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On Pointe

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  1. According to their website, the Trocks are "The World's Foremost All Male Comic Ballet Company". Besides photos of the dancers in garish makeup, the site has a photo of the dancers in conventional male attire. Clearly they feel that their comedy is rooted in drag, not gender fluidity.
  2. That's a total non-sequitur. Billy Porter likes to appear in elaborate dresses, but he doesn't work in drag. A better example would be RuPaul. Both are enormously talented and no doubt very serious about their careers, but RuPaul is a serious drag artist and Porter is a serious musical and dramatic actor (who didn't receive the acclaim he deserves until he wore dresses.)
  3. Maybe. Most people would probably say that drag is intended to amuse, not be a serious interrogation of gender identity. I have straight friends who love it, and gay friends who hate it because they feel it demeans women. Personally I feel that as entertainment, a little drag goes a long, long way. As a female sctor, I am not thrilled by performers like Alex Newell and Chase Johnsey taking roles from women. Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake was all male, produced with serious intent, and there have been all male troupes before the Trocks. As far as I know, the Trocks are the only comedy ballet company mining gender stereotypes for laughs. If you can't "bring the funny" it's not the right company for you.
  4. The Trocks are a drag troupe, where the humor is based in obviously male performers presenting a caricature of female appearance and mannerisms. The punny "Russian" stage names underline their comic intent. Johnsey wanted to be taken seriously as a female performer. He wasn't going for the laughs any more. That is the polite thing to do. The problem with gender-fluidity is that other people have no way of knowing how they identify when their appearance is totally at odds with their feelings, which can change day by day. The over-the-top fury that often ensues is not reasonable, like the firing of a teacher in the UK who referred to his class as "girls", at an all girls school, because one of them decided to self-identify as male.
  5. Nor does Johnsey have the right to be employed by the Trocks if he can't stick to their mission. The management was wrong if they tried to police his off stage behavior. (Although we have only heard Johnsey's side of the story.). But they are still management, with no obligation to accommodate one employee's wishes and desires. That picture of Johnsey from the Spanish company website seems to confirm that his gender identity is fluid indeed. His buzzed haircut and stubbly face are a far cry from his earlier presentation with long hair and feminine makeup.
  6. Johnsey wanted to be taken seriously as a ballerina, but that's not what the Trocks are about. It's a drag comedy troupe, not a deep interrogation of gender (although their dance and choreography elements are high quality). A professional clash was inevitable. It doesn't appear to have had much to do with his personal identity. Years ago, a group of Russian dancers started a company where the ballerina roles were danced by men, because they felt that contemporary women had lost the essence of femininity. (And of course, being men, they were certain that they knew better than women how true female identity should be expressed!) But unlike the Chinese and the Japanese, the Russian public seemed to have no appetite for men in women's roles.
  7. Interesting piece in The Guardian about how Russia now has the best female figure skaters in the world, but they flame out after a year or two at the top. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/mar/26/the-russian-dolls-have-transformed-figure-skating-but-at-what-cost Does this situation also exist in the ballet world? I think Maria Khoreva is immensely talented, but she seems to have danced every lead role in existence in the space of a year. What is there left for her to do?
  8. I did not get the idea that the MacKay brothers were soliciting funds, but rather that they were frustrated at having to get off the plane. They spoke glowingly of their love for Russian cultural life and the Russian respect for artists. I don't know much about them, but I did find it unusual that their parents sent them so far away from home at such young ages, nine and eleven I believe they said.
  9. CNN ran a story on American dancer Julian MacKay and his brother Nicholas, who are stranded in Russia, along with a number of other Americans. They are trying to get home to be with their father who is gravely ill. They were on the last plane out of Moscow when the flight was cancelled. They are hoping to get out via a chartered flight, but they are running short of funds.
  10. Whether reticent or reluctant, Waterbury actually did watch the show. Did anyone think she wouldn't?
  11. That being said, does anyone believe that Waterbury was actually "reticent" to watch the episode, or to give a statement to the NY Times?
  12. He looks happy. Good luck to him in these difficult times.
  13. The imperious orchestra conductor is as much of a cliché as the jerk ballet master. Considering the number of high-profile music figures who have been dismissed and even sued for sexual exploitation, a story based in that world seems to be in order. For that matter, there is apparently pervasive misconduct by managers at McDonald's outlets, with some demanding sexual favors from female employees in exchange for better shifts. But those are primarily minority, low-income women, who don't get to go to parties at Tavern on the Green. (Nice product placement. SVU rarely uses real names of locations - all college students on the show go to "Hudson University" when they shoot at Columbia.) I think many readers would infer that by using her name in the phrase, Kourlas implied that Catazaro was indeed accused of looking at photos of Waterbury. After all, Waterbury's suing him and has effectively destroyed his American career - he must have done something to her. (He didn't, but evidently he's just collateral damage in her war against NYCB.) Gia Kourlas is not a TV reviewer. She only wrote about the SVU episode because it is loosely based on the Waterbury case. TV reviewer or dance critic, she's a journalist for the NY Times, with an obligation to at least not confuse the facts of a case still in court.
  14. I agree that the SVU episode was kind of silly, and that the choreography was bland and cheesy. But it was potentially harmful to ballet in general, presenting sex-trafficking as if it was standard operating procedure in ballet companies. It wasn't really Waterbury's story at all, as she was not exploited in a workplace situation. The young woman playing the main victim did seem cast to resemble her. I wonder why there has been no "ripped from the headlines" stories about the more egregious goings on at various symphony orchestras? Even Gia Kourlas and the New York Times manage to get aspects of this case wrong: Zachary Catazaro never saw any photos of Waterbury and never mentioned her name.
