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On 6/13/2020 at 9:58 AM, On Pointe said:

Out of curiosity ,  I took a look at SFB's roster of dancers.  The company is very diverse,  except for black dancers.  They have three, a soloist and two corps dancers,  and only one is American.  (All of them are sufficiently light-skinned to be racially ambiguous on stage.)  If they were really concerned about "systemic racism",  SFB would make an effort to hire black American dancers,  instead of virtue-signaling by hauling out a two year old panel discussion.

It's the SFB Dance in Schools & Communities program that may have the more long term effect on the dance population. But getting most minority communities to care about ballet has been a real uphill battle.

To your comment about hiring "black American dancers":

That's where it all gets interesting, or very ugly:

Given the existing budget - which dancers should be removed to make way for more "black" dancers? How many "black" dancers are needed to satisfy everyone? And how many "brown" dancers? And I think we have to decide what constitutes Black and Brown and White to begin with - how are these races going to be measured? I'd rather not see a return to codification of race like the old "One-Drop Rule" ('any person with even one ancestor of black ancestry is considered black'), but as long as people are playing this race game there has to be some agreed upon measure. And there's nothing like trying to measure something that doesn't exist in scientific terms. We've gotten all twisted in knots over something that isn't biologically real, but it is sociologically real. And that means race will be ever changing, and developing, and so the establishment will have to keep reassessing to keep up. [This person explains it better than I]
>> Something important that I think is missing from the article is the fact that pecking order/status/hierarchy is incredibly important to humans, as it is to other species. And race is just another way to delineate the pecking order in a society, or amongst all the humans. As long as humans worry about status, they will be finding ways to oppress and disenfranchise certain groups and individuals (or the other sex).

Is it important that all dance companies reflect the racial makeup of the larger society? - and does the staff need to be all U.S. citizens for this to work? - So each year, or every few years, the federal government hands down the 'official' racial makeup of the nation, and the companies adjust their staff to somehow qualify to match? Is that doable?

Here's a real-world example: SFB announced they were hiring Nikisha Fogo - will she be black enough to count? Or is there a problem because she isn't an American?  Is it really anyone's business to to discuss such things? Or is it just more social control to do so? I've got lots of questions but few fixes suggestions aside from saying we should all watch our own psychological reactions closely, and question them.

[Admins: if I'm breaking various rules, feel free to remove this post.]

Edited by pherank
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You bring up concerns that I'm sure many others may have (although,  to be honest,  you seem a bit combative),  so I will do my best to present my point of view,  which many others also may share.

Every season in just about every company,  some dancers retire from dancing or otherwise move on.  There is no need to  "remove" white dancers to hire black ones.  It's not a zero sum game.  I'm not sure why you put black in quotation marks. One drop rule notwithstanding,  it's not that hard to figure out who is actually black,  and it's even easier to determine who is a black American.  And of course it matters - black Americans do not identify with black people from other countries any more than white Americans identify with white people from other countries.  In fact,  in film and television,  there is a burgeoning resentment at seeing high profile plum roles in American productions going to foreign black artists.  If the majority of an American company's black dancers come from other countries,  the perception is,  accurate or not,  that black Americans are being deliberately excluded.  Nikisha Fogo  is unlikely to attract the black American audience,  unless SFB  introduces her to the public as their new black PRINCIPAL dancer.  (Sounds shallow,  but that's how PR works.  And yes,  she's black enough.)

I don't know if it's anyone's business to be discussing racial matters,  but truth is we do,  whether we have permission or not.  I sure notice that while almost all ballet companies have some kind of "urban outreach" program,  it's rare for professional company dancers to come from those programs.  I'd be interested to know if more black parents took their children to NYCB's Nutcracker after seeing the NY Times article about their their first black Marie,  and there has been plenty of discussion here and elsewhere about "the Misty Effect" at ABT.  If SFB really wants to build a black audience,  they should get the black dancers they do have at community events and elevate their brand. They should be doing YouTube videos,  about ballet or anything else.  I follow ballet closely and I had no idea there were any black dancers at SFB. 

Because of the events of the last couple of weeks,  I find myself exasperated,  tired and angry about the state of our country,  so forgive me if I come across a bit curt.  But come on - it's not rocket science.  If ballet companies can hire multiple dancers from China,  Sweden and Brazil,  they can hire black dancers from the US.  Unless they really don't want to.

