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Misty Copeland


Helene

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I have no problem with this couple dancing Swan Lake together. I am just not sure I like the whole "history being made" attitude. Lauren Anderson did Swan Lake. Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton at BRB did Swan Lake. Although not African-American, two non-whites just did the opening of Swan Lake in Boston. So, part of me understands, but part of me just wants Misty's dancing and not her color to speak for itself.

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So, part of me understands, but part of me just wants Misty's dancing and not her color to speak for itself.

I imagine that she does as well, but at this point in the process, I don't think that's going to happen. I know that she's far from the first African American woman to dance this role in the US (and very far from the first woman of color), but right now she's in a much wider spotlight than the dance community usually gets -- the meta-conversation is going to be about her race as much as it is about her dance skills.

Dance careers are short -- I'm glad she's getting this opportunity.

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If the conversation is more about her race than her actual dancing, it is because she and her publicity team have orchestrated it that way. She is not getting all this media attention, book deals, and movie deals because of her superior level of artistry and skill as a dancer.

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So, part of me understands, but part of me just wants Misty's dancing and not her color to speak for itself.

I imagine that she does as well, but at this point in the process, I don't think that's going to happen. I know that she's far from the first African American woman to dance this role in the US (and very far from the first woman of color), but right now she's in a much wider spotlight than the dance community usually gets -- the meta-conversation is going to be about her race as much as it is about her dance skills.

Dance careers are short -- I'm glad she's getting this opportunity.

Is she actually far from the first African American woman to dance Odette/Odile in the US?

How many others have there been?

I'm not challenging you, I'm genuinely curious.

I know Dance Theater of Harlem has the Black Swan pdd in its rep but as far as I know, not SL as a whole (unlike Giselle).

I'd imagine that there actually haven't been many African American dancers who have danced this role in the US, but perhaps I'm wrong...

In any case, I agree with you on being glad that she is getting the opportunity!

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Now I have to do the math -- my answer was off the top of my head.

I know that Lauren Anderson danced the full work with Houston Ballet in the 1990s (and I don't remember anything like this hubbub at the time). Last month, Kayla Rowser performed the role with Nashville Ballet. There certainly haven't been a flood of African American women dancing the full ballet, but I'm always leary of a claim of being "first."

Alongside these women there have also been many Asian and Asian American O/Os -- Kaori Nakamura performed the role several times with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater has had a number of Japanese and Chinese dancers in the role, Yuan Yuan Tan is an exemplary O/O in the San Francisco production...

I do not doubt Copeland's claims of bias -- white privilege still permeates our culture, and ballet is not exempt. She, and many other artists of color in dance, have had to work even harder to get opportunities, and still grapple with institutionalized racism once they get those chances. I look forward to hearing about her performances with Washington Ballet, but I do not assume that they will happen in a vacuum.

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Yes, Japanese-born, Misa Kuranaga and Filipino-American, Jeffrey Cirio just danced this together in Boston. In addition, I don't think they ever danced Swan Lake together, but Lauren Anderson and Carlos Acosta danced La Sylphide and Don Q (among other things) together. If you read interviews with Lauren, she speaks quite differently than Misty on the race issue.

Incidentally, I just saw this: http://cocoafab.com/new-show-alert-misty-copeland-to-mentor-future-ballerinas-on-new-reality-series/

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"Misty Copeland, will show off her skills and mentor young girls who want to follow in her footsteps" - that writer, or perhaps her editor, apparently has no sense of irony. But I guess that photo too is "for all the little black girls."

Sandik, I agree that white privilege still permeates our culture, except that our culture isn't monolithic, and it doesn't permeate places filled with people who oppose it. Whether or not she's receiving it at ABT or not, I think there's no question that, in the media, Copeland is currently enjoying "black privilege." I wish she would just dance.

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I can't believe someone in all seriousness used the phrase "black privilege" on this board.

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A little perspective might be needed.

You're welcome to provide it. smile.png Whether or not Copeland was ever held back by racism, she is now clearly using her race to advance her name and her career. We could debate whether or not that's good or bad or, as I see it, a mixed bag. But if we're going to talk about white privilege, we should recognize its black counterpart.

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Copeland is marketing herself, and if there wasn't a buyer for it, she would be obscure. She is exploiting an angle, but doesn't make that angle or her point of view any more or less legitimate, and it's resonating enough for there to be a continuing discussion in the first place. I fail to see how there is black privilege of any kind simply because a black woman can speak about race in mainstream social and predominantly white media. I would call that creeping closer, however slowly, to parity, and not even close to privilege.

There are many ways of talking about the experience of race. They are not more or less legitimate because they cause discomfort or violate someone's social code.

As many people have shown by comparing her career trajectory with her peers from ABT II, she is getting no more and no less than them except Hee Seo: she is pushed by ABT no harder than Lane or Abrera, for example, despite the great differences in their social media and general press presence.

I don't remember Copeland saying she was the first black Odette/Odile. As far as I know, she's the first black ballerina to dance the role with one of the two major dance companies in NYC, and as much as San Francisco Ballet would beg to differ, those two are considered the top two in North America.

China-born Tzu-Chia Huang dance Odette/Odile with Ballet Arizona. I would bet that few on this board know who she is. More likely know Kuranaga because a few have ventured northward, and more likely know Anderson because of the articles written about her: it's not like Houston tours frequently to NYC. How many people here actually saw Anderson live? In NYC Copeland is not invisible like most ballet dancers on this planet, whether they're white, black, Native American, Latina, or Asian, because she's a member of a NY company.

