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Genderfluid dancer in PNB Professional Division classes


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10 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Again,  you're twisting my words to fit your mindset.  Mr. Edwards,  like Billy Porter,  can do whatever he wants,  wear whatever he wants,  identify however he wants.  I don't care about his motivations.  My concern is the hypocrisy of a school and company championing a Black male dancer  who dances on pointe and has a feminine presentation,  but has never hired a Black female dancer of similar appearance.

But you would rather they silence their voices to fit what you think a racial identity should be. I'm sorry, but "just shut up about it" is precisely the mentality that has led to it being 2021 and the U.S. still so divided on what should be basic human rights afforded to all citizens. Ashton Edwards shouldn't have to shut up about anything. 

Edited by canbelto
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12 hours ago, dirac said:

British sketch comedians tend to do it more than Americans - Benny Hill and "Little Britain" come to mind.  There are a few well known individual drag characters in American sketch comedy - Dana Carvey's Church Lady, Harvey Korman's yenta, and lmspear has mentioned Flip Wilson's great Geraldine Jones.  Dan Aykroyd's Julia Child, bleeding to death on camera after cutting herself while demonstrating how to debone a chicken, was a memorable one-off.  

I think it's fair to say that Maude Frickert was Jonathan Winters' best-known character, and later Mike Myers' Linda Richman had a long run, while Will Ferrell impersonated Janet Reno. John Travolta's Barbra Streisand was a brilliant one-off. In Bosom Buddies Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari spent much of the time in drag.

There is no shortage of examples in movies: William Powell dressed as his "sister" in Love Crazy, Red Skelton in a tutu in Bathing Beauty, Cary Grant in disguise as a servicewoman in I Was a Male War Bride and of course the immortal tango of Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown in Some Like It Hot. Decades later there was Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Incongruity is a fundamental element of comedy, as demonstrated by the combination of sock garters and ostrich feathers Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby wore in one number of White Christmas, and it's why a man in a dress is generally perceived as inherently funny.

No doubt those better versed than me in pop culture and comedy could come up with many more examples.

Rossini's La Cenerentola has a male-only chorus, but the Vienna State Opera production, which was streamed the other day, puts several of them in drag. I noticed that men with more slender legs were chosen, but it was still a variation on the "ugly broad" joke that typically accompanies male performers dressed as women.

As for the topic at hand, I'm certain that pretty much every girl who has attended ballet school, especially in North America, is accustomed to boys getting more attention and a whole lot more in the way of privileges and incentives. 

Edited by volcanohunter
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Yes,  there's are many examples of men disguised as women for comic effect.  Joe E. Brown's closing line to Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot is considered to be the funniest in movie history by many film enthusiasts.  There are very few instances of women dressing as men for laughs,  with the notable exception of Saturday Night Live.  When they want to bring down a powerful male figure,  they have him portrayed by a female cast member,  for example Kate McKinnon as Rudy Giuliani.  (Until recently,   the show has had very few Black women.  They made a special effort to find more when Black actor Kenan Thompson flat out refused to portray women anymore,  thereby providing opportunities to several Black female comics.  Thompson has been on the show longer than any other performer so apparently he could make such a demand and not get fired.)

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11 hours ago, On Pointe said:

Nothing I have written dismisses gender queer people.  I don't say they shouldn't appear in media.

These are the statements that, to me, suggested that:

On 1/9/2021 at 3:53 AM, On Pointe said:

While Ashton Edwards looks to be a tremendous talent,  he justifies the suspicions of Black Americans of the ongoing efforts to emasculate Black men in entertainment and the arts.

 

On 1/9/2021 at 12:17 PM, On Pointe said:

But I'm certain there isn't much desire to see yet another talented Black man in earrings and a tutu.

 

On 1/9/2021 at 7:54 PM, On Pointe said:

Black Americans know a bit about oppression.  Not being a fan of Black men in media in makeup and earrings is not it.

 

12 hours ago, On Pointe said:

But it's the Black boy who takes on a feminine persona who gets the attention.

I apologize if I misconstrued the sentiment that these all seemed to me to be expressing.

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Ashton Edwards described himself as "male-presenting" and I don't see any pronoun preference in the article or interview -- I apologize if I missed it -- so I'll use male pronouns.

I have no idea whether PNB will hire Edwards into the Company.  PNB, like most arts organizations, is in a precarious financial position, and the roster is actually net one down for Principals, after the recent promotions. and net down one corps member.  While they hired two male and one female apprentice this season, the season before, they hired none.