Edited by On Pointe
Clarity
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14 hours ago, pherank said:

And I think we have to decide what constitutes Black and Brown and White to begin with - how are these races going to be measured? I'd rather not see a return to codification of race like the old "One-Drop Rule" ('any person with even one ancestor of black ancestry is considered black'), but as long as people are playing this race game there has to be some agreed upon measure. And there's nothing like trying to measure something that doesn't exist in scientific terms.

In my experience it's actually quite simple — you ask people how they identify and generally respect their self-definitions. It works with race, gender, sexuality, and plenty of other social categories. I don't think there's really anything to "measure," and I don't think we need to imagine new challenges when this issue is already challenging enough.

I'm not sure what "playing this race game" means.

14 hours ago, pherank said:

Something important that I think is missing from the article is the fact that pecking order/status/hierarchy is incredibly important to humans, as it is to other species. And race is just another way to delineate the pecking order in a society, or amongst all the humans. As long as humans worry about status, they will be finding ways to oppress and disenfranchise certain groups and individuals (or the other sex).

It may be "just another way to delineate the pecking order," but it also has a hugely impactful cultural and economic history in this country, with very real effects that continue to need dismantling. Identifying it as "just another" among many forms of inequality doesn't mean we can pass it off as inevitable and ignore the necessity of dealing with it.

14 hours ago, pherank said:

Is it important that all dance companies reflect the racial makeup of the larger society?

I think it's a valuable goal (depending on how "the larger society" is defined — and what this looks like will be different for top-tier national companies, smaller regional companies, etc.), and here's just one reason why:

14 hours ago, pherank said:

But getting most minority communities to care about ballet has been a real uphill battle.

Perhaps that's because they don't see themselves onstage.

14 hours ago, pherank said:

So each year, or every few years, the federal government hands down the 'official' racial makeup of the nation, and the companies adjust their staff to somehow qualify to match? Is that doable?

No. This is a straw person. I don't think anyone is advocating this.

Edited by nanushka
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10 hours ago, On Pointe said:

If ballet companies can hire multiple dancers from China,  Sweden and Brazil,  they can hire black dancers from the US. 

It's worth remembering that 21.4% of San Francisco's population is of Chinese origin.

San Francisco Demographics

According to the most recent ACS, the racial composition of San Francisco was:

  • White: 46.73%
  • Asian: 34.21%
  • Other race: 7.75%
  • Two or more races: 5.44%
  • Black or African American: 5.22%
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.33%
  • Native American: 0.32%

I'm not surprised that Chinese dancers should gravitate to San Francisco, given the strong Chinese cultural presence in the city. I'm also not surprised that Japanese dancers should seek employment there, given the difficult working conditions they face at home, as has been pointed out on this board. Heck, they're willing to brave the winters of the Canadian prairies in order to earn a regular paycheck. 

And perhaps because my family landed on U.S. shores only 70 years ago, and I speak their native language fluently, I do identify with the people from my ancestral homeland.

Edited by volcanohunter
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13 hours ago, On Pointe said:

Every season in just about every company,  some dancers retire from dancing or otherwise move on.  There is no need to  "remove" white dancers to hire black ones. 

I can only speak to what I see at Pacific Northwest Ballet, and, even that as an outside observer.

There's a standard meme (not PNB-specific), which goes something like:  We won't attract the best students into the School unless we hire them into the Company.   By best students we mean mostly students from the outside who come to the School for a few years of PD training.  So unless there are black (brown, Asian) students in the pipeline from across the country in our Professional Division, a pipeline we have little control over*, there are a limited number of black/brown/Asian students that make up the 20? 30? students from whom we can choose one, two, or three into the Company as Apprentices, and another ten or so go onto to other companies, mostly as Apprentices or in the second Company, from which another one, two, three make it into their main company.

*However true.  Or not.

Except, except, except.  And this by no means is a knock on any of the dancers who've joined the Company, many of whom I love and include once-in-a-generation dancers like Carla Korbes.  Except when, after taking exceptional short men from the school for many years, Peter Boal hired five dancers from outside the school in one year, including three tall men.  (And maybe a fourth, because I can't remember who the fifth dancer was.)  Except when there are really great young ballerinas in the corps who've come from the school and ballerinas from outside the company are hired into the corps.   Except when in a year that no School students were offered an apprenticeship, the wife of a new Ballet Master was hired into the corps from NYCB.  And it's not that I object to family reunification or other considerations for hiring dancers, including all of the things I know nothing about in particular, like whether someone is a good colleague or is a good fit** or has difficulty learning roles or would not do well in the corps, or, or, or.  And some of these dancers are among my very favorites.

