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San Francisco Ballet and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


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SFB posting:

"A message from Sunnie Evers and Robert G. Shaw, Co-Chairs of San Francisco Ballet Board of Trustees:
Today's guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin reminds all of us of the importance of equity in justice, regardless of what makes us different. Recent events from the murder of George Floyd, to anti-Asian hate crimes occurring across the country, to the rise in acts of gun violence, all keep us focused on the need to be united against injustice, intolerance, and disenfranchisement. We must live together as one people with dignity and respect for all. We join with the SF Ballet leadership team, staff, artists, crew, and musicians to stand together in pursuing a more just and inclusive world for this and future generations.
"

https://www.instagram.com/p/CN6Q239tLFa/

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On 4/20/2021 at 5:30 PM, PeggyTulle said:

Many nurses that I know both here on the West Coast and East Coast went from nursing school directly to hospital settings. Perhaps it's different depending on where you're located?

Perhaps. Down here in Miami where is ultra competitive, the struggle is real. 

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Some related, sad news:

"We are saddened to share the news that Zeke Nealy, an inspiring educator and brilliant musician with our Dance In Schools and Communities program as well as a celebrated visual artist, passed away on April 22, 2021. Nealy was a cherished member of SF Ballet’s education team for more than 30 years. Fondly known as Mr. Zeke to tens of thousands of Bay Area children, his drumming filled SF Ballet’s DISC dance classes with music that encouraged students to discover their creative voices through music and movement. Nealy's love of music was contagious, especially Haitian drumming. He had an impact on all who knew him and will be deeply missed."

https://www.instagram.com/p/COeB0FEhq3B/

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3 hours ago, PeggyTulle said:

Whoa!

No kidding.  We know her in Seattle from her time with the opera, but she's run all kinds of performance organizations.  And this is happening as the company is planning their return from pandemic shutdown and looking for a new AD?

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, sandik said:

No kidding.  We know her in Seattle from her time with the opera, but she's run all kinds of performance organizations.  And this is happening as the company is planning their return from pandemic shutdown and looking for a new AD?

There was an "anonymous" group of people calling for her resignation. They just refer to themselves as SFBallet_2021 now. They had/have connections to SFB staff, but wanted to remain anonymous, which is certainly problematic. SFBallet_2021 were of the opinion that Tweeddale must go, but it does feel like she is being scapegoated (given that her time with the company has been short - 1 full season, a partial season, and then pandemic closure and the need to keep the company afloat without funds from performances). I don't have the details though, aside from this IG posting regarding Tweeddale's alleged behavior: https://www.instagram.com/p/CLDPZlUABQN/

There's a San Francisco Chronicle Datebook article referring to this situation here: https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/dance/s-f-ballet-seeks-to-diversify-make-amends-for-racial-inequities

Edited by pherank
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14 hours ago, pherank said:

There was an "anonymous" group of people calling for her resignation. They just refer to themselves as SFBallet_2021 now. They had/have connections to SFB staff, but wanted to remain anonymous, which is certainly problematic. SFBallet_2021 were of the opinion that Tweeddale must go, but it does feel like she is being scapegoated (given that her time with the company has been short - 1 full season, a partial season, and then pandemic closure and the need to keep the company afloat without funds from performances). I don't have the details though, aside from this IG posting regarding Tweeddale's alleged behavior: https://www.instagram.com/p/CLDPZlUABQN/

 

Requesting anonymity seems like a safety measure and probably a good one. It's pretty standard with unions and issues that disproportionately affect BIPOC and/or minority staff.

It's not clear to me what happened in the past with Kelly and leadership, but the company does not seem to embrace or amplify black and indigenous voices. This isn't solely an SFB issue, though. It's reflective of ballet as a whole. Would be meaningful if SFB took the lead here and made some serious changes: focused on internal practices, hiring, retainment, and choreographers. Should things like this wait on the backburner for a new AD? Seems tone deaf to me. 

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1 hour ago, PeggyTulle said:

Requesting anonymity seems like a safety measure and probably a good one. It's pretty standard with unions and issues that disproportionately affect BIPOC and/or minority staff.

The problem for me is that, with an anonymous group making an attempt to direct how a company gets run - who they hire (including executive staff and the board) and how and when they do it - there are no rules governing accountability and transparency for this outside group. Who are they and why should we trust them to make decisions regarding SF Ballet? Now it could be that "SFBallet_2021" is solely made up of existing staff members who have worked within the SFB environment for years and actually know something about the organization's issues. Or it could simply be a few socio-political activists who have no vested interest in ballet, let alone SFB, that are pushing their favored agenda. Is that ultimately the best way to get diversity changes to happen at  SFB? If I don't know who is doing the talking/writing (and how much buy-in they are getting from the staff and audience), then I don't feel very trusting. My part in this is of course small, as an audience member who gives small donations.

