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Misty Copeland

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However, I worry that soon there will be practically no one left worth making the trip to see.

That is my fear too, especially once we see who is promoted or not (and hired or not) to fill the 3 principal female spots soon to open up.

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and all these dancers that you mention (Copeland, Adams, DePrince, Jimenez, Johnson) have and have had wonderful careers. If you asked any dancer, they would say they were bypassed for roles they wanted but also would say they were not "right" for every role. Being "right" for a role goes way beyond skin hue. and having any kind of a career in ballet (being paid) is an achievement for any dancer - that's the perspective I have. Also, if we are authentically talking about skin color - then please include (among others) Asians, Polynesians, Arabs and Cubans (Hispanics) in that list.

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and all these dancers that you mention (Copeland, Adams, DePrince, Jimenez, Johnson) have and have had wonderful careers. If you asked any dancer, they would say they were bypassed for roles they wanted but also would say they were not "right" for every role. Being "right" for a role goes way beyond skin hue. and having any kind of a career in ballet (being paid) is an achievement for any dancer - that's the perspective I have. Also, if we are authentically talking about skin color - then please include (among others) Asians, Polynesians, Arabs and Cubans (Hispanics) in that list.

I agree that people of color other than black women have obstacles to advancement.

However, many people of East Asian and Latin heritage are as fair or fairer than some Caucasians with Celtic heritage.

But black, Asian and Latin people who are darker are seen by some as interrupting the harmony of the corps de ballet.

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But he got his shot in Russia because of his dancing, not his self-promotion. Do we even know he had a publicist before his Russian adventure?

If you read the article volcanohunter linked to, it appears to suggest that the publicist was hired afterward. Timing, however, is not the point. Hallberg doesn't need a publicist for his career to prosper; he doesn't need to pose for lots of fashion magazines; he doesn't have to give a lot of interviews. He chooses to do all these things, presumably because he enjoys them, likes having a higher profile, and likes giving his art form a higher profile.

Any insistence that if Copeland makes principal it will be because of her having pounded McKenzie into submission with her "self-promotion" is entirely a matter of opinion.

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It's not the self promotion per se people are divided on. It is her claims that ABT has engaged in discrimination that has caused the controversy. By making that claim repeatedly in the media, she leaves McKenzie no choice but to promote her, whether she merits it or not.

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Regarding the issue of the hue (lightness or darkness) skin color - it's a good point that an artistic director could see some degree of it as non-harmonious with the corps de ballet - just as the AD might feel the same about the issue of height (too short/too tall). In addition to these two considerations, AD's hesitate to hire a muscular dancer and/or a dancer who does not have good proportions and good legs and feet. Is that regarded as "discrimination"?

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If you read the article volcanohunter linked to, it appears to suggest that the publicist was hired afterward. Timing, however, is not the point. Hallberg doesn't need a publicist for his career to prosper; he doesn't need to pose for lots of fashion magazines; he doesn't have to give a lot of interviews. He chooses to do all these things, presumably because he enjoys them, likes having a higher profile, and likes giving his art form a higher profile.

That’s true, Hallberg didn’t need a publicist, or a self-flattering book, in order to advance his career – which is to say that he already had all the opportunities he could handle. The same was not true of Copeland.

Any insistence that if Copeland makes principal it will be because of her having pounded McKenzie into submission with her "self-promotion" is entirely a matter of opinion.

Well, to quote Monty Python, that’s not an argument, it’s a contradiction. The reasons why some of us believe Copeland’s making principal may be somewhat suspect now have been made here more than once.

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Well, to quote Monty Python, that’s not an argument, it’s a contradiction. The reasons why some of us believe Copeland’s making principal may be somewhat suspect now have been made here more than once.

Copeland has not yet made principal. Casting makes it look likely she could. But in some ways this debate would have more substance if she had danced her debuts AND gotten the promotion etc. Everything is being prejudged in a way that may be moot when the season is over. (Heck-I was one of the people dubious about Peter Martins giving Swan Lake to brand new corps de ballet member Sara Mearns...Oops!)

