to Gia Kourlas. I did wonder why she called out Ramasar by name, but didn't name the principal dancer she claims tried to get one of her roles, on the phone, within earshot, while she was on the floor in agony with a torn ACL. (Why was a principal trying to angle for a soloist's spot?). To me that wasn't particularly credible either. I'm sure others will disagree.
  15. I don't disagree with anything you have written. But years ago when GP alleges AR's bad behavior commenced, there wasn't a big power imbalance between the two. They are only about three years apart in age. One would think this matter would have come up at the height of the public discussion of the Finlay-Waterbury suit, especially since there seemed to be a concerted effort in the media to blame it all on Ramasar. (All the more because GP seems to have the ear of Gia Kourlas at the NY Times.) This supposedly happened in company class, where dozens of people must have seen it at some time over the years. Whenever you have a he said-she said situation, an eyewitness statement is helpful in assessing credibility. Or other victims coming forth - if AR did it to her he probably did it to others. But this isn't a Weinstein, Moonves or Lauer situation. A woman who can take on the entire ballet world with an anti-racism campaign, screams at her boss and calls herself the Rogue Ballerina seems to me to have the strength and self-possession to put a two-bit harasser in his place.
  16. Management at NYCB didn't consist solely of Peter Martins. Pazcoguin could have said something to whoever was teaching class. She could have gone to the executive director of the company. She could have brought charges against Ramasar through their union. On a basic level, she could have shoved him away from her. A lot of men - a lot - can't get it into their reptilian brains that not every woman welcomes their crude, lewd behavior. Not unless you make it crystal clear. The best way to do that is by inf!icting some pain. I say that having dealt with my share of jerks during many years in the theater world. Ramasar is a good dancer, but he's not some supernova to be indulged at all costs. In the Carousel revival, there were a number of men in the ensemble who danced as well as he, and some who were better. Anyone with the nerve to get into a screaming match with Peter Martins has what it takes to handle Ramasar. As for the "glass house" - if you're going to have an affair with a married man, you should probably pick one whose wife is not a high-profile, celebrated author. ("Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel".) Pazcoguin was publicly named as a co-respondent in their divorce, which rarely happens.
  17. I must say, Pazcoguin's allegation about Ramasar touching her inappropriately doesn't sound credible. Once maybe, but every day for years? She should have kicked him in the balls the first time, or at least have filed a complaint with management and refused to be in his vicinity. Self-perception is odd. I always thought of GP as quite thin, and I didn't know she was half-Asian until she started working with Phil Chan. The book sounds like a good read, however some might say that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
  18. Over the last generation, it's been observed that the greatest beneficiaries of diversity policies and affirmative action have been white women. While that's good and necessary, it doesn't do much for the Black population. I believe it's unfair to criticize a situation without considering the concerns of the other side and offering possible solutions. So here's mine - PNB should hire at least two Black dancers, preferably women, that you don't have to play Where's Waldo to find in their company photo. It takes too long to develop students to become company members, so they should do what Saturday Night Live did when they had to find Black female comics. They should let it be known that they specifically want Black dancers and should hold targeted auditions for Black dancers only. They should make offers to Black dancers in other companies who might consider moving to Seattle. As a last resort, they could seek out established Black dancers from other countries. They don't need to hire teenagers. A geriatric twenty-five year old will do! What's important is visibility. PNB doesn't have to change their repertory, their artistic goals or their aesthetic, other than their preference for white or very light skin, to the exclusion of others. It's not that hard, if you really want to do it.
  19. I think inclusivity is great too. But PNB is not practicing inclusivity when apparently there are no brownskinned female dancers welcomed. Black women in the ballet audience do not feel represented by a male dancer with his hair in a bun and drop earrings. They feel disrespected and insulted, and it's got nothing to do with his sexuality or the quality of his dancing. If there were more Black people working at PNB, even mopping the floors, perhaps one of them would have told the management that the optics are terrible. Don't they have PR people in Seattle? As for the solo roles that could be danced by a man or a woman, there's bound to be resentment if the new hire who's still an apprentice gets cast in them, leapfrogging over dancers with greater seniority just because he's gender fluid. In a ballet context, what does gender fluid even mean? Based on their description, in theater terms, those roles are gender blind, not gender fluid.
