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Misty Copeland

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Agreed, and we’ve seen some of that here. And no doubt, as Copeland pretty much told 60 Minutes, she really believes she deserves promotion. She’s caught up in her story, and she’s been affirmed in that story by public opinion. She can’t be expected to have perspective. But technically speaking there can be a kind of moral failure (that’s an unecessarily harsh and unempathetic way of putting it, but I’m drawing a rough correspondence) in demonizing criticism that a dancer’s limitations are being ignored and denied for the sake of affirmative action. “La Danse, Madame, c'est une question morale.”

The Affirmative Action argument is affirmed by fans on this board (unconditional support for her lousy technique) and by McKenzie himself on the 60 minutes episode. Everyone has to feel sorry for Copeland, she had it rough. Let me tell you, in the performing arts EVERYONE has it rough. Especially if they don't come from families with money. The arts attract broken people by the truck loads. Some are extremely talented and many are mediocre. What determines who makes it is, for the most part, pure chance. But mostly it is talent OR savvy glad-handing. Copeland has chosen the latter because obviously she doesn't have the technique to wow people with her dancing. Everyone is caught up in her being the first black principal with ABT. That is all they see, the actual dancing is secondary.

It would be good for more black principals. I've even stated that I would support Courtney Lavine's direct promotion straight to principal. She has the talent to back it all up and she has perfect classical technique. A blind person can see it. Yet we never hear about her. Its always Copeland acting as if she is the only black dancer in recent dance history to get anywhere. Which is false.

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The Affirmative Action argument is affirmed by fans on this board (unconditional support for her lousy technique) ...

I haven't read any unconditional support for lousy technique--in Copeland or anyone else. Not everyone may agree about her technical limitations or what they are--and, as I stated above, I would have to see her more than I have in the theater to feel I have a clear(er) picture of her strengths and/or weaknesses. (No--I'm not willing to write off a dancer's technique, based on a few seconds of 60 Minutes footage.) Others here have seen her much more often than I, and I take their opinions seriously, but like to judge for myself as well. Well, don't most balletomanes?

I have said I think some of the criticisms of her seem unfair and I used the perhaps stronger phrase "over the top." I don't consider that language to be "demonizing" anyone who criticizes her...which has also been suggested above. But I will try to express myself more gently in future flowers.gif .

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But I feel strongly that if I'm not willing to either A) repeat my criticism to the dancer's face, or B) sign my full name to the things I write because the criticism is so harsh or skirts into personal attacks, then maybe I shouldn't be writing my comment. Anonymity on the internet allows one to say things they wouldn't say in person and I dislike internet "tough guys."

A guideline that has been suggested on this board from time to time is the "would you say it to the dancer's mother while riding together in an elevator" test. Not a bad one, even though I'm ashamed to say I sometimes forget it.

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[Admin sledgehammer on]

Rumors are not allowed on Ballet Alert!. Period. Official news only. We don't care if you've read the rules that you say you've read when you registered for the site. We enforce the rules as if you had.

Agendas are not allowed, either.

[Admin sledgehammer off]

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juhhh

In my program from tonight, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa and Keith Roberts are listed as ballet masters. We know Susan specifically deals with the corps. That leaves 4 for all the soloists/principals; 2 for the men, 2 for the women. That's pretty horrendously small number, considering every dancer at the Mariinsky has his/her own coach. Even NYCB, my program lists 11 ballet masters (Karin Von Aroldingen, Albert Evans, Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Susan Hendl, Lisa Jackson, Glennn Keenan, Sara Leland, Christine Redpath, Jonathan Staffbbord, Richard Tanner, and Kathleen Tracey) plus 5 guest teachers (Espen Giljane, Arch Higgins, Darci Kistler and Andre Kramarevsky).

Just small correction to the above. I looked at ny NYCB program more closely tonight and Dena Abergel is listed as Children's Ballet Master and Arch Higgins Assisstant Children's Battet master. So that ups NYCB's number of coaches to 13. And they di use a lot of children.nthere had yo be at least 20 in Act 2 of Sylphidr.

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What determines who makes it is, for the most part, pure chance. But mostly it is talent OR savvy glad-handing. Copeland has chosen the latter because obviously she doesn't have the technique to wow people with her dancing.