But why, given all of the other considerations, including the tight network of relationships in a very small world and "who knows who" and "who recommends who" and "who's in the inner crowd" and "who is married to whom" is it another category -- if done at all -- to include racial diversity in a seas of "excepts" and "ors", especially when ballet is, as a friend would say, one of the biggest affirmative action project for boys?  And then the meme is invoked.

It still makes my head explode that when DTH had to disband, almost no one got hired, amidst all of the excuses about no money and need-to-take-people-from-the-school, when it wasn't as if no one got a job that year or the next year.  Or even the year after that.  Listen to the Gavin Larsen podcast interview on Conversations on Dance.  Three times she left companies with nothing lined up, and it wasn't audition season.  She even called Francia Russell and Kent Stowell to break her contract with PNB over the summer.  She went back home twice, thinking she'd freelance.  Having a lack of continuity on her resume did not stop her from getting jobs between companies or from getting a plum company job after deciding she didn't like the freelancers life.  I'm not arguing that she didn't deserve this consideration -- she was a beautiful dancer -- or that this is common, but where was this consideration for the former DTH dancers two years later, when companies were hiring more?  Not in any company I'd seen.  And many of us have watched the DTH Giselle recently and can see the talent that was there across the ranks.

 

**Edited to add:  The definition of which is problematic in itself when not examined closely.  It sounds so commons-sense -- of course we know what a good colleague is -- but so much workplace discourse and behavior is constricted, policed, and biased as a result.

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14 hours ago, On Pointe said:

Every season in just about every company,  some dancers retire from dancing or otherwise move on.  There is no need to  "remove" white dancers to hire black ones.  It's not a zero sum game.

Dancers generally leave from SFB because their contract is not renewed. [An exception would be Ana Sophia Scheller.] Retirements at SFB have, in the last few years, resulted in a lot of promotion from within, and relatively little outside hiring. So the hiring of black dancers specifically would change that dynamic, and yes, other dancers of whatever background will not get those same positions. Finding still more money to pay for more dancers would help the situation, certainly, but there's also the issue of how to get everyone ample stage time in decent roles in a compact season.

I'm not sure why you put black in quotation marks. One drop rule notwithstanding,  it's not that hard to figure out who is actually black,  and it's even easier to determine who is a black American.

I"m amazed that you think "it's not that hard to figure out who is actually black" given that so many people cannot be easily categorized and stereotyped by their looks (and good for them). Ever heard of the concept know as "passing"? It's existence is fine proof of the elusiveness of this thing called race. Proving one's American-ness is another issue that many American citizens and immigrants deal with every day.

And of course it matters - black Americans do not identify with black people from other countries any more than white Americans identify with white people from other countries.

This is a broad based assumption, but many people do identify with people of other ancestries and other cultures. Our personal role models can come from all over the place. An example from the dance world would be the European white dancers who wanted to become dancers specifically after watching Michael Jackson MTV videos.

Nikisha Fogo  is unlikely to attract the black American audience,  unless SFB  introduces her to the public as their new black PRINCIPAL dancer.  (Sounds shallow,  but that's how PR works.  And yes,  she's black enough.)

Another assumption, and I hope this one isn't true because it does indeed make us all sound very shallow, not just the PR department.

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7 hours ago, nanushka said:

In my experience it's actually quite simple — you ask people how they identify and generally respect their self-definitions. It works with race, gender, sexuality, and plenty of other social categories. I don't think there's really anything to "measure," and I don't think we need to imagine new challenges when this issue is already challenging enough.

I'm not sure what "playing this race game" means.

It may be "just another way to delineate the pecking order," but it also has a hugely impactful cultural and economic history in this country, with very real effects that continue to need dismantling. Identifying it as "just another" among many forms of inequality doesn't mean we can pass it off as inevitable and ignore the necessity of dealing with it.

I think it's a valuable goal (depending on how "the larger society" is defined — and what this looks like will be different for top-tier national companies, smaller regional companies, etc.), and here's just one reason why:

Perhaps that's because they don't see themselves onstage.

No. This is a straw person. I don't think anyone is advocating this.

Yes! to your first statement: "ask people how they identify and generally respect their self-definitions". It's about being respectful of how other people view themselves (whether or not we agree with the rationale or spirit of the statement). I don't think it should be about imposing categories on others, but, societies never seem to get past that point.

'I'm not sure what "playing this race game" means' - everything we do to create and maintain our personal notions of race, and everything we do to participate in our society's defining of race and various applications of these same categories/values, etc. in daily life, politics, the Arts, the military, sports, wherever.