I assume that if they do, and Edwards is cast in male roles in the classical and at least the neoclassical works on the classical side, that he will be expected to be as male presenting as the other men in the company.  I assume that for contemporary and the more modernist neoclassical works, if the roles are designated male, at least originally, it will be up to the stagers to decide what the parameters are.  (Example: bun might be fine in Agon, earings not.)  For works where different genders/gender combinations have been presented -- and PNB has at least a handful of these in the rep -- I assume it would be up to the stagers or Peter Boal or for new work, the choreographers.  A choreographer could create a work for him that highlights gender fluidity and/or pointe work. If this were a normal year, I wouldn't have been suprised if one of the Next Step choreographers had featured him, including an outside PNB choreographer as part of the outdoor and lobby works.  There are also a number of choreographers in the company and out who present new work outside the PNB stages.

I don't think he's ready for prime time for pointe work, nor should he be expected to now, given his late start.  It takes a while to develop fluidity working through the foot amd wearing the shoe like a second skin, but he is clearly motivated, and, given the number of classes he is taking, I don't see any reason that he won't catch up. 

At least two PNB men have performed contemporary works with facial hair, aside from those where it's character-driven (like the father in Cendrillon and Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette).

 

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10 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

I think it's fair to say that Maude Frickert was Jonathan Winters' best-known character, and later Mike Myers' Linda Richman had a long run, while Will Ferrell impersonated Janet Reno. John Travolta's Barbra Streisand was a brilliant one-off. In Bosom Buddies Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari spent much of the time in drag.

There is no shortage of examples in movies: William Powell dressed as his "sister" in Love Crazy, Red Skelton in a tutu in Bathing Beauty, Cary Grant in disguise as a servicewoman in I Was a Male War Bride and of course the immortal tango of Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown in Some Like It Hot. Decades later there was Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Incongruity is a fundamental element of comedy, as demonstrated by the combination of sock garters and ostrich feathers Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby wore in one number of White Christmas, and it's why a man in a dress is generally perceived as inherently funny.

No doubt those better versed than me in pop culture and comedy could come up with many more examples.

Rossini's La Cenerentola has a male-only chorus, but the Vienna State Opera production, which was streamed the other day, puts several of them in drag. I noticed that men with more slender legs were chosen, but it was still a variation on the "ugly broad" joke that typically accompanies male performers dressed as women.

As for the topic at hand, I'm certain that pretty much every girl who has attended ballet school, especially in North America, is accustomed to boys getting more attention and a whole lot more in the way of privileges and incentives. 

Drag comedy traditionally tends to show up more in British sketch comedy than American sketch comedy.  Didn't say it never happened Stateside. The practice can be questionable.

A heavy or large thing trying to be lighter and smaller is generally funnier than the reverse. In certain instances a man wearing woman's clothing is symbolically abandoning the markers of superiority and voluntarily assuming the markers of an inferior caste. Historically women wearing masculine-style clothing has often been a form of independence and rebellion - it's empowering or even scandalous, but not funny, although as On Pointe notes there have been a few recent examples on SNL. 

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 They made a special effort to find more when Black actor Kenan Thompson flat out refused to portray women anymore,  thereby providing opportunities to several Black female comics.  Thompson has been on the show longer than any other performer so apparently he could make such a demand and not get fired.)

I remember reading about that, On Pointe. Interesting.  (I no longer watch the show regularly.) There was very little male (or female) drag when SNL was new - none of the original male cast members had recurring drag characters, There were one-offs.

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As a gay white male (and a one time member of New York Act Up) I would say that the greater social inequity would be the lack of Black leading men in Amercian ballet companies than the lack of gender-fluid members. In the art world, with the exception of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Black artists were not shown at galleries until around 2010 (for which see Stanley Whitney's interviews at Brooklyn Rail and elsewhere; Whitney was part of a distinguished class at Yale, white members of which got a 20 year head start). Ballet is more conservative than the rest of the arts and it would seem that now would be the time to make some honest amends, without blurring the issue as at PNB.

Drag is meaningful if considered within a particular context. In American comedy (British music hall is a different tradition) men dressing up like women is incongruous and nutty, but it also shows men parodying women's work and occupying the domain of women. There were very few examples of the reverse – Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus and Morocco, Veronica Lake in Sullivan's Travels. Drag in Hollywood is both self-parody and a cat-and-mouse coming out game – with Dietrich, Jack Benny and Danny Kaye it was a nod to their bisexuality.  Joe E. Brown's role in Some Like It Hot is an intregal part of the Billy Wilder/IAL Diamond script, not a throw away act or line. 