I really doubt she made a decision like that. I think she believes in her talent and is just doing what the culture encourages talented people to do, which is to sell herself like crazy. And to her credit, she does have an interesting and important story to tell. I just doubt she faced more resistance than she did extra encouragement. But there again, the culture encourages people to see themselves are triumphing over victimization.
Plisskin, it’s good of you to defend Copeland, but her and her team’s misstatements are on the record, or were in the case of wikipedia. If you think they deserve the benefit of the doubt, the reasons why are yours to state. I find it hard, but not impossible, to believe that after years in ABT, she didn’t know a part of its history that was so important to her. Drew, no, “over the top” certainly is not demonizing.

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What determines who makes it is, for the most part, pure chance. But mostly it is talent OR savvy glad-handing. Copeland has chosen the latter because obviously she doesn't have the technique to wow people with her dancing.

But she does wow people with her dancing. Many of them are not balletomanes, however, and I wonder if it isn't that as much as anything else that rankles Copeland's more vociferous detractors. An equivalent from another art form might be all the hyperventilating over Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, and Charlotte Church among the more fervent opera enthusiasts. Some of them lived to grab the newbies by their lapels and lecture them loud and long about why they couldn't, shouldn't ever enjoy a moment of Boccellii's singing and if they did it was only because he was a handsome blind guy the media sold to them and did they realize they were complicit in the death of real operatic singing?

ETA: For the record, I want to make it clear that Copeland is a legitimate ballerina. Bocelli has a beautiful voice, but didn't receive the kind of training that would have made him a legitimate operatic tenor. They are alike primarily in their appeal to non-aficionados.

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New York City Ballet has a substantial number of children in its rep: off the top of my head, I'd list Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Coppelia, Harlequinade, Circus Polka, There are also the four girls in Mozartiana and the Costermonger kids. I don't know Martins full-lengths aside from The Sleeping Beauty, and I can't remember if there are child pages in the Christening scene, but there are kids in the Garland Dance, which was Balanchine's, and there's the brilliant Little Red Riding Hood divertissement in the Wedding Act.

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The Affirmative Action argument is affirmed by fans on this board (unconditional support for her lousy technique) and by McKenzie himself on the 60 minutes episode. Everyone has to feel sorry for Copeland, she had it rough. Let me tell you, in the performing arts EVERYONE has it rough. Especially if they don't come from families with money. The arts attract broken people by the truck loads. Some are extremely talented and many are mediocre. What determines who makes it is, for the most part, pure chance. But mostly it is talent OR savvy glad-handing. Copeland has chosen the latter because obviously she doesn't have the technique to wow people with her dancing. Everyone is caught up in her being the first black principal with ABT. That is all they see, the actual dancing is secondary.

It would be good for more black principals. I've even stated that I would support Courtney Lavine's direct promotion straight to principal. She has the talent to back it all up and she has perfect classical technique. A blind person can see it. Yet we never hear about her. Its always Copeland acting as if she is the only black dancer in recent dance history to get anywhere. Which is false.

But isn't it possible to like Courtney Lavine as a dancer, want to see black female principles and still be too hard on Copeland?

It's not that I think Misty or any dancer is above criticism. It's that I see much of the criticism directed at her as being excessive when you take into account to what she's actually doing.

Yes, she is a tireless self-promoter whose hardscrabble story has grown bit stale for anyone who's been paying attention for any length of time, including me.

But...........

1)To me, the accusations that she's constantly crying racism, are greatly exaggerated. She doesn't speak about racism any more than any other black person who finds themselves in an occupation with few people that look like them.

2)The accusations that she's taking opportunities away from other dancers, is bizarre when you consider the rent-a-star business model of ABT and the fact that despite her heavy self-promotion, she's still a soloist.

3)There's the fact that by no means is she universally viewed by dance writers OR balletomanes as being technically and artistically lacking. But to hear her detractors say it, you'd think this idea was a measurable fact that everyone agreed was true.

4) The implication that her co-workers hate her and are always talking smack about how much they hate her. With the ubiquity of social media, how could this even be possible nowadays and we not constantly see it?

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But she does wow people with her dancing. Many of them are not balletomanes, however, and I wonder if it isn't that as much as anything else that rankles Copeland's more vociferous detractors. An equivalent from another art form might be all the hyperventilating over Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, and Charlotte Church among the more fervent opera enthusiasts.

Ah, I hadn't thought of that analogy, but you've put your finger on something very specific here.

