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!0 Black Female Ballet Dancers who Aren't Misty Copeland

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I checked the dancers today to see if Precious Adams is still with the ENB. She is! She's not a facebooker really but I did message her to let me know when and what she will be dancing. At least she knows she has people supportive and interested in her. I'll pass on what I hear--if I hear.

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To this list I would like to add the name of Raven Barkley of the Charlotte Ballet. I saw the company this summer in Chautauqua in a performance of Carmina Burana. She has a marvelous explosive jump and the wit and sauciness of a Danilova, also a lovely long slim silhouette. I asked her about her name but it was not derived from the first 'Raven'. She said her mother liked birds!

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"Raven" seems to be an increasingly popular name for girls these days, I assume because of the "Raven Girl" thing(?) Although I rather like crows -- smart and resourceful scavengers, rather like people -- I'd not give my daughter a name that brought them to mind, but parents have their own notions.

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"Raven" seems to be an increasingly popular name for girls these days, I assume because of the "Raven Girl" thing(?) Although I rather like crows -- smart and resourceful scavengers, rather like people -- I'd not give my daughter a name that brought them to mind, but parents have their own notions.

Not a very pleasant association, no. I find the name rather pretty, though. I guess what's in the back of my mind is "raven-haired."

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In Northcoast native culture in the US, Raven is the clever and tricky god (like Loki and Anansi) -- Raven is the one that brings light to the people by stealing the sun.

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On one of my grandmother's soap operas, way back when, one of the "bad girl" characters was named Raven.

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Weird to see a ballet discussion about black ballet dancers turn into a discussion of whether or not one likes a dancer's first name!

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I do realize that he is a man, but here is what the Royal Ballet's Solomon Golding has to say about black ballet dancers.

Solomon Golding on classical dance and diversity: 'Ballet doesn't discriminate — if you’re good enough you will make it'

http://www.roh.org.uk/news/solomon-golding-on-classical-dance-and-diversity-ballet-doesnt-discriminate-if-youre-good-enough-you-will-make-it

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Driving home last night from a couple of wonderful Suzanne Farrell Ballet performances, my wife and I were wondering about Savannah George, an African-American girl who was both charming and exciting in a regional Nutcracker production two years ago in Williamsburg, Virginia. As it turns out, she’s now in the corps of Richmond Ballet.



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I'm hoping for more recognition for Ashley Murphy of Washington Ballet, She is a gorgeous classical artist who was with DTH for 13 years.

Although I miss her at DTH, she definitely gets more exposure at WB.

Poor DTH. They are frequently ignored by those who write about classical dance. And on those rare occasions when they are mentioned, it's only as that company that Arthur Mitchell founded and where Virginia Johnson danced. The end.

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Poor DTH. They are frequently ignored by those who write about classical dance. And on those rare occasions when they are mentioned, it's only as that company that Arthur Mitchell founded and where Virginia Johnson danced. The end.

An excellent point. They toured, when most other ballet companies did not (or only toured to a relative few places). They brought rep that we would otherwise never see here.

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I'm not surprised to see that Hayward and Golding have a different attitude than Misty when it comes to navigating the world of identity politics in ballet. It's definitely a generalization to say this, but many black and and black/white mixed-race Brits seem to have much more relaxed attitude concerning race in the UK than most African Americans have in the U.S.

Neither philosophy is wrong, They're just different. I think our vastly different histories and experiences have a lot to do with it.

Golding and Hayward's comments remind me of Thandie Newton's remarks when she first gained attention in Hollywood. She, like Ms. Hayward has a black African mother and white English Father .

Hollywood found this black version of the English Rose actresses they so love, to be fascinating. Quite a fuss was made over her beauty, talent, and posh education.

I don't recall how the subject came up, but when Thandie was asked in an interview if she thought that being a woman of color might put limitations on the roles she was offered, she said "People in the U.S. are so race conscious. I wasn't raised that way."

I understood what she meant and totally agreed that she shouldn't put limitations on herself and should go for all the roles in her age range. After all, most Ingenue roles aren't race-specific. And it a perfect world, it wouldn't matter. But neither Hollywood nor America is perfect and I'd seen far too many women of color who were just as beautiful, talented, well-educated and ambitious disappear without a trace because there were no roles for them to play and they weren't given the chance to compete with white actresses for parts.

