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Misty Copeland, Part Deux


Helene

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31 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

I don't believe that blackface and yellow face are equivalent,  but I recognize that others disagree.

But she did.  Misty said,  "this is the WORLD I live in".  She did not say anything about the girls.  I believe that a reasonable person would infer that she was making a comment about the institution of classical ballet,  not two young girls whose identity is completely obscured.

Do people set themselves up as spokespersons,  or do leaders emerge?  When he was alive it was Arthur Mitchell.  Could be that,  considering the endless vitriol hurled at Misty,  other black dancers are reluctant to put themselves out more in the public eye.

She posted the girls IG name, along with a re-post of the original text, including 6 other Russian girls IG's, 5/6 which are now "not found".  When you re-post, it is not necessary to post the text/names.  You can easily just post the picture.  It shows up on their end when their name is tagged.  Misty knows that.  And yet still, after all of the bullying, she doesn't delete the text and names?  She could leave her original message and picture and delete their identities.  Any reasonable person would do so upon hearing that children are getting death threats. 

She said this on Twitter: "But until we can call people out and make people uncomfortable, change can't happen".  

But I digress.  This is the reality of social media.

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53 minutes ago, Helene said:

Not all black dancers have backed down because Copeland received such criticism and hate.  Michaela DePrince, for one.

I'm curious - what did Michaela DePrince say about racism?  Her life story is so unique I'm not sure that anything she has to say applies to anyone but herself.  (African Americans generally dislike being conflated with recent African immigrants.  It has become something of a hot button issue.)

59 minutes ago, Helene said:

And it is not a sudden thing that the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballets have their students use blackface in La Bayadere nor the first time that those students have posted photos of themselves on social media.  I'd be shocked, *shocked* if she was suddenly aware of this.

I'd heard about it,  but that photo made me sick to my stomach.

You seem to be implying that Misty Copeland is the one acting with malign intent,  and that she intentionally wanted to make those girls' lives hell.  I believe that a principal dancer has more important things to do.

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I just wanted come in and say that I think it's false equivalency to say that Copeland's failure to delete the names of the original posters is anywhere as wrong as making up in blackface today, no matter where you are in today's interconnected world. And Instagram and Twitter accounts are deleted all the time due to one faux pas or another – as I observed when following Brexit prior to the election of Boris Johnson – it's not a big thing.

For some reason I thought that after the civil rights movements of the sixties there would never again be another blackface image posted anywhere. And if countries are on a twenty year gap in regards to influencing each other's moral values, 1990 would have been the cut off date for Russia.

The blackface image from the Bolshoi is very powerful and has extremely degrading connotations – I felt like I had to avert my eyes or somehow become complicit with it.

I also think yellow face is pretty bad (for which see RaKu), as well as Nutcracker orientalizing mannerisms – though nowhere as lethal.

How many decades more of all this?

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1 hour ago, On Pointe said:

I'm curious - what did Michaela DePrince say about racism?  Her life story is so unique I'm not sure that anything she has to say applies to anyone but herself.  (African Americans generally dislike being conflated with recent African immigrants.  It has become something of a hot button issue.)

She is hardly a recent African immigrant: she was adopted into an American family when she was four years old.  As she said in this article/interview (with Marina Harss, when she was 18), "I wish that interviewers would ask me more about my incredible family and less about a part of my life that I would like to forget."  She discusses race in that interview.  I haven't yet read her book, the one she wrote with her mother, who was very pointed about the white default in ballet in a scene in "First Position," where she was dying her daughter's tutu straps to match her skin.  I suspect they didn't pull punches in the book.  She was interviewed a lot until management at Dutch National Ballet thought all of the press was a distraction.

Precious Adams is another black ballerina who has spoken about the racism she encountered in training: she trained at the Bolshoi, where a teacher suggested she lighten her skin.

 

1 hour ago, On Pointe said:

You seem to be implying that Misty Copeland is the one acting with malign intent,  and that she intentionally wanted to make those girls' lives hell. 

