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

What are ballet companies doing ...


bart

Recommended Posts

Currently there's another thread in this forum, "why is ballet so pale."

Discussion has meandered here and there, but the focus recently turned towards positive actions that ballet companies have taken (can take) to increase participation in ballet among non-traditional groups of young people, especially young people of color. One poster has participated in Boston Ballet outreach programs in inner-city schools, aimed at making students aware both of the art and the opportunities to dance that ballet provides, as well as increasing the diversity of audiences. :blink:

What are YOUR favorite companies doing (or not doing) to spread the word about ballet into diverse communities? What would you like to see them doing? And why?

Link to post

Pacific Northwest Ballet has a community outreach program called "Discover Dance," which does in-school residencies, teacher workshops, and performances. The faculty includes several former PNB dancers. They also have a program called 'Bravo Ballet" which has performances at McCaw Hall, visits to class-rooms before performances to prepare the kids' expectations, and field trips to the studios, where kids take a class.

While "Discover Dance" is cross-disciplinary, there used to be a program called "Dance Chance" that provided ballet training for underserved communities. I don't know how long it lasted or if any of the students have continued to dance.

When I was in San Francisco at the end of last season, in a pre-performance talk, Evelyn Cisneros talked about how since soon after retirement she has been working in community outreach and education. The SFB program looks similar to the PNB program.

Education programs start with the next generation target audience, and seem to be the last defense against the slashes that have been made in arts education in public schools. At the same time, a happy trend at PNB lately has been the recognition of the talents of several male dancers of color. The men seem to have it easier, though, which is unfortunate. The diversity among PNB women seems to be more in body type, where being muscular or relatively short is less of an obstacle than in many companies.

While I can appreciate an occasional "meal" of a corps in which every swan seems to have identical height, shape, and physique, that ideal leaves out most of the dancers that I prize. I prefer a more diverse stage picture.

Link to post

PNB's DanceChance program is still going strong, and a number of students, including some current Professional Division students, have continued on as students in PNB School.

Helene, the outreach programs you mention are part of the Company's outreach, while DanceChance is part of the School.

Here is the url to the DanceChance page on the PNB site:
DanceChance at PNB

Link to post

Doug -- Thanks for the link. The program as outlined in the DanceChance web page is impressive. I especially like the emphasis on the child's own interest, but also on evaluation of the student's "promise" (an auditioning process and regular evaluations), as well as input from families and teachers. I've observed informally some programs in suburban Long Island, and believe me they are much more haphazard than that, and sometimes fail by trying not to address the issue of talent and promise.

This is a program that appears to be getting excellent results, and which deserves all the support from the community that it can get. :wacko:

Link to post

doug,

Many thanks for the update! I remember seeing flyers when the program first started and fundraising efforts specifically for the program. As a donor (albeit small), I thought there would be follow-up mailings, and when I didn't get them or see flyers, I thought the program had ended.

It's also really great to hear that some of the students are in the Professional Division. That bodes well for the Company's future and for the future of the kids who go through the program, regardless of whether they become professional dancers.

Link to post

Looking at the company roster on the Joffrey website, it seems that company is aiming towards diversity not only in terms of color, but the way it seems to hire from schools and programs widely, casting its net all over the country. Anyone know about the Joffrey recruiting program?

Link to post

In today's PNB newsletter, there's a mention that

"Four boys from PNB's DanceChance program performed a piece choreographed by former PNB dancer Timothy Lynch at PONCHO's annual gala on April 30. Following the performance, PONCHO raised $165,000 specifically for Arts Education."

(PONCHO stands for "Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations," which, according to its website started as a group that put on an auction to retire a chunk of the Seattle Symphony's debt after the 1962 World's Fair, and raised enough money to donate more to the Symphony and several other arts groups. They've never stopped raising money for the arts in Seattle, and they give away a lot of it.)

Link to post

The June 2005 issue of Dance Magazine is themed: "The Race Issue: 67 Dance Artists Speak Out."

It wasn't yet on dancemagazine.com when I checked today, but the articles are worth seeking out, especially "Does Classicism Have a Color?" about blacks in ballet.

Dancers including Andrea Long (formerly NYCB, then Dance Theater of Harlem), Cleopatra Williams (Houston Ballet), Misty Copeland (ABT), Aesha Ash (formerly NYCB, now Bejart), Roger Cunningham (formerly Boston Ballet's second company, now Bejart), and others are quoted. So are artistic directors like Edward Villella and Stanton Welch.

