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Genderfluid dancer in PNB Professional Division classes


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Posted (edited)

Thanks for explaining further, @On Pointe. "Agenda" had thrown me, suggesting something more consciously planned. What you describe makes sense in its way, but I'd want to know more about the situation (the company, its roster, audience, administration, plans for Edwards, Edwards' dancing) than what I've picked up from casually following the story here.

Edited by nanushka
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The trend in the choreographers that Peter Boal is hiring and the direction that the rep has been heading suggests that choreographers will be able to use Edwards as they see fit.

If this happens, Edwards would not be the first young man, PD, apprentice, or corps member, who gets many opportunities from his peers or outside choreographers above rank.  There are also other opportunities beyond the McCaw Hall stage in which PNB dancers perform and choreograph, some fully or partly sponsored by PNB and others independent.

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18 hours ago, On Pointe said:

The genius of institutional racism is that the participants are not necessarily aware that they are participating.  One could say that they can't see the forest for the trees,  except that they are the trees.  It is my opinion that PNB does not actually want to be inclusive of Black dancers.  But they want to look like they are.  They have this in common with much of corporate America.  So they take on an apprentice who is visibly Black but well nigh uncastable. Edwards looks feminine when he's dancing solo in the studio,  but PNB risks making a mockery of their company if he's onstage in a female role  next to actual women.  They definitely are mocking and insulting the talented young Black women who have put their hearts and souls into ballet study to no avail.

America has an institutional fear and hatred of Black men.  With his hair in a bun,  with earrings and eye makeup,  Edwards is less of a threat.  That's why he's getting so much support.  He doesn't scare the whitefolks.  White women are "safe" around him.  

To many people in the ballet audience,  the ballerina is the epitome of female beauty and grace.  In effect,  PNB is showing that they apparently can't find an actual darkskinned woman that fits this ideal,  but they think that the audience will accept a darkskinned man in a tutu.  It's ludicrous.

From what I've seen on Instagram, Edwards is a very fine dancer who seems poised and technically able to perform traditionally male and female roles (along with non-gender-specific ones). And they are black.  If Boal and PNB have hired them, they've been given respect and an opportunity to prove oneself. Give them time to be casted and perform. 

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1 hour ago, PeggyTulle said:

From what I've seen on Instagram, Edwards is a very fine dancer who seems poised and technically able to perform traditionally male and female roles (along with non-gender-specific ones). And they are black.  If Boal and PNB have hired them, they've been given respect and an opportunity to prove oneself. Give them time to be casted and perform. 

As so many Black professionals could tell you,  being hired does not necessarily mean being "given respect and an opportunity to prove oneself".  Sometimes you're being set up to fail.  For example,  the experiences of Timnit Gebru and April Christina Curley at Google.  Despite their impressive scientific and academic credentials,  and the high esteem in which they were held by other Google employees,  they were ousted.  From what I've seen of Ashton Edwards' dancing,  he is a very accomplished and gifted dancer.  I'm not questioning his ability to dance,  I am questioning the motives behind taking him on as a gender fluid apprentice.  If it turns out that Edwards is not sufficiently useful in PNB's current repertoire,  or if he suffers repeated foot and knee injuries because male bodies are not anatomically suited for pointe work,  he'll be eased out.  And the PNB management will shrug their shoulders - after all,  they tried to be "inclusive",  but the Black dancer just didn't work out.

Dance is not gendered,  but ballet is.  In my opinion it's a characteristic of the art form,  not requiring " correction" by putting men on their toes and having wispy women trying - and inevitably failing- to partner and lift men.  I'm well aware that others do not agree with me.

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14 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

.  If it turns out that Edwards is not sufficiently useful in PNB's current repertoire,  or if he suffers repeated foot and knee injuries because male bodies are not anatomically suited for pointe work,  he'll be eased out.  