Not at all.  I think she was thoughtless and careless, and as a result of her thoughtlessness and carelessness, it led to cyberbullying and death threats, at the same time, obscuring the institutional target of her message.

 

42 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

I just wanted come in and say that I think it's false equivalency to say that Copeland's failure to delete the names of the original posters is anywhere as wrong as making up in blackface today, no matter where you are in today's interconnected world.

Who is posting that?  Who is defending blackface?  Who is saying that everything Copeland has accomplished or said is wiped out by this mistake?  

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10 minutes ago, Helene said:

She is hardly a recent African immigrant: she was adopted into an American family when she was four years old. 

Just to clarify,  to black Americans like me,  whose ancestors have been in this country since decades before the American Revolution,  anyone whose family arrived here in the last thirty years or so is considered a recent immigrant.   As she was adopted at age four by a white family,  I don't necessarily consider Michaela DePrince an immigrant at all.  (I have read her book,  and her account of her early life is harrowing.  She still appears to suffer from PTSD.)

Precious Adams was discriminated against at the Bolshoi school,  although her teachers seemed to be dedicated to her success.  They refused to cast her in vital end-of-term school performances,  even though white Americans were cast.  She seems to be doing well at ENB,  where her decision to stop performing in pink tights went over better than it probably would have at ABT or NYCB.

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12 hours ago, On Pointe said:

I'm curious - what did Michaela DePrince say about racism?  Her life story is so unique I'm not sure that anything she has to say applies to anyone but herself.  (African Americans generally dislike being conflated with recent African immigrants.  It has become something of a hot button issue.)

I'd heard about it,  but that photo made me sick to my stomach.

You seem to be implying that Misty Copeland is the one acting with malign intent,  and that she intentionally wanted to make those girls' lives hell.  I believe that a principal dancer has more important things to do.

Michaela DePrince doesn't speak constantly about racism. No black classical dancer does, not even Misty, although many of her critics may think otherwise.

But Michaela has spoken about race from time to time.   She said she was told by a teacher that they don't spend much time on the "black girls" (ballet students) because they end up getting fat.  She also said that after graduating from JKO, she secured an audition sight unseen - at a ballet company on the west coast but was denied entry to the audition when she showed up even though she had I.D.

Precious Adams has also spoken  about racial issues in the classical dance world. But she has indicated that she  is reluctant to do so because her feelings are evolving, there is a downside to being outspoken and because  she isn't as brave as Misty.  She recently  commented on the Bolshoi blackface issue on her instagram account. 

My point is that many black female dancers - especially those with darker skin - have experienced additional hurdles that have nothing to do with their ability or work ethic. And yes, things are changing for the better.

 

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15 hours ago, Balletwannabe said:

She posted the girls IG name, along with a re-post of the original text, including 6 other Russian girls IG's, 5/6 which are now "not found".  When you re-post, it is not necessary to post the text/names.  You can easily just post the picture.  It shows up on their end when their name is tagged.  Misty knows that.  And yet still, after all of the bullying, she doesn't delete the text and names?  She could leave her original message and picture and delete their identities.  Any reasonable person would do so upon hearing that children are getting death threats. 

She said this on Twitter: "But until we can call people out and make people uncomfortable, change can't happen".  

But I digress.  This is the reality of social media.

I don't take that to mean that she is sanctioning picking on teens. I took it to mean that the Bolshoi has retrograde racist attitudes that they excuse by calling it tradition. 

I hate I brought this up because I truly thought this would be a non-controversial topic on which even the most conservative and traditionalist of ballet fans would agree. But the topic seems to have been hijacked to focus on the topic of online bullying.

Bullying is wrong. The people who bullied those teens are wrong. I even agree that PERHAPS Copeland should have been more careful not to make it easy or easier for  SOME of her fans to harass teens. 

BUT  the issue of blackface WAS pushed aside. 

 

Edited by Tapfan
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12 minutes ago, Tapfan said:

My point is that many black female dancers - especially those with darker skin - have experienced additional hurdles that have nothing to do with their ability or work ethic

I'm not seeing, in this thread at least, that anyone has argued anything else.