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I think that Anna Netrebko, a trained opera singer, is a closer analogy on the artistic side. (Back in the day, maybe Leonie Rysanek or Zinka Milanov.) You can read pages and pages about her technical faults, often venomous, with implied and direct accusations against anyone who likes her performances and/or singing as being the reason that the art form is at the brink of death. The only reasons, the arguments go, that she's cast, are her beautiful face, her telegenic looks, her "protector" Gergiev, her "discovered scrubbing floors at the Mariinsky Theatre" story (It was her work-study job), and her box office appeal among stupid people who are tone deaf and have drunk the Peter Gelb koolaid.

There are many people who love her. There are many people who love her despite her technical flaws. There are people who think there's more to live theater than technique and that the trade-offs are worth it. There are people who are moved by her performances.

Unlike at the ballet, where the audience can choose among many leads, it's rare for an audience at the Met to have more than two principal cast changes. If you don't like Netrebko's Lady Macbeth, you have to wait until it's revived again and hope someone else is cast. It's pretty easy to avoid Copeland if you don't want to see her. Especially when she sells out a house like in DC and tickets are hard to come by.

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A guideline that has been suggested on this board from time to time is the "would you say it to the dancer's mother while riding together in an elevator" test. Not a bad one, even though I'm ashamed to say I sometimes forget it.

There are so many things I could say about certain dancers in the context of a review or assessment that I would never say to the dancers' mothers in an elevator. The elevator standard suggests to me the pollyannish cliche that if you don't have something nice to say to someone, then don't say anything at all. Any professional dance critic worth his/her salt would have to override the elevator standard, although certain critics, perhaps Macaulay, might actually tell Part's mother that Part is "statuesque" (damning with faint praise) or Jenifer Ringer's mother that she had "one too many sugarplums" (calling her overweight).

I think that what we need to avoid are what are called "ad hominem" arguments, i.e., making criticisms of a dancer's character or personal life rather than of the dancer's performance. In the case of Misty Copeland, this would mean that it would be okay to cite an absence of classical line, if that is what the critic saw, but not to call her a "liar" if she says something with which a critic might disagree.

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Certainly professional critics would have to use a different standard. Above all they have a responsibility to be truthful to their readers.

If I were to find myself bound to the standard, it would result in a lot of silent elevator rides. In fact there have been many occasions when I've found myself face to face with a dancer and said nothing about their dancing because as it happens I'm a spectacularly unconvincing liar.

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Agreed, and we’ve seen some of that here. And no doubt, as Copeland pretty much told 60 Minutes, she really believes she deserves promotion. She’s caught up in her story, and she’s been affirmed in that story by public opinion. She can’t be expected to have perspective. But technically speaking there can be a kind of moral failure (that’s an unecessarily harsh and unempathetic way of putting it, but I’m drawing a rough correspondence) in demonizing criticism that a dancer’s limitations are being ignored and denied for the sake of affirmative action. “La Danse, Madame, c'est une question morale.”

Hmmmm. "Caught up in her story"? "Lacking perspective," and "Being affirmed in that story by public opinion"?

You've used the word "demonizing" more than once in this thread, but I haven't seen much of the demonizing you describe here myself. If people want to claim insistently that Copeland is the beneficiary of a form of "affirmative action" beyond her talent, there's enough evidence to the contrary that people are going to disagree, sometimes strongly. That's life.

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I think it depends on how direct a person is. The elevator test can to a useful technique to step back and review whether what's written is well-reasoned, proportionate, and adds anything to the discussion.

I think a more important standard is whether you would post the exact thing if you were posting under your full real name, rather than behind the selective anonymity of the internet.

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I think another thing to keep in mind is perspective, and whether Misty is being held to standards that you're not holding for other people. For instance:

Misty hasn't been broken been arrested (unlike many athletes that we adore). She isn't coming off a suspension for doping (like Alex Rodriguez) or about to serve a suspension for deflating balls (Tom Brady). She has not taken to social media to badmouth any of her colleagues. In fact, her colleagues, from the corps de ballet levels to the principals were nothing but supportive over her Washington Ballet debut. She hasn't even appeared in the tabloids (unlike Melanie Hamrick). Her private life appears stable and happy (from the NYTimes profile).

If you're holding against her the memoir, then you'd have to take to task Hillary Clinton, Obama, Shawn Johnson, Carlos Acosta, Rudolf Nureyev, and a host of other celebrities who have used a memoir as a springboard for new things.

So in other words, if you're this angry about a dancer for ... dancing, then ...

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You've used the word "demonizing" more than once in this thread, but I haven't seen much of the demonizing you describe here myself. If people want to claim insistently that Copeland is the beneficiary of a form of "affirmative action" beyond her talent, there's enough evidence to the contrary that people are going to disagree, sometimes strongly. That's life.