I could not get quote function to quote the sentence by Dirac kfw included and to which kfw was responding--I wanted to say also that I understood Dirac's point to be that that there are differences of opinion about this belief (stated in the quoted sentences) that any Copeland promotion would be "suspect"--not that she was arguing the point itself one way or another. That is, people say that if Copeland is promoted then it will be viewed as the result of her self-promotion/fame not her dancing; the response is simply that not everyone will necessarily view it that way and it's very hard to prove one way or another. That's how I understood the reference to "matter of opinion."

Interestingly, my understanding is that there are fans who assume that Lauren Cuthbertson has been favored out of proportion to her abilities at the Royal because she is British--and in fact there were fans who thought much the same of Darcey Bussell (one of my all time favorites ballerinas). The fact that people believe such things doesn't make them so--though of course, it doesn't mean that they aren't true either. That's what I take "opinion" to mean. One can debate one's opinions of course and people here have expressed themselves pretty forcefully on what they find problematic about Copeland's dancing and/or career.

But In Copeland's case, there are other issues. I personally am convinced that if she had never tweeted a tweet or given an interview or appeared in commercials, or danced in a Prince video, then there would still be some people--maybe no-one here, but some portion of the ballet audience--thinking that whatever opportunities she received in prominent roles (or even coryphee or soloist roles) were given to her because of her race or political correctness more than ability. I think she is in a no-win situation in that regard. That, too, may be a matter of opinion, but I thought I would go on record with mine.

As mentioned above, I have no firm opinion about whether Copeland (or Abrera or Lane) "deserve" principal status or more prominent casting--of all ABT's seemingly underused talent, the one I was most curious to see in prominent roles was Simone Messmer and she is no longer with the company. I do feel strongly that Copeland does not deserve the huge amount of flack she is taking for the various aspects of her career that people have been discussing.

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That’s true, Hallberg didn’t need a publicist, or a self-flattering book, in order to advance his career – which is to say that he already had all the opportunities he could handle. The same was not true of Copeland.

Well, to quote Monty Python, that’s not an argument, it’s a contradiction. The reasons why some of us believe Copeland’s making principal may be somewhat suspect now have been made here more than once.

All autobiographies are inherently self-flattering or self-justifying. No one writes a book beating up on herself. Many politicians have written self-flattering autobiographies when they are on the cusp of a big campaign. If you're going to beat up on Misty for her book then you might as well beat up on Obama for "Audacity of Hope" and Hillary for "Hard Choices."

Furthermore, I fail to see why there are so many assumptions about Misty's relationships with her colleagues. From all the evidence on public social media sites, ABT dancers (from the corps to ex-members to principals) have been nothing but supportive and gracious, beyond what they needed to express. But even if no one at ABT could stand Misty, that's neither here nor there. Competition and jealousy in companies is expected and a fact of life.

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All autobiographies are inherently self-flattering or self-justifying. No one writes a book beating up on herself.

Not at all true, but they're generally called "memoirs" when this happens.

Many politicians have written self-flattering autobiographies when they are on the cusp of a big campaign. If you're going to beat up on Misty for her book then you might as well beat up on Obama for "Audacity of Hope" and Hillary for "Hard Choices."

Or "Profiles in Courage." And not just politicians: CEOs, dancers like Robert LaFosse, who still have careers ahead of them, athletes, like the 17-year-old Michelle Kwan who still had more than an Olympic cycle to go, etc.

For the publishing industry, either the publisher decides the story will sell and publishes it, or it does not.

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Drew wrote:
Copeland has not yet made principal. Casting makes it look likely she could. But in some ways this debate would have more substance if she had danced her debuts AND gotten the promotion etc.
I’m not sure there would be much debate if she’d done that.
people say that if Copeland is promoted then it will be viewed as the result of her self-promotion/fame not her dancing; the response is simply that not everyone will necessarily view it that way and it's very hard to prove one way or another.
True of course, and I've said as much. Some people who’ve seen her dance think she deserves promotion. There would probably be little or no doubt at all about McKenzie’s reasons if she’d come out with the book after she’d achieved her goal.
canbelto wrote:
All autobiographies are inherently self-flattering or self-justifying. No one writes a book beating up on herself. Many politicians have written self-flattering autobiographies when they are on the cusp of a big campaign. If you're going to beat up on Misty for her book then you might as well beat up on Obama for "Audacity of Hope" and Hillary for "Hard Choices."
Well I reject the imagery, first off. Criticism isn’t “beating up” – that’s a loaded phrase. Secondly, comparing Copeland to a politician might not exactly make your case. dry.png Third, I’m trying to think of unflattering autobiographies and all that comes to mind at the moment is the mea culpa memoir by LBJ’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, but in any case, I think whether or not they’re common is beside the point. No one made Copeland write the book and praise herself.
Furthermore, I fail to see why there are so many assumptions about Misty's relationships with her colleagues.
Here I assume you’re talking about other people here, because I have no knowledge or opinions there.
I asked Tapfan how black people supposedly have to behave to be allowed participate in ballet by its white “gatekeepers.”