I pulled for Thandie to break through to major stardom. God knows I did. But when I saw her in that Eddie Murphy monstrosity, Norbert, I knew she just wasn't getting the chances she deserved. If you asked her today, she'd probably say that along with talent and ambition, a level playing field DOES make a difference. Other talented Black Brits who thought America was the acting promise land, have found the obstacles in Tinseltown to be frustrating. (See Idris Elba and David Oyellowo.)

It's not because Hollywood is filled with racists. It's because the men who are in charge, make movies they want to see about characters they can relate to. People never think out of the box because of fear or simply due to a lack of imagination.

Likewise, I think the overwhelming female whiteness of most ballet companies isn't due to blatant racism . Nor is it only due to a lack of exposure to the art form in minority communities, the high cost or the quality of training or because women of color supposedly don't show up to audition. I think many folks in positions of power, simply find it easier to say they never can find talented ballerinas of color. Unconscious bias wins because diversity isn't a priority.

But as America becomes more diverse, that makes no sense.

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But as America becomes more diverse, that makes no sense.

As the young folk say, word.

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(See Idris Elba and David Oyellowo.)

But as America becomes more diverse, that makes no sense.

Why the folks in charge of the James Bond franchise aren't chasing after Idris Elba waving a contract and a pen is beyond me.

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Actors and dancers tend to tell interviewers what they think they want to hear. Thandie Newton has commented bitterly about the racism she suffered as the only black girl in her small Cornish hometown. If anything, racist attitudes in parts of the UK far from cosmopolitan London are harsher than in the US. If she couldn't manage a passable American accent, Thandie Newton would have no career at all. If anything, black American female actors should be protesting the casting of biracial Brits like her as iconic African Americans. She's played Sally Hemmings and Condoleezza Rice, Carmen Ejogo has played Coretta Scott King twice. Sophie Okenedo in A Raisin in the Sun, Cush Jumbo on The Good Wife, Gugu Mbatha-Raw - the list goes on and on. Why should they get those opportunities ahead of Americans?

Meanwhile some Brits have protested the idea that Idris Elba could be cast as the fictional James Bond. Elba himself addressed Parliament about the lack of diversity in UK television casting, and noted that without American lead roles, he would never have become a name actor.

It's likely that the main reason Misty Copeland is the target of ballet fan abuse is because she doesn't try to pretty up the truth - there is still tremendous racism in a American society, and the ballet and acting worlds are no different. Nobody wants to hear that. Everything is beautiful at the ballet. They really need to believe that.

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This article found in The Amsterdam News has a few notable factual errors like the one that gets the timeline wrong as to when New York's biggest ballet companies launched their diversity initiatives. ABT for instance, had established Project Plie two years before Misty Copeland became a principal, NOT as a result to her having been promoted as the article suggests.

Also, City Ballet did not have representation at the International Association of Blacks in Dance-sponsored auditions for women of color that were held in January.

Dance Theater of Harlem was the only New York-based company with representatives present, according to the IABD's own website.

But these mistakes aside, what is most notable about the article is that a prominent leader in the arts community, Darren Walker, publically accused NYCB of bias against women of color. To those of us who follow black dance and dancers, the accusation itself was not surprising, but the fact that it was said publicly, was.

For years, many black female dancers have quietly, but bitterly complained that they have been on the receiving end of a culture at City Ballet that fosters what comic Chris Rock has referred to as "Sorority Racism," a subtle, smile-in-your-face, hard to quantify type of racism that can frequently be found in liberal circles. It's the petty, cliquish kind of prejudice displayed in this statement; "We like you Rhonda, but you're just not a Kappa."

Those folks who dare claim that such bias exists, are frequently dismissed as paranoids who love wallowing in victimhood or losers who can't face their own shortcomings.

It's true that not everything is about race. Some of the black women who've complained about being rejected or overlooked by City Ballet may not have been good enough. But it's highly unlikely that none were.

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