I am guardedly optimistic that I'm seeing more black PNB students not only in the student shows, but in student roles in mainstage performances across ages. Not every student is headed for a professional career, and the overall odds are low in Seattle -- last year, despite several dancers leaving, the company didn't hire any PD students as apprentices* -- but if students of color aren't accepted and corrected, at minimum, and even encouraged in school from the beginning, then AD's can fall back on the tired excuse that there are no black or brown dancers to consider.

*PNB, which historically relies more heavily on ticket revenue than other big Seattle arts institutions, and which declined ownership in McCaw Hall and has to pay rent, got murdered last season when it snowed during Sleeping Beauty.  The company honored SB tickets for A Midsummer Night's Dream in Spring 2019, too.  I'm not sure if/how much that bit into ticket revenue for AMSND, but I'm hoping the goodwill at least breaks even.

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I took a look at Misty Copeland 's Twitter to try to understand the outrage her comments seemed to have engendered,  as I felt that the statement she made directly was quite innocuous.  It was an eye-opening experience,  not because of what Misty posted,  but because of the racist invective sent her way by the girls' defenders,  especially from Russians.  I now believe that the "little girls" were fully aware of the racist connotations of their costuming,  and that they found it amusing.  In my opinion,  they should have realized that you're safest when you keep your bigotry under wraps,  among like-minded individuals.  But they were old enough to know that Instagram goes out to the world,  and blowback was forseeable and expected. 

The singer Camila Cabello's racist posts have seriously damaged her career,  because while anti-black racism is common among Cuban-Americans,  she was considered old enough to know better than to go public.  She was around the same age as the Russian girls at the time.  If Misty should apologize,  the Russians should apologize as well.  But we all know they won't because all they regret is the threats they're getting.  Any sympathy I had for them is limited.

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4 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

I took a look at Misty Copeland 's Twitter to try to understand the outrage her comments seemed to have engendered,  as I felt that the statement she made directly was quite innocuous.  It was an eye-opening experience,  not because of what Misty posted,  but because of the racist invective sent her way by the girls' defenders,  especially from Russians.  I now believe that the "little girls" were fully aware of the racist connotations of their costuming,  and that they found it amusing.  In my opinion,  they should have realized that you're safest when you keep your bigotry under wraps,  among like-minded individuals.  But they were old enough to know that Instagram goes out to the world,  and blowback was forseeable and expected. 

The singer Camila Cabello's racist posts have seriously damaged her career,  because while anti-black racism is common among Cuban-Americans,  she was considered old enough to know better than to go public.  She was around the same age as the Russian girls at the time.  If Misty should apologize,  the Russians should apologize as well.  But we all know they won't because all they regret is the threats they're getting.  Any sympathy I had for them is limited.

Which tweets led you to believe that they found it amusing?  I'm not on Twitter.  The tweet I qouted was from an article.

Edited by Balletwannabe
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I'm not surprised in the least by huge blowback from Russian posters, nor that they contain racist invective.  I'd be hugely surprised if she doesn't received death threats in return.  That is the vortex of social media at its worst.

In general, Russians are insulted when they're told to live by anyone else's standards, especially American standards -- and they'd have plenty of American racism to point out and call hypocrisy -- and they share with many Europeans -- and many Americans -- derision for anything they label "political correctness.". They are protective of their heritage and their elite students and adult performers, just as Americans do -- at least our heritage -- regardless of how racist that heritage is.

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15 hours ago, Helene said:

Who is posting that?  Who is defending blackface?  Who is saying that everything Copeland has accomplished or said is wiped out by this mistake?  

I felt that in the discussion a minor point had eclipsed a major one. And the issue of blackface, the persistence of it in the ballet world in the 21th century, was the major subject. As pointed out by Tapfan (if I'm quoting intent correctly):

2 hours ago, Tapfan said:

 

Bullying is wrong.... BUT  the issue of blackface WAS pushed aside.

 

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11 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

I felt that in the discussion a minor point had eclipsed a major one.