Tapfan wrote:
A) Never mention race/color as being an additional hurdle for women of color in ballet, particularly the darkest women. It makes people feel uncomfortable and everyone knows that race is no longer a factor in ballet because all the people who run it and support it monetarily are political liberals like the Koch brothers. :sarcasm:
B) Never appear to be anything less than completely humble about your talent or grateful for your opportunities. Anything less means you think that you and you alone are worthy of attention and professional advancement.
C) Don't take advantage of opportunities afforded to you by the AD because you can advance only if you prevent others from doing so.
D) Have the good sense to know that just around the corner is Black Balllerina Supergirl who should be promoted to the senior ranks of a major company before other black ballerinas get a chance. It's only fair because all white women in the senior ranks of ballet companies are gifted and universally admired as being beyond brilliant.
Who has been held back by A or B? C doesn’t make any sense as far as I can see – ADs won’t promote dancers who take opportunities ADs offer them? Likewise, I can't make much sense of D.
Plisskin, you don’t need proof, which is probably pretty impossible to come by even when racism does exist, but you do need some evidence – not just, it’s-happened-to-other-people. But I'm not saying Copeland doesn't see it the way she wrote it. I assume she does.

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Well I reject the imagery, first off. Criticism isn’t “beating up” – that’s a loaded phrase. Secondly, comparing Copeland to a politician might not exactly make your case. dry.png Third, I’m trying to think of unflattering autobiographies and all that comes to mind at the moment is the mea culpa memoir by LBJ’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, but in any case, I think whether or not they’re common is beside the point. No one made Copeland write the book and praise herself.

Well actually I think a dancer's life is and a politician isn't that far off of a comparison. Many politicians go into politics wanting to change the world before realizing that rubbing elbows with the right people, getting the necessary funds, making deals, etc. are part of the game. And most of them (unless you come from a dynasty like the Bushes) don't have things handed to them on a silver platter. They have to hustle for what they have.

Many dancers I'm sure go into dancing thinking the talent will speak for itself. Then they realize that they're "advised" to find rich sponsors, lovers, endorsements, etc. In Russia there's pretty much an open secret that many of the ballerinas are "sponsored" by rich oligarchs. What these arrangements entail is nobody's business. And many dancers find themselves reaching 30 and their careers going nowhere. I see Misty as someone who saw that path and decided to do something about it. Just as other ballerinas have decided to take action on their careers, by modeling, finding a sponsor, marrying "up." I don;t find Misty's tactics any more or less morally unacceptable than a ballerina who decides that she'll be the "companion" of a guy who will donate a gazillion dollars to the ballet company for her to be cast.

It's important to remember that in the 1950's, many well-regarded and extremely successful entertainers decided to sell out their friends and colleagues to the HUAC. Including Jerome Robbins. And that many beloved Soviet ballerinas became extremely active members of the communist party in order to further their careers. And in the case of Valery Panov, many Soviet dancers decided to participate in an ugly, anti-Semitic campaign against a fellow dancer.

Misty's actions to me are perfectly acceptable.

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Many of ABT's dancers are also sponsored by rich people, but they are not secret. They are listed right in the program under the dancer's name and photo in the playbill. They want full, public credit for their patronage.

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With that kind of response, I doubt that Tai Jiminez will be invited back to SAB in any capacity.

I'm sure Jiminez was well aware of that risk, abatt.

That is, people say that if Copeland is promoted then it will be viewed as the result of her self-promotion/fame not her dancing; the response is simply that not everyone will necessarily view it that way and it's very hard to prove one way or another. That's how I understood the reference to "matter of opinion."