Sure, disagree, that makes life interesting. Bring on the debate. Strongly suggesting that people are racist is another matter, and more than one person has done that.

Angelica, I think that since Copeland herself has made ad hominem claims without citing evidence, her behavior is open to criticism, and/or her perceptions may be questioned. Likewise if she’s made untrue claims. If criticizing specific behavior is ad hominem, then making that criticism is ad hominem too, and any and all criticism is off limits. I think the term should be reserved for generalizing from specific behavior to a person’s overall character. I’ve seen that done elsewhere. I’ve not seen it done here. I. for one, have said positive things about her as well. There is much to admire about her.

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I think a more important standard is whether you would post the exact thing if you were posting under your full real name, rather than behind the selective anonymity of the internet.

Agreed. If I refuse to stand by my words, or would be embarassed by my posts should one discover my real identity (which honestly isn't that hard to figure out, as my username is part of my first name, and part of my last name), then I probably shouldn't be writing it.

Truth is, I'm not that fond of Misty's dancing myself. I don't think she is horrible, but I've seen technical miscues in her performances, and my eyes are pretty untrained. I much prefer Stella Abrera, whom I feel has a nicer line, beautiful arms and better technique. But as someone relatively new to the obsession of ballet, I am a bit shocked at what I assume are such highly cultured and educated people speaking in such negative terms towards some dancers. I guess I don't have much of critic in me.

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I think the term should be reserved for generalizing from specific behavior to a person’s overall character.

Re: ad hominem criticism. I agree kfw, which is my point. If Misty makes ad hominem remarks about others, which some people on this board are saying she has done, then she should be asked to document the basis of her remarks. I don't think retaliation in kind is what is called for.

Actually, my real point is that the mother-in-the-elevator standard holds us to too high a bar as far as reviewing performances. It doesn't permit us to truthfully report our thoughts and feelings about the dancers and performances we see. I do think, however, that we should report thoughtfully and not impulsively.

Actually, I do post under my real name and would be happy to reveal the rest of it.

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I'm wondering if a lot of the vitriol aimed at Copeland by some NYC balletomanes is mainly due to their love of Abrera and Lane, and fans' deep disappointment that those two have not been promoted yet? The biggest Lane & Abrera promoters seem to be the biggest Copeland bashers.

If Lane and Abrera did not exist, would NYC balletomanes not be so upset about Copeland?

Personally, I pray that whenever Copeland is promoted, that the other two will also become principals. Same day, same minute. Otherwise, prepare for the "atom bomb" to explode.

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Simply because people support a dancer does not mean that they are against another dancer to protect their own dancer. They can like dancers for the qualities they have, and dislike dancers who don't have those qualities.

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Discussing posting patterns is discussing the discussion.

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I'm wondering if a lot of the vitriol aimed at Copeland by some NYC balletomanes is mainly due to their love of Abrera and Lane, and fans' deep disappointment that those two have not been promoted yet? The biggest Lane & Abrera promoters seem to be the biggest Copeland bashers.

If Lane and Abrera did not exist, would NYC balletomanes not be so upset about Copeland?

Personally, I pray that whenever Copeland is promoted, that the other two will also become principals. Same day, same minute. Otherwise, prepare for the "atom bomb" to explode.

I am not a fan of Copeland's but am a fan of Lane and Abrera. If Lane and Abrera didn't exist I still wouldn't be a Copeland fan or think she was principal caliber. I don't expect Lane or Abrera to be promoted. Abrera's time, it would seem, has passed and Lane's casting suggests she will do the few principal roles she's been doing and that's it. I find it regrettable that these 2 talented artists haven't been fully recognized by the AD.

To my way of thinking if Copeland was't there Lane and Abrera would have had more performance opportunities but it seems most likely to me that KM just doesn't see them as principals for whatever reason.

To me Copeland is not a special dancer, she gets through the steps most of the time and has a lot of energy. I see nothing special in her technique, musicality or imagination when creating something on stage. I believe a principal dancer or ballerina has to do a lot more than get through a bunch of principal roles. It seems KM doesn't agree with me. IMO he promoted Hee Seo and Boylston prematurely and Copeland is to follow.

Anyway when (I don't think it's if) Copeland gets promoted it's likely I'll never see her dance again. With ticket prices being what they are and ABT's practice of a rep of full length ballets I'd never buy a ticket to see her.

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