That’s not at all the same thing as “false equivalence.” It seems everyone who’s posted is pretty much in agreement on the topic of blackface, so perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been addressed at length. Certainly I personally would be eager to hear any fresh insights on the topic. I think we can walk and chew gum both.

Edited by nanushka
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3 hours ago, nanushka said:

That’s not at all the same thing as “false equivalence.” It seems everyone who’s posted is pretty much in agreement on the topic of blackface, so perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been addressed at length. Certainly I personally would be eager to hear any fresh insights on the topic. I think we can walk and chew gum both.

This is Robert Downey Jr in the very funny comedy Tropic Thunder:

http://www.strangecultureblog.com/2008/11/how-badly-do-they-want-to-nominate.html

The photo on the right is Downey without makeup,  the photo on the left is him playing a white actor who is made up to look like a black man.  As you can see,  the makeup is very realistic.  This is NOT blackface.  Compare that to the photo of the Russian girls.

I liked Tropic Thunder,  I got a big laugh out of Downey's Australian method actor who tried to be black even when he wasn't acting.  The political climate has changed a bit and although Tropic Thunder is an obvious farce,  it might be difficult to get it made today.

It is possible to make up performers so that they realistically look like an actual person of another race and not a racist caricature,  but you better have a damn good reason for doing so.  Angelina Jolie played Marianne Pearl in A Mighty Heart  because Pearl,  who is of mixed black ancestry asked her to.  Here they are side by side:

https://atlantablackstar.com/2014/05/31/6-real-life-black-characters-that-hollywood-cast-as-white-people-instead/

It's hard to do this kind of makeup in ballet because of the sweat factor and because so much of the body is exposed.  But if the Russians see no need to darken the lead ballerinas in Bayadere,  the world wouldn't end if they got rid of the blackface "golliwogs".  

Edited by On Pointe
Replacing bad links.
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On 1/16/2020 at 2:58 PM, nanushka said:

She didn't. I'm pretty sure that was the point.

 

That was exactly my point. She could have had an interesting conversation with them and opened their eyes to what the costumes bring up for her and others. And even though the girls have no say about what they wear, they might have become more sensitive about posting pictures and if any are in a position of power or influence later, changed the costumes if it hasn't happened yet.

 

On 1/16/2020 at 2:58 PM, nanushka said:

But as a public figure she is not exempt from criticism, and she has a responsibility to use her very powerful public voice with care 

Yes!

On 1/16/2020 at 6:05 PM, Helene said:

It was an emotional outburst in which she made a blanket statement and tagged the handle of dance students, after which a set of her followers responded vilely.  She did not take on the institution in any specific and meaningful way: she did not mention the institution in her post.  

Yes!

5 hours ago, On Pointe said:

It's hard to do this kind of makeup in ballet because of the sweat factor and because so much of the body is exposed.  But if the Russians see no need to darken the lead ballerinas in Bayadere,  the world wouldn't end if they got rid of the blackface "golliwogs".  

Other characters definitely have skin-darkening makeup, some very elaborate with Shiva marks on the fakirs. I actually really enjoyed what felt like a very authentic Lead Fakir in the Mariinsky production last fall. Obviously, what the kids wear is not makeup, as I'm sure you already knew.

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18 minutes ago, FireDancer said:

That was exactly my point. She could have had an interesting conversation with them and opened their eyes to what the costumes bring up for her and others. And even though the girls have no say about what they wear, they might have become more sensitive about posting pictures and if any are in a position of power or influence later, changed the costumes if it hasn't happened yet.

 

Yes!

Yes!

Other characters definitely have skin-darkening makeup, some very elaborate with Shiva marks on the fakirs. I actually really enjoyed what felt like a very authentic Lead Fakir in the Mariinsky production last fall. Obviously, what the kids wear is not makeup, as I'm sure you already knew.

If what the kids wear is not makeup,  what is it?  I can see that they're wearing dark tights and gloves,  but what about their faces?