There's also an article entitled "Whoa! Whiteness in Dance" which revealed to this astonished reader the existence of a school of intellectual inquiry called "whiteness studies." Comments like this one -- "To be white in America is to be very black. If you don't know how black you are, you don't know how American you are." -- are tossed in without explanation, but the tendentious and slightly fishy nature of the theorizing (IMO) shouldn't take away form some of the intriguing insights about cultural differences in dance (also IMO).

Anyone who's read the issue, please feel free to comment here.

Link to post

Bart,

Thanks for this head's up! :D I'm going to try to find this issue in the UK, although the local shops mysteriously stopped stocking it (but it's still on their list as being carried...).

Link to post

This short article was in Sunday's Chicago Tribune:

Teens get chance to shine with Joffrey

SOUTH SIDE -- To earn a spot in the Joffrey Ballet's summer dance camp, teens had to take center stage with a dance of their own design.

"Each kid had to come in with a 30-second dance they did themselves," said Pierre Lockett, Joffrey Ballet director of education and community engagement. "We saw a lot of hip-hop. It's part of our culture. Most had no formal training."

But since July 5, when the six-week dance camp began, 20 teens have been studying ballet, modern and jazz dancing with Joffrey dancers. The intensive training, Lockett said, mirrors a small dance company and gives talented kids who have never had formal dance training a taste of being a professional.

Although the article does not specifically mention the race or ethnicity of the students, I'd expect that most or all of them are African-American or Hispanic. Lockett is African-American. The Joffrey has a history of giving talented kids scholarships and placing them with ballet studios to continue their training.

Link to post

Great idea to start with each kid's "own design" and then to show them how that can be expanded by knowledge of other techniques and styles. So much of the narrowness of teen culture boils down, sadly, to the lack of opportunity to learn new, often larger, and more disciplined, ways of expressing themselves. Congratulations to the Joffrey.

Link to post

Bart, I didn't get the idea that the kids were going to expand on their own choreographic ideas. Did I miss something? I thought it was just a way of auditioning -- see which kids could move, had interesting interpretations of music, etc. Sort of the way Billy Elliot auditioned.

P.S. Wouldn't it be great if the Joffrey actually had a ballet school here in Chicago?

Link to post

I'm surprised that this thread hasn't garnered more comments and isn't a "hotter" issue in the ballet community. On the Board of Directors for our local ballet company, there does not seem to be an awareness of the need to build outreach programs at all. Education and outreach is seen more as a cost center and a frill rather than as an investment for a healthy and stable future for the company. Also, there seems to be a lack of commitment toward audience diversification. The prevailing attitude seems to be "if they can't afford the price of a regular ticket, then they don't deserve to see the ballet." The main emphasis seems to be on ticket sales and landing large donations from corporations and very rich individual donors. Little or no thought is given to how best to position the company for grant revenues. Nor is there any recognition among our Board members that companies who invest in outreach to minorities and low income sectors of the community are often best positioned to garner significant grant revenues. I'm curious if this if a problem for other companies.

Currently there's another thread in this forum, "why is ballet so pale."

Discussion has meandered here and there, but the focus recently turned towards positive actions that ballet companies have taken (can take) to increase participation in ballet among non-traditional groups of young people, especially young people of color.  One poster has participated in Boston Ballet outreach programs in inner-city schools, aimed at making students aware both of the art and the opportunities to dance that ballet provides, as well as increasing the diversity of audiences.  :yahoo:

What are YOUR favorite companies doing  (or not doing) to spread the word about ballet into diverse communities?  What would you like to see them doing?  And why?

Link to post
I'm surprised that this thread hasn't garnered more comments and isn't a "hotter" issue in the ballet community. 
Currently there's another thread in this forum, "why is ballet so pale."

That other thread is the reason that there hasn't been more comment on this one. Frankly, the subject was talked to death there, and most of the regular posters have given their all. The issue is plenty hot, but we just don't have much more to say about it, here. We've charged over thrice-charged-over ground several times.

Link to post

I see a significant difference in emphasis and spirit between the 2 threads. One discusses evidence of ethnic discrimination. This one has encouraged people to post about attempts at outreach, education, you name it -- the purpose of which is to increase diversity.

Diversity can mean giving access to ballet to people of different economic backgrounds and not just to ethic miniorities. The Academy of Ballet Florida, our local school, has a significant outreach program which helps kids of all sorts of background to take class. You can see the results on the stage -- and in the audience -- at their annual Spring concert. Palm Beach Opera goes INTO the schools in a variety of communities to expose kids to opera, and then provides free tickets to the dress rehearsal of several productions each year.

Versions of these programs exist in many communities. We benefit from learning about them and sharing their experience. This is the sort of thing, on a local scale, I was thinking of originally when I spun off this thread. Thanks to those who've posted.

Link to post

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...