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Misty Copeland, Part Deux


Helene

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12 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

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. 

There's also the issue of tan (or worse sunburn) marks. These can often linger for months...

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In the original Giselle, the Willis wore something on their costume to represent their lands, so they were never meant to be an undifferentiated, ghostly corps.

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17 minutes ago, Helene said:

In the original Giselle, the Willis wore something on their costume to represent their lands, so they were never meant to be an undifferentiated, ghostly corps.

Was that true of all of them? I’d read it about Moyna and Zulma but not the full corps. (Hadn’t read anything to the contrary though, so just curious.)

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On 1/17/2020 at 12:23 PM, 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. 

I don’t want to over-rate the sophistication of 14-year olds, but this was partly my suspicion when I saw the photo (long before I knew Copeland had said a word about it and possibly before she had since my algorithms do feed me Russian ballet students from time to time). The young dancers didn’t seem merely excited about dancing in Bayadere (though they may also have been so —probably were)—the point of the photo seemed to be that their makeup was a giant hoot. And it is very hard for me to think that some of the hilarity that the photo projected did not include a touch—or more—of outright racism however little they may have understood the full implications of that racism. It is a little harder for me to say I think they knew there would be blowback—and obviously I don’t think they knew how bad it would be—but when I saw the photo, I at least wondered if it didn’t have a semi “trolling” motivation. I can’t know. My point is simply that  I am not as confident as many posting above that the girls were posting entirely innocently. Do they deserve death threats? No. And...uh...Would I liked to be judged for the rest of my life on things I did and said at the age of 14? No—but I also wouldn’t deny what was wrong or stupid about them.

I also know very well that the history of race and racism in Russia is very different than the history of race and racism in the United States. But I find claims that Russians therefore are not or can’t be racist to defy credibility or to be based on an extremely limited notion of what racism is.  “Pushkin’s ancestor”  or Russia’s lack of involvement in the transatlantic slave trade etc. —these are important but do not encompass a more complex history.

As far as the ballet itself goes, it is worth remembering that Petipa was not Russian. On France and blackface people are welcome to read Fanon on French advertising  or even google more recent controversies. And France of course was very much involved in the transatlantic slave trade and had slavery in its colonies through 1848.

(If Copeland tried to ‘open a dialogue’ with the Bolshoi as suggested above, I think they would, at best, pay no attention to her. At best.)

Edited by Drew
correcting spelling error
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9 minutes ago, Drew said:

My point is simply that  I am not as confident as many posting above that the girls were posting entirely innocently.

I agree this is quite possible — maybe even likely. The race problem in ballet lies far more in the flaws of institutions and those holding power than in 14 year olds, though, which is part of why I think Copeland’s critique would have been far more appropriately directed at the former than the latter.

Edited by nanushka
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59 minutes ago, Drew said:

I also know very well that the history of race and racism in Russia is very different than the history of race and racism in the United States. But I find claims that Russians therefore are not or can’t be racist to defy credibility or to be based on an extremely limited notion of what racism is.  “Pushkin’s ancestor”  or Russia’s lack of involvement in the transatlantic slave trade etc. —these are important but do not encompass a more complex history.

I've been skeptical of this take Drew is referring to (not "knowing" it is considered racist) throughout this thread.

In part because I follow football (soccer) and there have been many controversies regarding Russia/anti-black racism/blackface in the recent past.

Most prominent was this: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/30/sochi-parade-blackface-bananas-confederations-cup-cameroon

But it isn't really an outlier. There was a lot about this in the lead up to the last World Cup.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/can-russia-with-its-history-of-racist-attacks-and-hooligans-put-on-a-world-cup-welcome/2018/06/12/88f88ac0-6da4-11e8-b4d8-eaf78d4c544c_story.html

Clearly Russians know it offends a great many people, they just don't particularly care or care to live according to other people's values.

 

Note there have been a lot of really disgusting racist incidents in sport in Italy, England, etc.

I'm not saying it is worse in Russia (though it may be), but the "we aren't racist, we don't have your/US history" and especially "we didn't know it was racist and because we don't have your history it isn't" arguments really don't hold water.

Edited by aurora
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15 minutes ago, aurora said:

I'm not saying it is worse in Russia (though it may be), but the "we aren't racist, we don't have your/US history" and especially "we didn't know it was racist and because we don't have your history it isn't" arguments really don't hold water.

Completely agree. This is why the argument presented in the Ballet Conrad video responding to Copeland (posted on this thread, p. 18, back in December) seemed like total nonsense to me. He seemed to demonstrate a serious lack of understanding of what racism even is or how it works.

Edited by nanushka
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47 minutes ago, Leah said:

Russians have a long and even proud history of antisemitism- never forget, for example, that the last two tsars murdered about three million Jews between them, and are still widely viewed as sympathetic victims by the Russian people. I believe I’ve seen an estimate by the ADL that a majority of Russians admit to open anti-Semitic beliefs.