Yes, thank you, Drew, that is what I meant. As usual you say it much better. :)

Regarding Copeland's book: It's not at all unusual these days for performers and athletes to write, or "write" autobiographies in mid-career or even earlier. They're not necessarily exercises in ego, although some do answer that description (looking at you, Kenneth Branagh). Not having read Copeland's, I can't judge hers, Sometimes there's useful information to be mined from them, sometimes not.

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Well actually I think a dancer's life is and a politician isn't that far off of a comparison. Many politicians go into politics wanting to change the world before realizing that rubbing elbows with the right people, getting the necessary funds, making deals, etc. are part of the game. And most of them (unless you come from a dynasty like the Bushes) don't have things handed to them on a silver platter. They have to hustle for what they have.

Well I know I only pay to see one of the two. Anyhow, if your analogy is correct, then Copeland was indeed working McKenzie for a promotion.

I don;t find Misty's tactics any more or less morally unacceptable than a ballerina who decides that she'll be the "companion" of a guy who will donate a gazillion dollars to the ballet company for her to be cast.

Your comparison not mine, but one thing being on another's level doesn't make it moral, and "moral" is in any case too high falutin' in my opinion. If it was some sort of a crime to praise oneself in public, it would be a crime against oneself.

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Well I know I only pay to see one of the two. Anyhow, if your analogy is correct, then Copeland was indeed working McKenzie for a promotion.

Your comparison not mine, but one thing being on another's level doesn't make it moral, and "moral" is in any case too high falutin' in my opinion. If it was some sort of a crime to praise oneself in public, it would be a crime against oneself.

Then what have you been upbraiding her for? You are making a moral judgment on her.

As for "working" Kevin McKenzie for a promotion, every dancer does it. Whether it's successful or not is another matter. But every dancer must "work" the AD some way. Even Balanchine, who was generally considered a very moral man, was notorious in that his classes reeked of perfume from dancers trying to attract his attention.

And to take the politician analogy further, I've volunteered my time (in one case, up to 60+ hours a week) and also donated money to politicians whose causes I believe in. I don't think there should be a value judgment made on those who also believe in Misty's cause any more than a value judgment made on those who bought Hillary stickers.

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"Moral judgment" is a black and white term, no pun intended, which suggests looking down on someone. Copeland is influenced by her times, as we all are.

So you agree that Copeland was trying to work ABT?

A value judgment on those who believe in Copeland's cause? I don't know what you mean there.

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As always, what your friends tell you is not official news.

What people reveal about themselves is generally fine; disclosing more than that about fellow members is not.

These things have been removed.

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Who has been held back by A or B? C doesn’t make any sense as far as I can see – ADs won’t promote dancers who take opportunities ADs offer them? Likewise, I can't make much sense of D.

With D), I was attempting to say that no ballerina tasked with being the first black woman principle in a world-class company, is going to be good enough to please everybody.

There will always be some who say, "She's not good enough. I would have chosen ________ instead." Or why didn't they wait until someone better came along?

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Regarding the issue of the hue (lightness or darkness) skin color - it's a good point that an artistic director could see some degree of it as non-harmonious with the corps de ballet - just as the AD might feel the same about the issue of height (too short/too tall). In addition to these two considerations, AD's hesitate to hire a muscular dancer and/or a dancer who does not have good proportions and good legs and feet. Is that regarded as "discrimination"?

If there was any company in North America that had a corps with the restrictive body types as the Mariinsky or Paris Opera Ballet, then there would be an argument for body type uniformity, but even NYCB, where Balanchine had preferences for tall and lean, the company has always had short dancers and larger-framed and more muscular dancers of all ranks, and no other North American and few European, Australian, or New Zealand companies I know are as restrictive or selective as they. All of those companies make "exceptions" for white, but also Asian and light-skinned Latina, dancers on a fairly regular basis and hire a range of body types that many black dancers can fit into.