This discussion is so interesting to me. The dance world is covering new ground. The above statement would hold true for any dancer that is hired in any company. If a dancer is not sufficiently useful in the rep and/or suffers repeated  injuries and misses a lot of performances, that dancer is not likely to continue being employed. The goal of any dance company is to have dancers who fill the needs of the rep, and who can stay injury free enough to be useful. That is the bottom line in hiring, and re-hiring.  

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39 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Dance is not gendered,  but ballet is.  In my opinion it's a characteristic of the art form,  not requiring " correction" by putting men on their toes and having wispy women trying - and inevitably failing- to partner and lift men.  I'm well aware that others do not agree with me.

Folk dances from around the world have used gender "roles", if you like, in that the particular steps, arm movements, etc. are specifically assigned to a gender. And various cultures also have male dances, female dances, and the choreography isn't necessarily the same for both. Ballet developed specific interests in lifts, and dancing on pointe, which obviously have their particular physical demands. It will all be modified over time though as people's interests change...

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I can't imagine the Edwards won't be useful in the current PNB rep, which includes some gender non-specific solo roles, like Fenley's "State of Darkness," danced by Jonathan Porretta, James Moore, and Rachel Foster.  (Noelani Pantastico was originally cast, but didn't perform). Also Jessica Lang's "The Calling," performed by Carla Korbes, James Moore, Dylan Wald, and Leah Merchant.  There is all an array of contemporary works which, like the other two, don't all have pointe work, although Crystal Pyte's "Emergence" does, and he could dance any of the roles.  Possibly the Dove rep, depending on what's in cycle and if PNB still has the rights for them.  There's new work coming in all the time.

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

[Admin beanie on]

Please discuss the issue, not the discussion or each other.

[/off]

I have asked this before with no response. What does this mean? I have looked through the guidelines and such but can't find examples. Googling leads me nowhere, too.

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Posted (edited)

Why is lack of gender inclusiveness here not allowed to be discussed? It's a central part of the issue and it seems the preferenceis to dance around it.

Also, why was my post edited without any note about it? 

Edited by PeggyTulle
clarification
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36 minutes ago, PeggyTulle said:

I have asked this before with no response. What does this mean? I have looked through the guidelines and such but can't find examples. Googling leads me nowhere, too.

It's in our Rules & Policies under two separate bullet points:

  • Write what you think of the subject, not other posters, i.e., no ad hominem attacks, characterizations, or psychoanalysis.
  • Don't discuss the discussion.  Do not discuss each other.

    If you have a problem with a post, click the "Report" button at the bottom of the post, and the Moderators will review it

I don't think we're important enough to Google for this to come up easily in search results.

 

31 minutes ago, PeggyTulle said:

Why is lack of gender inclusiveness here not allowed to be discussed? It's a central part of the issue and it seems the preferenceis to dance around it.

You can discuss the lack of gender inclusiveness on this site by stating your point of view. You cannot discuss what other posters think about gender inclusiveness or tell them what they must or must not be as a result of their opinion aside from "I disagree" and then explaining your opinioin.

31 minutes ago, PeggyTulle said:

Also, why was my post edited without any note about it? 

When we find a violation, we have the choice of removing it altogether, or leaving what isn't in violation of our rules and policies.   

Which is in our Rules & Policies.

Why did your post/part of your post disappear? It contained

      [list of policy violations]

We generally don't put a note that we've edited a post, because that's like holding up a sign that says that you've violated policy.  Admin notes can refer to deleted posts, not necessarily the last post before the general warning.  If you prefer us to remove it altogether, then you can "Report" the post, PM me, or use the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of each page and ask for what remains to be deleted, and you wouldn't be the first.  You can also contact us if you have a question about a policy.

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I have removed an entire response that is inappropriate, because we don't argue about the core rules and policies that we've had since the site's inception, the ones that everyone who signs up agrees to follow, even if they don't read them.  No one is forced to participate on this site: there are plenty of places on the internet to have different kinds of discussions if you prefer.  But those who choose to are subject to our rules, and, for the vast majority of the time, our members do.