  15. Broadway fan message boards are still whipping sentiment against Ramasar, to a hysterical degree. Usually SVU episodes deal with crimes that have already been litigated. While it's unlikely that the Waterbury case will go to trial, the defendants' attorneys could rightly be concerned that this episode has the potential to prejudice the juror pool against their clients. Even legitimate journalistic outlets have gotten the basic facts of the case wrong. A lawyer's blog examined the case as if it were a case of workplace harassment, wrongly referring to Waterbury as Ramasar's "fellow dancer". If an attorney who specializes in such cases gets the basic facts wrong, it's a sure indication that the general public is misinformed as well.
  16. The SVU episode was re-scheduled for this week due to the Covid-19 pandemic news. According to the promo, it is indeed the American John Waters playing the porn producer. The IMDB listing is incorrect. Far more troubling is that their "snatched from the headlines" script seriously distorts what actually happened in the Waterbury case.
  17. Speaking of "Me Too", Placido Domingo has tested positive for Corona virus: https://variety.com/2020/music/news/placido-domingo-coronavirus-opera-singer-1203541761/
  18. No, it's probably correct, especially if the actor himself edited the page. But IMDB has made mistakes in the past. (As a member of SAG-AFTRA, like many members of the union, I wonder why this John Waters was allowed to take a job from an American actor.)
  19. That John Waters appears to only work in Australia. If he were cast over here, SAG-AFTRA would suggest that he change his name, perhaps by adding a middle initial. They can't force you to do it, but it's a good idea. Michael Keaton was born Michael Douglas, Katy Perry was born Katy Hudson. If another actor joined the union first, they get dibs on the name. My favorite name change story - Linda Rosenthal joined NYCB before Linda Merrill and "stole" her name, forcing the original Linda Merrill to change her name to Merrill Ashley.
  20. Pretty sure if SVU is casting the part of a sleazy porn producer, it is THE John Waters.
  21. Any word on how he died? I hope it wasn't suicide. Travis Wall was Danny Tidwell's brother - his mother adopted Danny. Finding one's way in the world can be very difficult for black kids adopted into white families. I remember when Danny left ABT and competed on So You Think You Can Dance. The judges seemed dedicated to trying humble him and bring his spirit down, maybe because he obviously didn't just think he could dance, he knew he could, far better than any of the other contestants. He should have won. When he didn't I stopped watching the show.
  22. That's what is wrong in Van Hove's production, in my opinion. He's conflating immigrants with American citizens, the Mexican border with the island of Puerto Rico, and most egregiously, black and white gang members. You and I know that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but I'd be willing to bet that Van Hove didn't when he came up with his conception. Immigration issues are in the news so he shoe-horned them into WSS, where they aren't an issue at all on the Latino side and only tangentially on the white side. WSS is a quintessentially a New York musical, and in New York anti-immigrant sentiments are rare. Updating WSS would be hard for a native New Yorker to do, so it's no wonder that a European would get things wrong.
  23. As a young dance student, I was enamored with Eliot Feld's dancing in the film of West Side Story. He played the youngest Jet, Baby John. But in the original production, he was a Shark. I was shocked to learn later that he was dark haired. They bleached his hair blond and gave him blue contacts for the film. One rap on the Van Hove production is that by including light and dark black performers as Jets, it's very hard to tell who's fighting who. Darkening Moreno's skin, as they did with George Chakiris who isn't Latin at all, helped the audience to distinguish between the two gangs. It's not like they were wearing blackface. Natalie Wood, who was Russian, wasn't darkened. In an earlier stage revival of WSS in the eighties, some Latinos complained that Maria, who was played by an actual Puerto Rican, was too light. I knew people in that cast, and it became a running joke, especially since there were no complaints about Debbie Allen playing Anita. (She grew up in Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish, but she's African American.)
  24. So according to this article, it's laudable and compelling that (at least) two gay Belgian artists expand upon the misrepresentation of Latinos originally created by four gay American artists? Mr. Pollack-Pelzner is entitled to his no doubt well-considered opinion, but he gets a few facts wrong. For example Sondheim's original lyric in I Feel Pretty was, "I feel pretty and witty and bright". It was changed to "gay" for the film when the position of the scene in the story was changed. At any rate, gay did not automatically mean homosexual sixty years ago. Rita Moreno wearing dark makeup was not a misrepresentation of Puerto Rican identity. Many Puerto Ricans have dark brown and black skin, just not Moreno. But Latino society has a big problem with colorism - dark Latinos are severely under-represented in popular culture and often have to pass as black Americans to have a career, like Christina Milian and Zoë Saldana. And yet again, a writer in a major publication has gotten the facts wrong regarding Ramasar. At any rate, surely it's questionable whether it belongs in a discussion of the artistic origins of the production.
  25. Puerto Ricans often are conflicted over WSS. On one hand, the depiction of Puerto Ricans solely as gang members is stereotypical and demeaning. On the other hand, some of their issues are dealt with seriously - America deals with the pros and cons of leaving the island, it's not just a cute dance number. For black Americans, there are no such redeeming qualities in Porgy and Bess. Catfish Row is a mess of stereotypes, starting with the name. But then there are those wonderful songs, and the undeniable fact that for a number of black classical singers, Porgy is their most reliable source of income, especially abroad. Early on, when I first heard of this production of WSS, I felt that it was inevitable that Van Hove would get it wrong. Not just because he's Belgian and so unfamiliar with American racial dynamics that he cast black performers as the Jets. But because he's arrogant, and by his comments in various interviews, he seems not to respect American cullture at all, and therefore feels no need to try to understand it. He just wants to exploit it. He could have produced the Belgian equivalent of the Romeo and Juliet story, but that would take far more time and effort than rehashing and trashing an American classic.
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