That’s true, Hallberg didn’t need a publicist, or a self-flattering book, in order to advance his career

He needed a publicist for the same reason that Copeland did: to vet and manage the media opportunities presented and to find new, lucrative ones so that dancers could still do their day jobs. Hallberg has been injured for a while, and currently has more time on his hands, and arguably could use one more to maintain interest, since its the only thing keeping him in the news at all, now that his dancing isn't and can't be and having ridden the wave of having reached the initial milestone, with no further milestones at the moment to publicize, like first American to dance XYZ as a Principal Dancer, etc. etc.

I would not be surprised if McKenzie/ABT management is milking the "controversy" and tension of the situation for all it's worth, like TV shows do with couples who hit and miss for seasons, Those couples become dull once the tension and obstacles are gone -- okay, maybe not Murdoch and Dr. Ogden -- just as how in Cinderella stories, the only place to go is "Into the Woods," which soap operas recognize and exploit. At a certain point, the audience tires of the back-and-forth between obstacles and advancement, at which point the narrative switches to stretch the victory lap (engagement ,wedding, honeymoon in romantic terms) for as long as possible, or the characters fade out (move to Ohio). If Copeland is promoted, aside from an initial media blitz, the amount of media interest in her likely will drop, and scalpers will be poorer, since "Should she or shouldn't she?" is a much more enticing situation than "Should she have been or shouldn't she have been?" She'll still have a solid foundation in community outreach and programs, as a role model, and as a public spokesperson which will keep her in the spotlight no matter what and which will bode well for her post-performing future, regardless of the outcome.

Had DePrince had a publicist, her AD might not have had to issue a press moratorium.

Many dancers I'm sure go into dancing thinking the talent will speak for itself. Then they realize that they're "advised" to find rich sponsors, lovers, endorsements, etc. In Russia there's pretty much an open secret that many of the ballerinas are "sponsored" by rich oligarchs. What these arrangements entail is nobody's business

Ballerinas, like actresses, are pursued by many men, and some of those men are very wealthy. There are enough marriages between ballerinas and mega-rich people who two degrees of separation away from decision away, or board members (or AD's) themselves. Each relationship is different. "Open secrets" do little than tarnish all of them, regardless of the specifics of the situations.

It wouldn't much help if it's a business arrangement where there are more dancers than opportunity, iff they all have sponsors.

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He needed a publicist for the same reason that Copeland did: to vet and manage the media opportunities presented and to find new, lucrative ones so that dancers could still do their day jobs.

Hallberg's dancing garnered him media opportunities, and all the dancing opportunities he could probably handle. Copeland's didn't, and that's the difference.

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If there was any company in North America that had a corps with the restrictive body types as the Mariinsky or Paris Opera Ballet, then there would be an argument for body type uniformity, but even NYCB, where Balanchine had preferences for tall and lean, the company has always had short dancers and larger-framed and more muscular dancers of all ranks, and no other North American and few European, Australian, or New Zealand companies I know are as restrictive or selective as they.

Do you think that the Mariinsky and POB are really more restrictive? On the contrary, I have always had the impression that since the companies are so large, they can accommodate physical oddballs more readily. Just take a look at Marie-Agnès Gillot's "tall girl" dancing with a quartet of much shorter men and you'll see what I mean. But by virtue of being so big, they've got enough dancers to choose from to field 24 similar-looking wilis or 32 resemblant shades. On the other hand, I find my smallish regional company much more uniform where bodies are concerned. For one thing, no tall men = no tall women.

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Hallberg's dancing garnered him media opportunities, and all the dancing opportunities he could probably handle. Copeland's didn't, and that's the difference.

I suppose that's why we see Marcello Gomes, who has danced in many galas and has connections throughout the ballet world, and at least Hallberg's equal as a dancer, or Andrew Veyette all over the mainstream media. Even Robbie Fairchild, Tiler Peck, Ethan Stiefel, and Megan Fairchild haven't gotten more sustaining publicity than Hallberg in his non-dancing state has, and they are in or have been in movies and musicals.

Hallberg was invited to the Bolshoi as the time became right: Filin wanted to shift the company to the 21st century and to shake the company hierarchy, which Ratmanky had started by fast-tracking Osipova and Vassiliev. Hallberg was useful to him, however much flack the decision engendered, as a dancer who was already networked into Russian ballet through ABT. It wasn't simply that Hallberg was the most deserving man on the planet and one day Russian Ballet opened its eyes to recognize the dance genius he was.