'It may be "just another way to delineate the pecking order," but it also has a hugely impactful cultural and economic history in this country...' Yes, to all that. However, my point is that race is not at the bottom of all this. There's a reason why humans even dream up notions like race, and in my experience, the reason is status. The will to status keeps us differentiating, categorizing, deciding what to assimilate and what to shun, yada, yada, yada. We differentiate anyway in simple ways, such as deciding which substances are edible and which are poisonous, but for reasons of status, we take things to whole other levels of differentiation.

"Perhaps that's because they don't see themselves onstage" - Perhaps, but I do think there remains many people thinking they can't "relate" to the narratives, the costumes, the music, the dance styles as they appear to come from another culture, and that's not "us". However, as I remarked above to On Pointe, there are actually people who don't happen to follow the general dictates of the surrounding culture. Not only are there a substantial number of "white" principal dancers who stumbled their way into the ballet world not ever having seen a ballet, and having no family connections to the world of dance, or stage arts, or even the Arts, but there are also dancers like Yuan Yuan Tan who end up in a career that bears little relationship to their original culture. Some people follow their own path. Many more do what is expected of them by their family and surrounding community. SFB's Dance in Schools & Communities program has been operational for 40 years now, and that's long enough to see some change, but what may be really happening is that they are creating a broader community of people who are open to the ballet, but changing the demographics of the serious students of ballet - and eventual professional dancers - has obviously been much harder to pull off.

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1 hour ago, pherank said:

Retirements at SFB have, in the last few years, resulted in a lot of promotion from within, and relatively little outside hiring. So the hiring of black dancers specifically would change that dynamic, and yes, other dancers of whatever background will not get those same positions.

Sofiane Sylve, Ulrik Birkkjaer, Carlo di Lanno, Mathilde Froustey, Angelo Greco, Tiit Helimets, Luke Ingham, Misa Kuranaga, Aaron Robinson, Joseph Walsh, Cavan Conley, Jahna Frantziskonis, Vladislav Kozlov, Sasha Mukhamedov, Lonnie Weeks, Hansuke Yamamoto, Megan Erlich, Gabriela Gonzalez, and that's as far as I'm willing to dig down into the SFB website, which is so, slow.  None of them having been in the SF Ballet School, the SF Ballet Trainee Program, or SF Ballet apprenticeships.  Among the corps, there are a number who didn't attend the school, but entered the company after being in the Trainee program.  Most of the ones i listed were hired directly into Principal or Soloist positions.  And SF Ballet has a history of hiring dancers without a school or company affiliation directly into the Company.  Scheller was in and out.  Fogo is only the latest among the hires.

 

1 hour ago, pherank said:

I"m amazed that you think "it's not that hard to figure out who is actually black" given that so many people cannot be easily categorized and stereotyped by their looks (and good for them). Ever heard of the concept know as "passing"?

There are plenty of dancers who are active enough on social media who identify as black or mixed-race or LatinX or Asian American.  Some have even been interviewed by the dance and mainstream media.

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One big problem for diversity in dance is the "pipeline." Most dance instruction in the US is private and although many private dance schools have some scholarship help, it's certainly not on a par with what we understand is provided in legendary schools in Russia, e.g. (Please note that figure skating has an analogous pipeline problem in the US.)

It's worth noting Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech, a public school in NYC. I understand that the most promising are referred to schools like the SAB boys' division. But how many cities are able to provide such education? 

https://ballettech.org/about/

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1 hour ago, pherank said:

So the hiring of black dancers specifically would change that dynamic, and yes, other dancers of whatever background will not get those same positions.

"Relatively little outside hiring" is not the same as "no outside hiring".  Hiring black dancers would not change any dynamic,  unless,  as you imply,  you believe that those positions somehow belong to white dancers.

1 hour ago, pherank said:

 

 

1 hour ago, pherank said:

Proving one's American-ness is another issue that many American citizens and immigrants deal with every day.

"American-ness" is a feeling.   Lots of people who aren't American strongly identify with American culture.  For example,  the recent film Wild Rose,  about a Nashville-obsessed  country singer living in Glasgow,  Scotland.   But being American is a fact.  Black Americans whose roots in this country pre-date the Revolution as mine do,  feel no need to prove it.

 

1 hour ago, pherank said:

I"m amazed that you think "it's not that hard to figure out who is actually black" given that so many people cannot be easily categorized and stereotyped by their looks (and good for them). Ever heard of the concept know as "passing"? It's existence is fine proof of the elusiveness of this thing called race. Proving one's American-ness is another issue that many American citizens and immigrants deal with every day.