The way to not discuss the discussion is to state your opinion on the subject, in this case your opinion of inclusivity, without discussing anyone else's opinion.  Everyone here can read and can come to their own conclusions.

 

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I have read the rules. I was looking for examples because the rules are vague and I've asked in the past with zero response (the same general word is used as a verb and noun in the same sentence). This situation seems unique, but also very relevant.

So here's my opinion: I think inclusivity is great and should be welcomed, especially in ballet in 2021. My opinion is that Edwards and PNB should be given grace and time, as a genderfluid dancer in ballet is something out of the norm but definitely past its due. My opinion is that stating it's a mockery does a huge disservice to Edwards' beautiful dancing, their sexuality, and audiences everywhere. My opinion is that feeling uncomfortable with change or non-cisgender male bodies is OK and leaning into this should be encouraged. These are my opinions.  

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One example of discussing the discussion, as I pointed out earlier, is:

2 hours ago, PeggyTulle said:

Why is lack of gender inclusiveness here not allowed to be discussed

Aside from this statement being not true, I'm quoting your post that I'm using as a descriptive example.  Other examples are when people talk about how they don't like the way the discussion is going, or that the subject is inappropriate.  In all cases, if you feel that something violates a rule or policy, report the post, and we'll review and decide.   We don't expect everyone to like or be comfortable with every opinion that's posted.

Arguing about the rules on the board instead of by contacting us directly is another example.  We know that our rules curtail certain ways of having discussions, although not subjects that are on relevant forum topics, but everyone who creates/maintains a site gets to determine its own communicty standards that people can accept or pass on., since participation is voluntary.  It is rare that these aren't removed, but sometimes, we need to make a point.  If this still isn't clear, I don't know how else to explain a concept that has, for the most part, been understood and followed for over two decades.

As far as not discussing each other,  using "you"/"your" to reply to a post, aside from "I agree with you"/"You expressed it better than I ever could"  or "I disagree with your post," can guarantee that it will follow will be a type of personalization, characterization/mischaracterization, or assumption that is in violation, hence the general rule against it.  The sentences I edited out did exactly that, and, from my experience, would have been reported by the morning, if I hadn't caught them first.

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7 minutes ago, PeggyTulle said:

I think inclusivity is great and should be welcomed, especially in ballet in 2021. My opinion is that Edwards and PNB should be given grace and time, as a genderfluid dancer in ballet is something out of the norm but definitely past its due. My opinion is that stating it's a mockery does a huge disservice to Edwards' beautiful dancing, their sexuality, and audiences everywhere. My opinion is that feeling uncomfortable with change or non-cisgender male bodies is OK and leaning into this should be encouraged. These are my opinions.  

I think inclusivity is great too.  But PNB is not practicing inclusivity when apparently there are no brownskinned female dancers welcomed.  Black women in the ballet audience do not feel represented by a male dancer with his hair in a bun and drop earrings.  They feel disrespected and insulted,  and it's got nothing to do with his sexuality or the quality of his dancing.   If there were more Black people working at PNB,  even mopping the floors,  perhaps one of them would have told the management that the optics are terrible.  Don't they have PR people in Seattle?

As for the solo roles that could be danced by a man or a woman,  there's bound to be resentment if the new hire who's still an apprentice gets cast in them,  leapfrogging over dancers with greater seniority just because he's gender fluid.  In a ballet context,  what does gender fluid even mean?  Based on their description,  in theater terms,  those roles are gender blind,  not gender fluid.

 

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5 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

As for the solo roles that could be danced by a man or a woman,  there's bound to be resentment if the new hire who's still an apprentice gets cast in them,  leapfrogging over dancers with greater seniority just because he's gender fluid.  In a ballet context,  what does gender fluid even mean?  Based on their description,  in theater terms,  those roles are gender blind,  not gender fluid.