Hallberg became prominent in the media because he was a compelling story. He needed a publicist to manage and leverage media asks when his story heated up, and he needs one now to keep it active, since his dancing isn't, and he isn't doing very much of interest in the community, at least to the media. Copeland might not be a Principal Dancer, but if her media campaign started five years ago, after she became a Soloist, she got to that rank on account of her dancing, and a black ballerina getting to that rank had only happened once more than an American dancer joining the Bolshoi. There was no stated goal, like Filin's stated goal, to shake things up, or any stated push to promote black dancers. In fact, an executive from her company described in a now pulled YouTube video in a college address how they actively squashed their own ballerinas' development based on their calculations of box office appeal. It was arguably harder for her to accomplish that promotion to Soloist through her dancing than Hallberg being invited to join the Bolshoi, given the prevailing winds.

Hallberg had to be ready and willing to take an opportunity to be part of Filin's plan. Copeland, the ABT executive noted, has created her own box office appeal, the only currency they've stated drives their decision-making. And she needed a publicist to manage and leverage media asks when her story heated up, after she earned Soloist rank through her dancing.

Do you think that the Mariinsky and POB are really more restrictive? On the contrary, I have always had the impression that since the companies are so large, they can accommodate physical oddballs more readily. Just take a look at Marie-Agnès Gillot's "tall girl" dancing with a quartet of much shorter men and you'll see what I mean. But by virtue of being so large, they've got enough dancers to choose from to field 24 similar-looking wilis or 32 resemblant shades. On the other hand, I find my smallish regional company much more uniform where bodies are concerned. For one thing, no tall men = no tall women.

In terms of height, they have more variety because of the number of dancers, but in terms of body type, they are more uniform than any North American company I've seen. When I was last in Paris, and saw the corps in full force, there was one dancer who wasn't thin-thin, and she might as well have been wearing red in a ballet blanc, partly because of her body type and partly because she moved so beautifully. In the Wiseman film, there's an interview where a young dancer tells Lefevre that she's lost weight like an obedient puppy -- ie, what she was told. She looked like she could be broken in two like a twig, and that was on film, which generally adds pounds. When the I saw the Mariinsky, I saw very thin legs and almost no prominent calf muscles. I was pleasantly surprised to see visible calf muscles among the Bolshoi corps.

I've also noticed that when smaller companies focus on more recent works, usually 8-12 dancer ballets, they hire more shorter men, since the demands and the look are different than when presenting classical ballet, or when "Swan Lake" fills the hall regardless of any considerations of emploi.

There have always been a limited number of companies that hire tall women as a rule. Despite the median height of men at PNB seeming to have shrunk since the Russell and Stowell years*, especially among the Principal men, and some very talented shorter women coming in, there seems to be no shortage of tall women, and the swans this year had a great range of height. If the patterns cause them to start in size order but move to where there are a variety of heights near each other, or if a 5'6 man ends up partnering a 5'9" ballerina during one of Balanchine's switch-rounds, so be it.

*Ironically, they told Ariana Lallone that she should expect to dance stand-alone roes, when we recently saw Lauara Tisserand, who's at least 5'10" make her debut as Odette/Odile.

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agree volcanohunter - companies may hire dancers that don't "fit" their corps but I have seen many times where the girls who don't "fit" are taken out of corps spots - in the last 3 instances I know of (all within the last 3 months) - 2 were because of height and 1 was because of body type. These are just the ones I happen to know of personally - it's likely that this happens more often. The artistic staff may make the decision or it may be the decision of the repetiteur.

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Copeland might not be a Principal Dancer, but if her media campaign started five years ago, after she became a Soloist, she got to that rank on account of her dancing, and a black ballerina getting to that rank had only happened once more than an American dancer joining the Bolshoi. There was no stated goal, like Filin's stated goal, to shake things up, or any stated push to promote black dancers. In fact, an executive from her company described in a now pulled YouTube video in a college address how they actively squashed their own ballerinas' development based on their calculations of box office appeal.

Copeland the principal dancer would have attracted lots of attention, very deservedly so, and very much to the good. Copeland the soloist deserves attention too, sure. But Copeland the soloist minus a triumph-over-victimization book would probably still be a relative unknown. Can you remember more of what that executive said?

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