It's not hard for black Americans to figure out who is black.  We're very good at it.  As for "passing",  it's a venerable tradition.  My grandmother was an organizer for the garment workers' union,  a position black women were not allowed to hold in the 1930s.  So she was white at work and black at home.  All of her black neighbors could easily see that she was a lightskinned black woman,  but white people at work couldn't.   Look at the video SFB posted.  I know that Dwight Rhoden and Virginia Jackson are black,  but I'm willing to bet that,  glancing at a screenshot,   the average white person would have to search a while to find them.  

 

55 minutes ago, pherank said:

Not only are there a substantial number of "white" principal dancers who stumbled their way into the ballet world not ever having seen a ballet, and having no family connections to the world of dance, or stage arts, or even the Arts, but there are also dancers like Yuan Yuan Tan who end up in a career that bears little relationship to their original culture. Some people follow their own path.

When disadvantaged white kids stumble into ballet,  they still stumble into a field overwhelmingly populated with people like them,  where they are not constantly "othered" by even little things,  like the color of their tights and shoes.  Yuan Yuan Tan comes from Shanghai,  an enormous,  cosmopolitan city that has had a sizable Western population and culture for more than a hundred years,  not a small insular village in the countryside.  When she began her training,  it was in a Chinese ballet school,  with Chinese students and teachers,  not a minority experience at all.

If SFB's community outreach program has been in existence for forty years and has not produced any notable dancers or increased their minority audience,  they need to revamp their approach. But the real reason I commented on this thread was the hypocrisy of SFB preaching what they don't practice - when it comes to black Americans,  diversity and inclusion.  They need never have posted anything except ballet videos.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

There are plenty of dancers who are active enough on social media who identify as black or mixed-race or LatinX or Asian American.  Some have even been interviewed by the dance and mainstream media.

Those dancers are announcing how they see themselves, which is great. That goes back to Nanushka and I talking about allowing the artists to decide how they should be "categorized", for lack of a better term. Rather than have the institution impose some sort of categorization.

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Sofiane Sylve, Ulrik Birkkjaer, Carlo di Lanno, Mathilde Froustey...

Absolutely, SFB has a long history of hiring dancers from many parts of the world. And that's one of the things I like about them. And I"m pretty sure you read my posts that ahve mentioned this in the past. But in the last few years it has been about promoting from within, and using the school as a primary means of filling the company. That's not a problem to me, if the school is itself diverse. Obviously there's a lot of pressure now to prove this diversity...

"In fact, the School is a fundamental part of the institution—more than 65% of the Company’s dancers are trained in SF Ballet School."

Edited by pherank
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1 hour ago, On Pointe said:

"Relatively little outside hiring" is not the same as "no outside hiring".  Hiring black dancers would not change any dynamic,  unless,  as you imply,  you believe that those positions somehow belong to white dancers.

No one is guaranteed a position in the ballet world. I only see the day-to-day reality of a certain number of Corps dancers, soloist and principals, and some people get to stay, and others have to go. And they are all human beings with a dream to dance.

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It's not hard for black Americans to figure out who is black.  We're very good at it.  As for "passing",  it's a venerable tradition.  My grandmother was an organizer for the garment workers' union,  a position black women were not allowed to hold in the 1930s.  So she was white at work and black at home.  All of her black neighbors could easily see that she was a lightskinned black woman,  but white people at work couldn't.   Look at the video SFB posted.  I know that Dwight Rhoden and Virginia Jackson are black,  but I'm willing to bet that,  glancing at a screenshot,   the average white person would have to search a while to find them.

Are you talking about the video on this page?
https://www.sfballet.org/discover/dei/

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When disadvantaged white kids stumble into ballet,  they still stumble into a field overwhelmingly populated with people like them,  where they are not constantly "othered" by even little things,  like the color of their tights and shoes.

Absolutely true that "disadvantaged white kids" are not dealing with the same kinds of racial issues. But they deal with all the other issues of living in this world and being disadvantaged.

The fact that dancers of color can't find tights and shoes that match their skin tones is, in the year 2020, a head-scratcher. I don't get what the problem is for the costume companies and pointe shoe makers. But then I don't get why 3M is incapable of supplying N95 masks to most of the US populous.