Since none of these roles are programmed for the coming season, he wouldn't be an apprentice if he were cast in them in the next few years.  Dylan Wald got The Calling solo very early in his career at PNB, and other dancers thought what they thought.  I don't know if Edwards will be fast-tracked, but there are certainly other dancers who were cast far above rank until they were, eventually, promoted.  One way to test the audience acceptance could be through gender blind roles, although the Fenley is more than The Calling, with the huge skirt that is hugely suggestive of gender, more gender bending than fluid.

I don't know if Peter Boal will start out with casting Edwards in pointe roles or the female corps in the upcoming season.  Nutcracker and Swan Lake are the big neo or classical corps ballets that need far more women than men and usually rely on PD's to fill out the corps.   To me, the corps in Romeo et Juliette are a bunch of people wearing lots of fabric and just trying to differentiate the clans is hard enough, and everyone in the corps blends together.  Tharp controls everything about her work, so it would be entirely up to her.

We'll certainly see this season.

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Posted (edited)

I think On Pointe's comments on getting a two-for or three-for-one hire make sense. PNB seems overly playful with its answer to a serious problem, blurring the issues.

Perhaps all hierarchy should be done away with in ballet and, as in small repertory companies that do Shaw or Shakespeare, every night of a run everyone plays a different part. Peck's and Ratmansky's tend to be built on a non-hierarchical, egalitarian basis, so why not an ever-changing "Sleeping Beauty"?

Interesting that weight lifting is mentioned above as a masculine-identified activity since that's a relatively recent thing. My father's generation would do a set of push ups and sit ups in the morning – no gym work, maybe an occasional basketball game. Weight lifting was considered a niche activity limited to muscle beaches, and a bit suspect at that. And as I remember it was the gay community in the late 70s who cut their hair short and that took to weight lifting and made it a trend, while heterosexual men hestitatingly followed. 

But regarding gender fluidity and the general public imagination, I wonder what sort of a metaphor it makes outside the righting of social discrimination. (And why does it sometimes trump the righting of social discimination involving a greater number of individuals?)  Is it a potential demonstration of free will or Americans' standing right to be able to remake themselves at any moment from scratch – a promise of personal happiness in a restless, never resting, country? 

Edited by Quiggin
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A couple of thoughts, in response to a couple of different aspects of this thread.

While a big chunk of the heritage repertory does offer gender specific roles, those works are only a part of most ballet company rep these days.  Alongside the works listed above from the PNB repertory that are gender-free, they've consistently staged and commissioned works with ensemble roles that could be performed by men or women.  It's a challenge for ballet companies today to maintain this wide variety of styles -- one of the things that makes it possible is that both men and women are trained far more broadly than they have in the past.  Between theraputic practices and other kinds of cross-training, we've got more flexible men and stronger women -- two qualities that were rarely seen in previous generations. 

As far as diversity goes, PNB has been working to develop dancers of color through their school, and have hired some of those graduates as they came of age.  Others have gone on to work in other ensembles.  And while they've only had a few black dancers on the roster, they've had a number of API dancers at different levels in the company. 

In recent years, they've made some real strides with gender diversity on the administrative side -- their stage managers have usually been women, their previous business manager is a woman, the head of marketing and press is a woman, and the executive director is also a woman.  This during a time when one of the general accusations leveled at ballet companies in the US was a lack of women in administrative positions.  They've been a little later to the party with racial diversity in administration, but that's changing as well -- Peter Boal and Ellen Walker have been working with Theresa Ruth Howard on this, and I think they're sincere in their desire to make inroads on that challenge.

Because of the pandemic, I haven't had the chance to see Ashton Edwards in person -- I just know their work through video.  From what I see, they seem like a skilled and dedicated young dancer -- I don't know what the next couple of years will bring, but I'm very glad I'm going to get a chance to watch them develop.  This coming season is going to be a series of experiments for companies around the world -- I'm sure there will be some major changes, and I'm sure I don't know what they'll be.