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Sure, Copeland's marketing herself (not just being a role model) and she's finding a market. My point is that she's finding it with the aid of a press that is (for good reason) eager to help her do so. Yes, the overall effect is to creep, however slowly (I like your wording), closer to parity, by showing the world that African-Americans can succeed in ballet, by broadening the ideal of a ballerina (as much because of her figure as because of her race), etc. But she herself is not getting equal treatment (parity on an individual level) from the press - she's getting much more than she would if she were white. She says her race worked against her, but what she doesn't say is that it's clearly a huge element in her favor now. I have expressed no opinion, because I have no opinion, about whether her dancing merits the opportunities she's getting at ABT, but plenty of people think it does.

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Alongside these women there have also been many Asian and Asian American O/Os -- Kaori Nakamura performed the role several times with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater has had a number of Japanese and Chinese dancers in the role, Yuan Yuan Tan is an exemplary O/O in the San Francisco production...

This reminds me of Chan Hon Goh. I only saw her with Farrell's company, but she danced Swan Lake and other Petipa classics with the National Ballet of Canada.

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I just can't get too excited about the race issue. For me, this is similar to Russians in NYC turning out to see a Russian dancer guest at ABT. Certainly it's been noted that Georgians living in the US flocked to Nina Ananiashvili's preformances. Opera singers often get fans for similar reasons. Marian Anderson led the way for the incomparable Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman and others. Many African Americans bought tickets just to see them. And they were certainly marketed as African American performers. In winter sports, the black American athletes are certainly notable for breaking into sports that are not notable for non-whites: speed skating, artistic skating, bobsleigh, hockey, etc.

It's tribalism and it can be ugly (politics) or appropriately fun (sports). In this case, I think it doesn't take away audience from Washington Ballet. Rather, it will add 2 extra nights of ticket sales to populations who don't normally come to the ballet, but will come to see someone from their "tribe" (Misty Copeland). That tribe can't go see Lauren Anderson perform right now, but they can come see Misty perform. She's already given one performance in Australia that received decent reviews. I think all female soloists at ABT should have the "chops" to perform O/O. Soloists are understudies for the principals, so they should be able to nail O/O. Certainly that is expected of the top companies: POB, Bolshoi, Mariinsky, RB, RDB, etc.

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I'm not sure how race is a huge element in her favor now if it's not helping her ballet career. ABT hasn't promoted her and ABT hasn't given her more chances than her peers.

Perhaps she's getting more press than she would if she were white because she's part of a discussion whose time has come and that it has more traction and importance than whether a dancer appears in a movie or walks out of various contracts.

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I think only McKenzie knows if her publicity machine has helped her career in the company, although it's arguably helped her get the Washington Ballet gig,

I’ve been a fan of Misty’s for years,” Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre said in an interview Wednesday. “There’s a freshness and newness that she brings to what she’s doing, and with the attention that she’s receiving now, it’s an exciting moment. To give her the opportunity to dance her first ‘Swan Lake’ in the U.S. this spring, and to pair her with Brooklyn Mack, questions some notions about who should be dancing principal roles in classical ballet.Having two African Americans dancing together seems to provide a fresh take on this classic,” Webre continued, “while challenging traditional notions of what a ballerina and principal male dancer should look like in the classical canon.

But she has now has a career outside of, and bigger than, ballet. which is based on what she says is her story of overcoming racism.

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I'm not sure how race is a huge element in her favor now if it's not helping her ballet career. ABT hasn't promoted her and ABT hasn't given her more chances than her peers.

Perhaps she's getting more press than she would if she were white because she's part of a discussion whose time has come and that it has more traction and importance than whether a dancer appears in a movie or walks out of various contracts.

If this were Facebook, I would "like" this.

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I'm pretty sure Debra Austin danced O/O with Pennsylvania Ballet in the 80s or thereabouts. Ruth Page had Lydia Abarca and Paul Russell of DTH as Plums in her Nutcracker in the 70s.

It occurs to me that Page's Nut, such a long-running project that used so many guests, would be a great view of who was dancing over the years. Does anyone here know what's been published, beyond journalism, about the production?

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But she has now has a career outside of, and bigger than, ballet. which is based on what she says is her story of overcoming racism.

I emphatically disagree that her story of overcoming racism and mentoring black student dancers is outside or separate from ballet: her story is intrinsically linked to ballet, because that is her experience.

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But she has now has a career outside of, and bigger than, ballet. which is based on what she says is her story of overcoming racism.

I emphatically disagree that her story of overcoming racism and mentoring black student dancers is outside or separate from ballet: her story is intrinsically linked to ballet, because that is her experience.

I think we're talking past each other. Sure her story is a ballet story. But she's not getting publicity and ad contracts and what not because she's a good dancer, or even because she's a black dancer. She's getting them because she's selling a story of overcoming racism and breaking race barriers. (Of course ballet also plays into the ideals of perfection and individual achievement, which our culture is obsessed with). So there's a little irony here.

Also, what I’ve called black privilege to highlight its relation to white privilege is just another name for affirmative action taken by individuals or individual organizations but not legally mandated. How many Misty Copeland defenders on this board, if they’re in a position to hire and promote, take race into consideration and are eager to hire a minority person among a list of qualified candidates? It’s the decent thing to do. Copeland wants us to believe she encountered racists at ABT, but no such decent people. Believing her requires us to believe we’re better than the people at ABT. I'm skeptical.

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