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Yuan Yuan Tan comes from Shanghai,  an enormous,  cosmopolitan city that has had a sizable Western population and culture for more than a hundred years,  not a small insular village in the countryside.  When she began her training,  it was in a Chinese ballet school,  with Chinese students and teachers,  not a minority experience at all.

Ballet was not a minority experience in Shanghai in 1988? Where do you get this from?

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If SFB's community outreach program has been in existence for forty years and has not produced any notable dancers or increased their minority audience,  they need to revamp their approach. But the real reason I commented on this thread was the hypocrisy of SFB preaching what they don't practice - when it comes to black Americans,  diversity and inclusion.  They need never have posted anything except ballet videos.

No disagreement from me, except that I don't see any problem with their talking about the DISC program when they are being challenged to show what it is they are in fact doing. If their efforts are inadequate, then that's something to have a conversation about - and SFB says that they are open to this conversation.

 

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46 minutes ago, pherank said:

No one is guaranteed a position in the ballet world. I only see the day-to-day reality of a certain number of Corps dancers, soloist and principals, and some people get to stay, and others have to go. And they are all human beings with a dream to dance.

And some of them will have that dream deferred,  at SFB and at PNB,  which is even less diverse.  Amazingly,  Ballet West,  in uber white Salt Lake City,  manages to find,  hire and promote black Americans.

50 minutes ago, pherank said:

It must make you furious that there are many people in this country who absolutely question whether someone is a "true" American, regardless of citizenship.

No,  I never think about it at all,  except the times I've been called the n word by someone shouting in heavily accented English.  Then I wonder who let them in and why.

1 hour ago, pherank said:

Are you talking about the video on this page?
https://www.sfballet.org/discover/dei/

No,  the one you posted.  But that's a nice diversity video from SFB.  I wonder where those various black folks in it come from.  Except for one,  none of the others appear on the company website.

1 hour ago, pherank said:

Ballet was not a minority experience in Shanghai in 1988? Where do you get this from?

Margot Fonteyn was studying ballet in Shanghai in the 1930s.  There has been a Russian enclave there for many years.  (I saw a fascinating story a few years ago about an "American" woman whose family has lived in that part of China for two hundred years.  She and her recent ancestors,  all white,  were born there,  but never considered Chinese.)  I used the term "minority" because Yuan Yuan Tan is part of the majority population in her home city and country.

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On 6/15/2020 at 2:55 AM, pherank said:

The fact that dancers of color can't find tights and shoes that match their skin tones is, in the year 2020, a head-scratcher.

Freed introduced the "ballet bronze" and "ballet brown" shades a few years ago. I believe Freed still has the largest market share. Gaynor Minden makes pointe shoes in "cappuccino," "mocha" and "espresso." Gökçe Aykut, a Gaynor Minden knockoff from Turkey, manufactures pointe shoes in a large variety of colors, including "copper" and "cinnamon" and many other flesh tones besides, in both satin and matte finishes. Because generally, the standard "pink" and "peach" shoes don't really match the skin tones of white dancers either, or the standard women's "pink" tights, which are usually a good deal paler than the shoes.

Edited by volcanohunter
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15 hours ago, pherank said:

'I'm not sure what "playing this race game" means' - everything we do to create and maintain our personal notions of race, and everything we do to participate in our society's defining of race and various applications of these same categories/values, etc. in daily life, politics, the Arts, the military, sports, wherever.

I guess I don't see that as a game — or as a choice.

On 6/13/2020 at 7:04 PM, pherank said:

And I think we have to decide what constitutes Black and Brown and White to begin with - how are these races going to be measured? I'd rather not see a return to codification of race like the old "One-Drop Rule" ('any person with even one ancestor of black ancestry is considered black'), but as long as people are playing this race game there has to be some agreed upon measure.

 

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On 6/15/2020 at 5:45 AM, nanushka said:

I guess I don't see that as a game — or as a choice.

Not to bore you, but not all games are fun, or played "for sport". Some other definitions of "game":

"A game is an activity among two or more independent decision-makers seeking to achieve their objectives in some limiting context." (Clark C. Abt)

"At its most elementary level then we can define game as an exercise of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome." (Elliot Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith)

"to play a game is to engage in activity directed toward bringing about a specific state of affairs, using only means permitted by specific rules, where the means permitted by the rules are more limited in scope than they would be in the absence of the rules, and where the sole reason for accepting such limitation is to make possible such activity." (Bernard Suits)

"When you strip away the genre differences and the technological complexities, all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation." (Jane McGonigal)
>> the interesting part being that McGonigal thinks that all games are voluntary, but I would submit that it is very possible to be a participant in someone else's game, and not a willing or even conscious participant.