"It's not clear to me what happened in the past with Kelly and leadership, but the company does not seem to embrace or amplify black and indigenous voices. This isn't solely an SFB issue, though. It's reflective of ballet as a whole. Would be meaningful if SFB took the lead here and made some serious changes: focused on internal practices, hiring, retainment, and choreographers. Should things like this wait on the backburner for a new AD? Seems tone deaf to me."

Agreed, though some of these things (changes to internal practices, hiring, retainment, and choreographers) have supposedly all been under scrutiny, but SFB isn't getting very far yet. The reasons for dancers leaving the company are not always nefarious. But if there's only 2 or 3 Black dancers say, and one or more leaves, it just looks bad. There simply needs to be a higher percentage of dancers of color at SFB. I believe NYCB, PNB and MCB all need more representation from the Asian cultures and the Asian-American community. Both PNB and MCB lack Black dancers, but perhaps the new hires will help address this situation - anyone know? There's always something to work on.

Edited by pherank
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50 minutes ago, pherank said:

I believe NYCB, PNB and MCB all need more representation from the Asian cultures and the Asian-American community.

PNB has nine, possibly ten, dancers of Asian/Pacific Islander descent or, like Yuki Takahashi, is from Japan.  That's over 20% of the company.  I don't know any of the incoming dancers -- four -- and whether the company will hire another three dancers to replace the seven who have left.  

The number of Hispanic dancers is low -- and we just lost the beautiful Angeli Mamon, sigh -- and PNB's history of hiring black dancers is dire.  (And, no, Amanda Morgan doesn't count for ten because she is a Black ballerina.) But I don't think the company is underrepresented by dancers with, at least, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Filipino descent. 

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35 minutes ago, Helene said:

PNB has nine, possibly ten, dancers of Asian/Pacific Islander descent or, like Yuki Takahashi, is from Japan.  That's over 20% of the company.  I don't know any of the incoming dancers -- four -- and whether the company will hire another three dancers to replace the seven who have left.  

The number of Hispanic dancers is low -- and we just lost the beautiful Angeli Mamon, sigh -- and PNB's history of hiring black dancers is dire.  (And, no, Amanda Morgan doesn't count for ten because she is a Black ballerina.) But I don't think the company is underrepresented by dancers with, at least, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Filipino descent. 

Thanks, that was something of a misstatement on my part regarding PNB - the West Coast companies are all very conscious of Asia/Pacific. Yes, it's more of an issue with Black dancers at PNB. Both ABT and NYCB have had all the same diversification issues, but they've managed to make inroads regarding the hiring of Black dancers, at least.

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Just a sidenote: The SFBallet_2021 Instagram handle has current and former SFB dancers as followers. There are also former staff who have posted in the comments along with others in the local dance community. I consider this a legit group (unknown size, but legit).

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Jenny Gilbert had this to say in a recent ENB review at the Arts Desk about the changes there in a nine year period (excerpt orginally posted in our Links section):

Quote

Today, ENB is a very different beast from its first, 1950s incarnation in one very striking respect: it’s no longer predominantly white. Although classical dance has a better record on racial diversity than some other performance disciplines, over the nine years of Tamara Rojo’s reign at ENB, it has made enormous strides. No company, with the exception of Ballet Black, has done more to change the look of ballet in Britain, alongside a noticeable raising of technical standards among the men. Whether or not one has led directly to the other (and it's distinctly possible), it’s all to the good. The result is a more exciting presentation all round.

Putting together the comments at SF_Ballet202, it seems that the middle mangagement, like many HR departments at corporations, is most concerned with the comfort level of the board members and the  and big sponsors who don't seem to like changes to the traditional look of the ballet. (The recent negative reaction to the Peter Sellars/John Adams very multi-cultural "Girls of the Golden West" perhaps provides an example of what is feared at the Opera House.)  

The in-house solutions to the problems at SF Ballet seem at best half-hearted. Tomasson in the recent panel discussion linked above thought that offering $10 tickets to the ballet, an otherwise fine idea, would help with diversity – but that would only seem to show a new audience that what was on stage was not diverse.  There also seemed to be a bit of finger-crossing faith that brilliant art form of ballet, if kept pure, would heal itself on its own of its social inequities.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a bit more progressive than the ballet, but also tone deaf in lots of ways, at least until a recent shakeup. Its expanded galleries opened a few years ago to reveal an entire floor entirely devoted solely to big-scale German male artists who were popular in New York in the 1990s when the collection was formed. The Abstract-Expressionist floor below it featured only two women artists, Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner, in a section some people referred to  as "the women's room." The problem with both the ballet and museum is that San Francisco is not big enough to engender competing narratives and cross-institution critiques – ABT vs NYCB, downtown vs uptown, MoMA vs the Whitney or the Guggenheim, etc – that would help sharpen our eyes.