 I think anti-black racism is more unconscious there, in the sense that because black people don’t have as much of a history in Russia, Russians therefore believe they cannot be racist. Or maybe they believe that there needs to be active violence in order for something to count as racism.Therefore acts like blackface aren’t given the critical eye that they should. I don’t doubt that the girls in the photo probably thought that they were being very silly and funny, without a thought to how the resulting image affected black viewers. I just think that this particular kind of bias and racism is one where education is needed. As the Bolshoi has grown into an international company its leaders - who ought to have that education by now - have no excuse for continuing this practice and they should impart that onto their students. 

I've seen Russian professional dancers pose in blackface outfits for Pharaoh's Daughter and sometimes it does come across like they think it's like a very funny Halloween costume. I agree it's a sort of passive, unconscious racism that can be as harmful as the more active "go to the back of the bus" Jim Crow racism. Because the more active "go to the back of the bus" racism can be remedied with laws. This kind of "hahaha, this costume is so funny" racism is harder to combat and it's thus more pervasive.

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3 hours ago, canbelto said:

Racism is a huge problem in Russia. I terminated a relationship with a Russian therapist when she told me that Natalia Osipova wasnt Russian because she was Jewish.

I think it is (or at least was) actually quite common for both Russians and Jews from Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe to think of Jewish and Russian as referring to different ethnic groups, rather than to their citizenship. My grandparents and others of their generation who emigrated from Eastern Europe would never have described themselves as Russian, Polish, or Ukrainian, but instead would refer to themselves/other Ashkenazim (if not as American)  just as  Jews or with Yiddish terms for specific groups of Ashkenazim like Litvak or Galitzianer. Not saying that you were wrong about your therapist's racism, just that this point is one on which both groups may be in agreement.

For a more recent example: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/21/russia-treatment-of-jews-russian-americans

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I don't know if this is true in Russia, but during Soviet times, Jewish was designated as a nationality. You were Jewish, or you were Russian, or you were a another nationality.  

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It was not a matter of Jews not thinking they were not Russian: it was a matter of Soviets and Russians thinking that Russian Jews weren't Russian and encoding this into official nationality.

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31 minutes ago, Leah said:

It’s a fair point. An acquaintance of mine who immigrated to the US recently from Russia only refers to himself as Tatar, and corrects people who call him Russian. In Western Europe, I want to point out,  Judaism was not considered a separate nationality at all, at least by Jews. My family were staunch German nationalists right up until Kristallnacht, for example. Up until the Nazis they were fairly integrated into mainstream German society. And as anti-semitism was more pointed and structured in the East before, it makes sense that Jews did not think of themselves as Russian.

But I think what canbelto experienced from the therapist was a variant of the insidious “disloyal Jew” trope wherein Jews are considered to only be loyal to themselves or Israel rather than their home country. As she was there in person she probably got an anti-Semitic impression that goes beyond the separate nationalities thing.

Well there was a collection of racist/bigoted comments she made. For instance, she said I was "wasting" myself trying to teach black and Hispanic kids. She also said that gays were just "men who hate their mothers." Too bad because she was an intelligent woman. 

As for Natalia Osipova she self-identifies as Russian even though her parents were born in Israel. 

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I (too) was once taken aback when talking to a Russian woman in New York, I referred to Joseph Brodsky as a Russian poet and she said that he wasn't Russian at all, he was Jewish. She seemed very pleased with the point she had made.

In the "Shostakovich: A Life," Elizabeth Wilson's oral biography, Shostakovich does what he can to protest against Stalin's post-WWII campaign against "rootless individuals," and the "Doctors Plot" where a group of Jewish doctors were accused of belonging to a terrorist group. Ironically at the same time the Soviet Union was first to recognize Israel as a nation.

Natalia Vovsi-Mikhoels:

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At eight o’clock precisely, Dimitri Dmitriyevich announced that we were to go into his study where we were to hear a new work of his. The impact of the poems of those simple Jewish songs at that particular time was simply shattering for me and my husband Moisei Weinberg. After all, not a day passed without those “rootless cosmopolitans” (who all bore Jewish surnames) being slandered and abused in the press. This cycle voiced what we dared not ever express in conversations. It was an open protest by Shostakovich against the hounding of the Jews in this last five-year plan of Stalin's.

 

Edited by Quiggin
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On 1/18/2020 at 5:18 AM, Mashinka said:

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.   

If authenticity is so vital, why dance La Bayadere at all?  Most dancers in Russian companies aren't South Asian.  Doesn't that make their portrayals inaccurate? But they allow themselves that amount of artistic license. 

They should take a cue from film director Mike Leigh who knew better than to make up his white actors as Asian when they were performing the Mikado in the film Topsy Turvy.  Yellow face  would have been a historically accurate  theatrical practice during the film's setting but was NOT used. The N-word was also omitted from one of the Gilbert and Sullivan tunes performed.  Yet doing so didn't affect the verisimilitude of the story at all.  

Edited by Tapfan
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14 hours ago, Tapfan said:

If authenticity is so vital, why dance La Bayadere at all?  Most dancers in Russian companies aren't South Asian.  Doesn't that make their portrayals inaccurate?

Indeed, I think such ballets will eventually be dropped in western Europe.  Many dancers in Russia come from the old republics where skin tone is noticeably darker and eyes are not Caucasian and they have been cast accordingly.

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