Yes,  some characters have darkened skin in Bayadere.  But not Nikiya,  Gamzatti,  Solor or the Shades.  

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Just now, On Pointe said:

If what the kids wear is not makeup,  what is it?  I can see that they're wearing dark tights and gloves,  but what about their faces?

Yes,  some characters have darkened skin in Bayadere.  But not Nikiya,  Gamzatti,  Solor or the Shades.  

Sorry I was unclear- I was talking about their arms and legs etc I'm not sure about their faces as the picture is too far to tell exactly. 

The Shades actually have lightened skin, like most corps de ballet roles of the sort (think Swans, Wilis, etc) 

You can see a corps de ballet member being yelled at for not having enough white powder on in Swan Lake here: 

 

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That movie never hit my radar @On Pointe, thanks for the link. That makeup is crazy! I’ll definitely check it out.

I wonder if one reason the Bayadère leads aren’t typically darkened is because it is in a way so dehumanizing (as done in ballet/stage makeup, especially), as I think you mentioned a few times before — and maybe that feels (to those who advocate the use of darkening makeup) more befitting for an unnamed slave or servant character than for a dramatic lead.

(They wouldn’t probably consciously think or agree it was dehumanizing, but the effect is so powerful I imagine they must feel it.)

Edited by nanushka
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7 minutes ago, nanushka said:

and maybe that feels (to those who advocate the use of darkening makeup) more befitting for an unnamed slave or servant character than for a dramatic lead.

For the record, the lead fakir's name is Magdaveya.

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3 minutes ago, FireDancer said:

For the record, the lead fakir's name is Magdaveya.

Yes, sorry, just speaking in broad strokes, and thinking most of the more intense/obvious darkening. Seems like there may be a spectrum of what’s deemed “appropriate” for different characters.

Edited by nanushka
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Just now, nanushka said:

Yes, sorry, just speaking in broad strokes, and thinking most of the more intense/obvious darkening.

Understood. I just really love that character 😊 Maxim Izmetiev was particularly wonderful with the Mariinsky this fall in Berkeley!

 

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1 hour ago, On Pointe said:

Yes,  some characters have darkened skin in Bayadere.  But not Nikiya,  Gamzatti,  Solor or the Shades.  

In Russian companies some lead dancers do darken their hair and skin in La Bayadère and Don Quixote, particularly if they are blond by nature, but the practice is not consistent. I've been to performances of Don Q, where one of the girlfriends has "tanned" body makeup and shoes and the other remains pasty white.

Gladiators in the Bolshoi's Spartacus also wear tan body makeup, which is obvious from the amount of the stuff that ends up on Phrygia's tights.

This has been discussed on another thread, but the use of dark makeup in The Pharaoh's Daughter is controversial, especially since the Egyptian princess remains pale and her Nubian slave has a black wig and dark makeup all over. This may have been a better target for Copeland. During the last revival all of the Ramzés posted photos of themselves in the full costume and makeup, and all of them are grown women, but some of them added "cute" hashtags like "mulatochka" and "mulatkashokoladka" and didn't exactly cover themselves in glory.

Edited by volcanohunter
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Seeing how fakir behaviour includes meditating in the open air in all weathers, a weather beaten look is appropriate in comparison with the other characters.  Kind of permanent first degree burn.  I once watched a performance of Swan Lake in Marbella, a lot of the dancers had clearly taken advantage of the sun.  No uniformity that night.  Some had a fabulous tan, some had turned red, while the ones that had eschewed the beach looked pasty by comparison.   

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5 hours ago, Mashinka said:

 I once watched a performance of Swan Lake in Marbella, a lot of the dancers had clearly taken advantage of the sun.  No uniformity that night.  Some had a fabulous tan, some had turned red, while the ones that had eschewed the beach looked pasty by comparison.   

Oops! That's highly surprising... You definitely shouldn't go in the sun around performance times... 

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Many years I ago I heard a news story about the English National Ballet banning sun tanning a month before the beginning of the season, because when the dancers put white body makeup on their baked skin, it produced an awful purplish color. 

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