  20. As so many Black professionals could tell you, being hired does not necessarily mean being "given respect and an opportunity to prove oneself". Sometimes you're being set up to fail. For example, the experiences of Timnit Gebru and April Christina Curley at Google. Despite their impressive scientific and academic credentials, and the high esteem in which they were held by other Google employees, they were ousted. From what I've seen of Ashton Edwards' dancing, he is a very accomplished and gifted dancer. I'm not questioning his ability to dance, I am questioning the motives behind taking him on as a gender fluid apprentice. If it turns out that Edwards is not sufficiently useful in PNB's current repertoire, or if he suffers repeated foot and knee injuries because male bodies are not anatomically suited for pointe work, he'll be eased out. And the PNB management will shrug their shoulders - after all, they tried to be "inclusive", but the Black dancer just didn't work out. Dance is not gendered, but ballet is. In my opinion it's a characteristic of the art form, not requiring " correction" by putting men on their toes and having wispy women trying - and inevitably failing- to partner and lift men. I'm well aware that others do not agree with me.
  21. The genius of institutional racism is that the participants are not necessarily aware that they are participating. One could say that they can't see the forest for the trees, except that they are the trees. It is my opinion that PNB does not actually want to be inclusive of Black dancers. But they want to look like they are. They have this in common with much of corporate America. So they take on an apprentice who is visibly Black but well nigh uncastable. Edwards looks feminine when he's dancing solo in the studio, but PNB risks making a mockery of their company if he's onstage in a female role next to actual women. They definitely are mocking and insulting the talented young Black women who have put their hearts and souls into ballet study to no avail. America has an institutional fear and hatred of Black men. With his hair in a bun, with earrings and eye makeup, Edwards is less of a threat. That's why he's getting so much support. He doesn't scare the whitefolks. White women are "safe" around him. To many people in the ballet audience, the ballerina is the epitome of female beauty and grace. In effect, PNB is showing that they apparently can't find an actual darkskinned woman that fits this ideal, but they think that the audience will accept a darkskinned man in a tutu. It's ludicrous.
  22. I will try to be circumspect in my comments, because I am mindful of the fact that Mr. Edwards is the beloved child of his family and just because I don't like what he's doing doesn't mean I want to hurt his feelings. But I believe he is being used to further an agenda that is anti-Black and anti-woman. (Maybe that doesn't matter if he gets to fulfill his personal goal of performing onstage on pointe in a tutu.) Over the years, countless white boys have practiced ballerina roles on pointe. Many of them are highly accomplished - you can check them out on Youtube. No way in the world would a major American ballet company hire one to dance female roles, not while there are plenty of white girls in the world. PNB has never hired a darkskinned woman, but they announce taking on a darkskinned male who might (they didn't promise him anything) dance female roles as if it was some great step forward instead of a giant step backward for Black women in ballet. No way in the world would a kid, who has yet to perform as a paid professional, get multiple media stories, a Go Fund Me account and the cover of a major dance magazine unless there's more at work here than dancing. Ashton Edwards is a Black male whose feminine appearance makes white people happy and Black people suspicious. (Especially after the over-the-top, performative "inclusivity" nonsense perpetrated by PNB this past year, when they trotted out every Black employee and associate in the building, and only one was a dancer.). If they wanted to really be inclusive and reflective of the world they inhabit, PNB would hire a couple of brownskinned, unambiguously male and female dancers. NYCB has done it and the world didn't end.
  23. Mackenzie Scott, the former wife of Jeff Bezos, has made wonderfully generous grants to "historically underfunded" dance companies and cultural institutions: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/27/arts/dance/mackenzie-scott-dance.html
  24. Nice piece with photos on former dancers from the early days of DTH in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/17/arts/dance/dance-theater-of-harlem-pioneers.html?smid=url-share I did think it was a bit unfair regarding Misty Copeland and Virginia Johnson. And while the article cites Debra Austin and Aesha Ash at NYCB, there's no mention of Cynthia Lochard, Myrna Kamara or Andrea Long, or Anne Benna Sims and Nora Kimball at ABT. (Not to mention Llanchie Stevenson, a DTH pioneer who converted to Islam, gave up ballet, married and had seven children!)
  25. My favorite part of the gala was after the curtain fell on Divertimento. The sheer joy bubbling from the dancers at being back was quite moving. The world needs to see more of this, as so few outsiders seem to understand that ballet dancers love what they do. You'd never know it from the media.
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