With Flip Wilson as Geraldine, drag was indeed a way of neutralizing his effectiveness as a Black male and making him acceptable, lovable and "beloved" to white middle class audiences. Drag opens the door for Black males to middle class acceptance, like a kind of fraternity hazing, but one that white males don't have to go through and whose afterimages follow them all career long.

[Was writing this as the same time as dirac so there may be overlaps.]

 

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38 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

...I would say that the greater social inequity would be the lack of Black leading men in Amercian ballet companies...

 

Are there Black women in the top ranks in much greater numbers? My sense is that it's a problem across the board.

Edited by nanushka
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As a percentage of their gender, I'm pretty certain there are more Black male dancers than Black female dancers in ballet companies.  I wouldn't be surprised if the actual number is greater, even if men are a smaller percentage of most companies.  And colorism is more rampant against female Black dancers, because they're supposed to look like swan replicas, unlike hunters, who can be individuals.

Leading Black male dancers are a different story, ie, the dancers who are Principals and/or get the white tights leads, whether classical or neoclassical.  I remember when Mel Tomlinson danced with NYCB and danced Arthur Mitchell roles plus Death figures.  

 

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Today there was second local news interview, this time by KIRO, the CBS affiliate, I saw it on the 11:00 news  I don't see it posted online otherwise I would include a link.  I'll add it if I find it later.  This one seemed longer, and included Peter Boal who said Edwards was the first male student to ask to study pointe.  I've not seen KIRO spend any screen time on ballet or dance recently so I was surprised by this segment.  KIRO does seem to be big on diversity; I actually watch that station for the racial diversity in anchors/reporters.

KING, the first station who interviewed Edwards, showed quite a bit of support for PNB in December.  Early in the month there they showed Peter Boal discussing the impact of not performing Nutcracker live (strategically timed to sell digital Nutcracker tickets), and between KING and its sister station KONG, a one hour special of PNB's Balanchine Nutcracker highlights was televised four times.  So I thought the Edwards interview was kind of a continuation of PNB publicity but this time more of a human interest story.

I'm just so glad for dance, or any type of arts, to get air time.  So much time is spent on sports and whining when they can't play their games.  

I'm also glad I live in a city where precious air time was spent on a gay African American male ballet student who wants to dance on pointe like a female.  I'm afraid there are still some cities in this country where social norms are not liberal enough to withstand such content.

 

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This radio feature has just shown up in my Facebook feed:

https://www.npr.org/2021/01/16/957389036/with-a-leap-across-gender-norms-a-rising-ballet-star-looks-to-rewrite-rules-of-d?fbclid=IwAR3gM0uLUcXZI7gMNUgKfpUEIcbzD1WFMpOpwKOdHdI8x6IR2T_h6cxOv70&t=1610824179565

 

10 hours ago, seattle_dancer said:

 

I'm just so glad for dance, or any type of arts, to get air time.  So much time is spent on sports and whining when they can't play their games.  

 

Absolutely agree with this sentiment Seattle_dancer.

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19 hours ago, seattle_dancer said:

Today there was second local news interview, this time by KIRO, the CBS affiliate, I saw it on the 11:00 news  I don't see it posted online otherwise I would include a link.  I'll add it if I find it later. 

 

https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/gender-fluid-dancer-pacific-northwest-ballet-is-breaking-barriers/CBVHJLK4FVDEBHFJ7ARKZ534L4/

Here's the article in video and text form.  Edwards explains his motivation behind asking to study pointe and his personal self discovery.  What a brave young man.

At the end of the interview there's a statement on why KIRO covered this interview.

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38 minutes ago, seattle_dancer said:

Here's the article in video and text form.  Edwards explains his motivation behind asking to study pointe and his personal self discovery.  What a brave young man.

With all this praise and accomodation for a male student studying pointe,  PNB has put itself in a tough position.  They almost have to hire Ashton Edwards,  even if there is very little for him to dance in their repertory.  Even if they had no intention of hiring such a small male dancer at all.  And if they do give him a contract,  will they cast him in female roles?   (I realize how unpopular my views are here,  but rest assured Black balletgoers would consider a Black male dancer being cast as a woman to be a profound insult and a major turnoff.).   Or will they engage a choreographer to create a role just for him?  He's a unicorn,  and for a company with financial challenges - which is all of them these days - it's hard to justify the expense of taking on a dancer of such limited utility.

(BTW I wish that Mr. Edwards had corrected the NPR interviewer who referred to pointe shoes as "torture boxes" with wood inside.)

Edited by On Pointe
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