I guess I don't see that as a game — or as a choice.

Many people, much wiser than I, have talked about the importance of choice. Some have said that choice is the is one of the main things we are allowed in life. One example, William Glasser's Choice Theory:

'Choice Theory states we are motivated by a never-ending quest to satisfy the following 5 basic needs woven into our genes: to love and belong, to be powerful, to be free, to have fun and to survive.

Behavior is Chosen
Choice theory contends that we are internally motivated, not externally motivated by rewards and punishment.'


Others wish to eliminate most choices from their everyday life:

"Most people equate choice and freedom. It seems so reasonable. Freedom means you are free to choose, right? It means you are free from restrictions. If you can’t choose, then you are not free. And it would seem to follow that the more choice you have, the more freedom you have.

But it doesn’t work out that way.

The more options you have, the more energy you have to invest in making decisions..."

"What is freedom? It is the moment-by-moment experience of not being run by one’s own reactive mechanisms. Does that give you more choice? Usually not. When you aren’t run by reactions, you see things more clearly, and there is usually only one, possibly two courses of action that are actually viable. Freedom from the tyranny of reaction leads to a way of experiencing life that leaves you with little else to do but take the direction that life offers you in each moment. Hence, the illusion of choice is an indication of a lack of freedom."

[ From: https://tricycle.org/magazine/freedom-and-choice/ ]

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On 6/14/2020 at 6:24 PM, On Pointe said:

And some of them will have that dream deferred...

I forgot to thank you for the discussion, so thanks. Mostly the particulars are never really talked about.

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6 hours ago, pherank said:

Not to bore you, but not all games are fun, or played "for sport". Some other definitions of "game"...

Yes, I am indeed familiar with the concept of a game, and I know that not all games are engaged in for fun or for sport. (I didn’t intend to suggest otherwise.)

But they are engaged in — by choice — as all of your cited definitions emphasize. (Nor would “choice theory” seem to suggest otherwise, though I am less well read on that subject.)

I think it might require a perspective of significant (and perhaps unrecognized) privilege to think that "everything we do to create and maintain our personal notions of race, and everything we do to participate in our society's defining of race" is done by choice — i.e. is  "playing this race game."

Edited by nanushka
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1 hour ago, nanushka said:

Yes, I am indeed familiar with the concept of a game, and I know that not all games are engaged in for fun or for sport. (I didn’t intend to suggest otherwise.)

But they are engaged in — by choice — as all of your cited definitions emphasize. (Nor would “choice theory” seem to suggest otherwise, though I am less well read on that subject.)

I think it might require a perspective of significant (and perhaps unrecognized) privilege to think that "everything we do to create and maintain our personal notions of race, and everything we do to participate in our society's defining of race" is done by choice — i.e. is  "playing this race game."

This is my own personal observation, but my experience is that choices are made with or without privilege.
But we may be talking about different things.  ;)

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2 hours ago, pherank said:

This is my own personal observation, but my experience is that choices are made with or without privilege.
But we may be talking about different things.  😉

If there is a "race game",  could somebody please tell me how to stop playing!  You seem to be of the mindset,  not uncommon,  that believes that we wouldn't have so much racial angst in this country if black people would just stop talking about it.  In point of fact,  we tend to talk about it very little,  and only when events come to the greater public consciousness,  like the recent murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks.  In the past two days,  I've heard stories on television from black actors Jay Pharaoh,  Terry Crews and Don Cheadle about being stopped by the police multiple times,  barking orders with guns drawn,  because they supposedly "fit the description" of a perpetrator.  There's even video of the police throwing Jay Pharaoh to the ground and putting a foot on his neck.  (They let him go after Googling him and confirming that he had been a cast member on Saturday Night Live for five years.).  None of the three had ever spoken publicly about these incidents until now.  Silence does not protect you.

I have no doubt that most of the negativity flung at Misty Copeland has less to do with her supposed technical shortcomings and more to do with her pointing out that there is bigotry in the ballet world.  She doesn't pretend that it doesn't exist,  and to some that means that she's amplifying it,  she's making things up,  because they've been able to remain blissfully unaware of it.  (Of course some of her detractors are just racists,  like the Russians who attacked her online.)

What if your only choice is to endure profound humiliation or die?  If Pharaoh,  Crews or Cheadle had talked back to any of the cops who stopped them without justification,  they could have ended up dead.  What if you have to endure spirit-killing  micro-aggressions and "jokes"  about your skin color or lose your job?  I've had to play that game and I assure you,  it's no fun.