It would seem that someone like Tamara Rojo has to come in and, with great charm and style, change the long-standing culture, all the fussy little fall-backs of "we can't do this because," "we've never done that," "I have some issues with that"/"what issues"/"I can't say right now, just issues" ...

Edited by Quiggin
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Wow, I did not know of the existence of this SF Ballet 2021 instagram page - I don't have an actual instagram account so I can't actually view who follows/likes the posts.  However, I feel shocked, yet not surprised.  Reading about the Lopes Gomes racism case in Germany (among other allegations of racism elsewhere), I'm not surprised dancers at SFB also feel the racism and discrimination - nothing about SFB seems all that different or unique from other major global companies.  So I'd only expect that dancers in SFB feel a lack of representation in casting decisions, hiring, how big donors are sought, and types of choreography commissions, as dancers evidently do elsewhere.

 

I can't help but feel a little bit skeptical about this posting:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CK95tP1gZmv/     

The group demands that 3 out of the top 5 AD candidates identify as black or indigenous people of color.  The other AD thread has a list going of likely SFB candidates, and very very few of them are people of color.  I think the best we can hope for (realistically) is a strong ally who will fight for representation and diverse choreography commissions. But that may be defeatist of me.

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27 minutes ago, Phrenchphry11 said:

The group demands that 3 out of the top 5 AD candidates identify as black or indigenous people of color.  The other AD thread has a list going of likely SFB candidates, and very very few of them are people of color.  I think the best we can hope for (realistically) is a strong ally who will fight for representation and diverse choreography commissions. But that may be defeatist of me.

I actually get why they're going for a majority of finalists: the optics would be atrocious if all three were bypassed, especially since there's not a hugely obvious candidate, like a Bernstein or van Karajan of the Executive Directorship world.

 

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On 4/18/2021 at 9:39 PM, cubanmiamiboy said:

Got a little lost here. Sorry, Helene.😆

Nursing is a black and white thing. Hospitals don't hire new grads. They don't want newbies in a code blue. So that's why I wonder if things are getting more....relaxed, now that there's pressure from all types of new diversity boards or diversity managers.

As per ballet, well.... Swan Lake is not a code blue, and nobody's gonna die after seeing Misty and her 12 traveling fouettes. But hey....they definitely opened a whole Pandora's box.

It's only a Pandora's box if you assume that everyone agrees that every promotion or hire of a black person is an undeserved.

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On 7/1/2021 at 12:51 PM, Helene said:

I actually get why they're going for a majority of finalists: the optics would be atrocious if all three were bypassed, especially since there's not a hugely obvious candidate, like a Bernstein or van Karajan of the Executive Directorship world.

That sounds like you know who some of the actual candidates are. I imagine the list of interested candidates is pretty long.

I've been thinking about qualified (in my opinion of course) indigenous people of color. And only two come to mind, off the top of my head: Alonzo King and Dwight Rhoden. Both of whom have management and choreographic and teaching experience. I was hoping for a female A.D. and made no secret about Sofiane Sylve being my top choice, but I don't see that happening now. A lot changes in 2 years time. I just can't think of any qualified female candidates, of color, who are connected to SFB in any way, and have a relationship to SFB artists and staff. Am I forgetting anyone?

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I have no idea who the actual candidates are, but given the dearth of POC who are connected to SFB in any way, they must be from outside SFB world, at least since the time of being in the school, which I would assume from the known candidates from all other companies except NYCB in North America being from outside whatever company is hiring, especially for one of the major companies.  When PNB hired Peter Boal, only former Principal Dancer Benjamin Houk, who had at most a few years experience as an AD for smaller companies, made the final cut, and Patricia Barker, who has had a more illustrious career as an AD since, was cut after the semis.

While the tendency is to look at all of the current and former Principal Dancers of a company as the most likely suspects, that hasn't been the case for the majority of AD hires, even if the eventual hires were Principal Dancers somewhere.

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5 hours ago, Helene said:

While the tendency is to look at all of the current and former Principal Dancers of a company as the most likely suspects, that hasn't been the case for the majority of AD hires, even if the eventual hires were Principal Dancers somewhere.

Agreed, and I don't think being a Principal Dancer alone is enough of a qualification. (And the principal needs to be someone who has been created on often enough that they understand what's involved in working with choreographers.) The candidate needs some level of "management" experience, and I will include the jobs of choreographer and teacher in that category since they both involve guidance and motivation of other artists.

Thinking about it again, I remembered that I preferred the new NYCB model: a shared leadership between 2 or 3 persons. Someone gets ultimate final say, but the others are deeply involved in repertoire choices and creation.

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