 

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On 7/9/2021 at 1:37 AM, sandik said:

In recent years, they've made some real strides with gender diversity on the administrative side -- their stage managers have usually been women, their previous business manager is a woman, the head of marketing and press is a woman, and the executive director is also a woman.  This during a time when one of the general accusations leveled at ballet companies in the US was a lack of women in administrative positions.  They've been a little later to the party with racial diversity in administration, but that's changing as well -- Peter Boal and Ellen Walker have been working with Theresa Ruth Howard on this, and I think they're sincere in their desire to make inroads on that challenge

Over the last generation,  it's been observed that the greatest beneficiaries of diversity policies and affirmative action have been white women.  While that's good and necessary,  it doesn't do much for the Black population.  I believe it's unfair to criticize a situation without considering the concerns of the other side and offering possible solutions.  So here's mine - PNB should hire at least two Black dancers,  preferably women, that you don't have to play Where's Waldo to find in their company photo. 

It takes too long to develop students to become company members,  so they should do what Saturday Night Live did when they had to find Black female comics.  They should let it be known that they specifically want Black dancers and should hold targeted auditions for Black dancers only.  They should make offers to Black dancers in other companies who might consider moving to Seattle.  As a last resort,  they could seek out established Black dancers from other countries.  They don't need to hire teenagers.  A geriatric twenty-five year old will do!  What's important is visibility.

PNB doesn't have to change their repertory,  their artistic goals or their aesthetic,  other than their preference for white or very light skin,  to the exclusion of others.  It's not that hard,  if you really want to do it.

Edited by On Pointe
Clarity
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12 hours ago, On Pointe said:

Over the last generation,  it's been observed that the greatest beneficiaries of diversity policies and affirmative action have been white women.  While that's good and necessary,  it doesn't do much for the Black population.  I believe it's unfair to criticize a situation without considering the concerns of the other side and offering possible solutions.  So here's mine - PNB should hire at least two Black dancers,  preferably women, that you don't have to play Where's Waldo to find in their company photo. 

It takes too long to develop students to become company members,  so they should do what Saturday Night Live did when they had to find Black female comics.  They should let it be known that they specifically want Black dancers and should hold targeted auditions for Black dancers only.  They should make offers to Black dancers in other companies who might consider moving to Seattle.  As a last resort,  they could seek out established Black dancers from other countries.  They don't need to hire teenagers.  A geriatric twenty-five year old will do!  What's important is visibility.

PNB doesn't have to change their repertory,  their artistic goals or their aesthetic,  other than their preference for white or very light skin,  to the exclusion of others.  It's not that hard,  if you really want to do it.

I'm not privy to all of PNB's hiring practices, but I know that they have made changes in their audition tours to attract more dancers of color, and in this last round they've hired two dancers who I imagine would pass your test.

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3 hours ago, Syzygy said:

Looks like Edwards has won a Princess Grace Award in the Dance/Choreography category:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CSKTWriFqdm/

I’m pretty sure the last PNB student awardee was Andrew Bartee (though I think a number of PNB dancers won awards sometime after they’d joined the company).  Nice feather in the cap for Edwards and PNB alike!

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22 hours ago, tutu said:

I’m pretty sure the last PNB student awardee was Andrew Bartee (though I think a number of PNB dancers won awards sometime after they’d joined the company).  Nice feather in the cap for Edwards and PNB alike!

Margaret Mullin received one in 2011 (as you point out, already a company member).  Olivier Wevers received a PG award the same year as a choreographer (after he left the company to found his Whim W'him ensemble).  Seattle-based choreographer Zoe Scofeld also received one in that same cohort -- it was a big year for Seattle-based dance artists.  And alongside Edwards this year, Alice Gosti recieved an honorarium as a choreographer!

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