Of course it's not all bad.  Watching cable news,  I was struck by how many big US cities have youngish black women as mayors.  And it's very heartening to see that all kinds of people are participating in demonstrations and dialogues about race.  Confederate statues are coming down and Aunt Jemima is being sent to retirement after one hundred and thirty years on the job.  But the thing about dealing with racism is it's so tiring.  And it's boring.  I really wish we didn't have to talk about it,  but we do.

Edited by On Pointe
Typo
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It's funny because just outside the War Memorial Opera House the African American community of the Fillmore District begins. San Francisco Ballet would only have to open its doors non-metaphorically to have classes of black students in attendance. There could be drop-in classes in the public courtyard and garden off the north entrance. Villella and other male dancers have said that seeing running and jumping of exercises of ballet are what attracted him to ballet and so something like that could be a draw.

San Francisco's African American community is currently 5%, down from 15% only a few years ago. A "negro removal" program in the Fillmore in 1960s, overseen by Justin Herman, who filled a kind of Robert Moses role here for many years, is part of the reason. There were also other African-American communities in South Park and Dogpatch, which have vanished due to various combinations of gentrifying pressures. But also a reluctance on the part of San Francisco as a whole to embrace its cultural diversity and reflect it in its workforce compared to New York, a city San Francisco has traditionally has compared itself to. To me, a native of the city, it seems in part due to an outsized nostalgia for its white Edwardian past (which its Nutcracker totally reflects) and its devotion to kind of spotless perfectionism. 

I would love to see ballet finally integrated. And I think it would remove an anxiety all of us feel, if only on a subconscious level. For me there's too much of a fortress mentality about ballet, about being a refuge from the world rather than a participant in it. Balanchine's works constantly refer to real world activities, from his early Soviet experients and 1920 jazz references and so on throughout his whole career.

*

The "race game" seems like a rather loaded term to me however you use it. It seems associated somewhere with "the race card."

 

Edited by Quiggin
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14 hours ago, pherank said:

This is my own personal observation, but my experience is that choices are made with or without privilege.

I'm sure some choices are. But again, you defined "the race game" as "everything we do to create and maintain our personal notions of race, and everything we do to participate in our society's defining of race and various applications of these same categories/values, etc. in daily life, politics, the Arts, the military, sports, wherever." 

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What a curious notion that people who are, in fact, discriminated against because of their race are playing the "race game."

To use another popular organization in the Bay area -- do you feel Steph Curry is "playing the race game" when he goes out and protests BLM? Or is he protesting because he actually is a POC who believes in supporting this cause? 

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

What a curious notion that people who are, in fact, discriminated against because of their race are playing the "race game."

To use another popular organization in the Bay area -- do you feel Steph Curry is "playing the race game" when he goes out and protests BLM? Or is he protesting because he actually is a POC who believes in supporting this cause? 

Are there people who are/could be exempt from notions of race? People whose self-image is not affected by other's notions of race, and doesn't involve defining their own race? Societies supposedly construct racial classifications, but it's important to realize that "societies" are not independent 3rd party entities, they are us - all the human participants. I happen to agree with Robin DiAngelo on this point - no one is exempt from this aspect of humanity:

[interview from Amanpour & Co]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O27_yBQ8Q


On the subject of choice or choosing -
Has anyone listened to David Foster Wallace's Kenyon College commencement speech on the subject of Choice?

It's alternately sad, depressing, and even beautiful, to me:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhhC_N6Bm_s


Even if people disagreed with, misunderstood my terminology/references, or just thought I expressed myself poorly, the "loaded" phrase I used got people talking and thinking. So in that sense it was worthwhile (to me) to put it out there. I certainly got more discussion going than Arthur Pita's Björk Ballet. And so what about Björk Ballet? Did anyone enjoy it or find it to be thought provoking?

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As long as there's racism, I don't think anyone can say that they're "exempt." If you are white in America, you can't say you "don't see race" because the fact is many people only see race, and you're the beneficiary of that attitude. 

Also people don't get to "choose" when that choice is made for them. Again, this is not limited to POC. I'm going to go with the GS Warriors again -- Steve Kerr can't "choose" to not see race if he wants to manage his team because the fact is he coaches a majority black/mixed race team. He himself is white, but because of the people he has to coach everyday, he can't take himself out of that discussion.

I think ballet companies are finally coming to that realization that they can't take themselves out of the dicsussion either and that's a good thing.

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