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Misty Copeland Promoted to Principal at ABT


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This is wonderful that K. McKenzie is investing this year more than before in home ABT talent -- including Briton Thomas Forster.  So pleased for the gifted Ms Abrera.  That recognition has been a long time coming.  

 

Interesting too about the two principals brought in from outside.  The first (see below) has guested with ABT on a goodly number of occasions, the latter less so.  I guess we will (or should perhaps expect to) be seeing less of Lendorf at ENB.  Sad as I thought he was a wonderful partner for Rojo.  Both of these dancers are obviously splitting their duties with their current home companies.  The latter, too, further cements the Danish tradition in NYC - although that has been of late cemented with the Company across the plaza.  That said one cannot forget Bruhn's or Lander's historically close ABT association.  Excellent.

 

Quote:  

 

two more principals were hired from outside: Maria Kochetkova, a principal with San Francisco Ballet, and Alban Lendorf, a principal with Royal Danish Ballet

Edited by Bruce Wall
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It's not surprising: she has such a profile on social media, and has been covered in so many publications, on and off line, over the last 12-18 months.

 

Perhaps someone could fill in the details a bit, for those of us who are trying to save our ungenerous NYT allowance for more weighty matters?

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Alison:  Try Marina Harss in the Guardian:

 

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/jun/30/misty-copeland-success-ballet-right-direction

 

Edit to add:

 

A Google page tracing just some of the English-language cover.  NB that around 100 sources were dealing with the story around 3-30 US time today:

 

http://news.google.com/news/rtc?ncl=dpbqPTw20lp2xXM&authuser=0&ned=uk&siidp=a75b0a7c90d37a36068eb87b270f782f8d66

Edited by Ian Macmillan
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It was on the news on our local radio station in DC; I don't recall a ballet-related item making the news here in the last decade.

 

I hope that I do not cause offence from this comment. I do however find the issue of 'colour' in ballet an interesting issue. We should all be 'colourblind' and all ballet dancers treated on their merits...unless you are the first 'black' principal dancer of ABT, most influential 'black woman' etc.. I congratulate Misty on her promotion as a dancer, and equally as much Ms Abrera, who is a post script to the whole 'black thing'. As a person who has supported EQUAL rights and with an African American US president, (also First Lady who is a big supporter of Ms Copeland), Sportsmen and other athletes who are of African American heritage.

 

In short, I am shocked that where we fight for 'not observing a person's colour' isn't it all a bit backwards to report this news to such an extent? Especially when there is a lot of other good ABT news too.

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I hope that I do not cause offence from this comment. I do however find the issue of 'colour' in ballet an interesting issue. We should all be 'colourblind' and all ballet dancers treated on their merits...unless you are the first 'black' principal dancer of ABT, most influential 'black woman' etc.. I congratulate Misty on her promotion as a dancer, and equally as much Ms Abrera, who is a post script to the whole 'black thing'. As a person who has supported EQUAL rights and with an African American US president, (also First Lady who is a big supporter of Ms Copeland), Sportsmen and other athletes who are of African American heritage.

 

In short, I am shocked that where we fight for 'not observing a person's colour' isn't it all a bit backwards to report this news to such an extent? Especially when there is a lot of other good ABT news too.

 

Well Copeland is a first isn't she, the first black female principal at ABT? I think as long as African Americans are unrepresented in ballet (or in any other vocation really), success like Misty Copeland's will always be a story. I do think it's great she's been given this sudden burst in reporting as the attention will inspire a lot of younger dancers who might not follow ballet news or Copeland's career themselves.

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Well Copeland is a first isn't she, the first black female principal at ABT? I think as long as African Americans are unrepresented in ballet (or in any other vocation really), success like Misty Copeland's will always be a story. I do think it's great she's been given this sudden burst in reporting as the attention will inspire a lot of younger dancers who might not follow ballet news or Copeland's career themselves.

 

Indeed! It would be nice to hope that one day something like this won't BEnews, because it won't be noteworthy. No more than other ballet promotions, anyway.  But the fact remains at the moment it is noteworthy.

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I just wish the British press, in that case, would highlight the career of BRB's own Celine Gittens and of course Tyrone Singleton.  

 

Herein lies my point. ​Should the dancers be highlighted because of their race? In my mind a dancer is a dancer regardless of race, and maybe on this forum our race should be noted, I wonder how many Black people are commenting and when the first Black forum member joined. Of course I am being facetious, but I feel it is better for the UK that these dancers race is not noted. As a dancer I would want to be the best dancer or a great talent, rather than my race being mentioned.

 

I would however very much celebrate the case of the first white dancer at Ballet Black, and then it would be just a Ballet company and not a racial statement.

 

EDIT: Carlos Acosta is Guest Principal at ROH, I am not aware, but was his race news? His Don Q has been touring in the US so you could say that he should be an inspiration as all dancers to the world.

Edited by SwissBalletFan
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Surely the focus should be on her merit to receive this promotion, regardless of her race. Yes, she happens to be black but that's purely incidental and rather obvious.

 

 

I agree that the focus should be on her merit, but in view of current race relations in the US, I think it is an important story.

 

I think the story's also magnified by her presence on social media and the number of fans she's attracted who might not otherwise go to the ballet. To quote the Guardian, she's made ballet "mainstream".

Edited by Sunrise
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I agree that the focus should be on her merit, but in view of current race relations in the US, I think it is an important story.

 

I think the story's also magnified by her presence on social media and the number of fans she's attracted who might not otherwise go to the ballet. To quote the Guardian, she's made ballet "mainstream".

 

I think you can add to that list the fact that Ms. Copeland has her own publicist to help promote her vast array of pursuits, including her roles as a ballet dancer, a commercial performer, author, spokesperson, etc., which I sincerely doubt any of the other named ABT dancers who were promoted or new members joining do.  The publicist is obviously earning their keep.  Ms. Copeland even had her own personal press conference following the announcement made to the ABT company.  No other artist listed on the ABT press release did as far as I am aware.  

 

I certainly don't remember this amount of media attention being given to black principals - be they male or female - at DTH or when, say, the late Albert Evans at NYCB - or indeed, Desmond Richardson at ABT were made principals with their respective companies.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I think you can add to that list the fact that she has her own publicist, which I doubt any of the other dancers who were promoted do.  The publicist is obviously earning their keep.  

 

Indeed, and so, is this a welcome development for Ballet? That it turns into the world of celebrity in terms if coverage and news stories? Especially as the real stars of Ballet are not such media sensations, one might think for the reasons that they love the art, and the differences in press coverage can be quite divisive.

Edited by SwissBalletFan
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This is not an new argument, but I think overall the odd celebrity is good for ballet if it attracts more fans, when you think about the effect that Nureyev, Fonteyn, Baryshnikov had. On the down side, such personalities deflect attention away from other dancers. But that whole era was quite exceptional. More currently, Darcey Bussell had a disproportionate amount of media attention as well, and I don't think other dancers have necessarily suffered as a result. Ballet's still a niche art, and figures like Bussell, Acosta and Copeland bring in more fans who wouldn't attend otherwise. Hopefully the fans (and Copeland has many young fans) then go on to watch other dancers too (though some don't!), and bring in more money and support for the artform.

Edited by Sunrise
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I think you can add to that list the fact that Ms. Copeland has her own publicist to help promote her vast array of pursuits, including her roles as a ballet dancer, a commercial performer, author, spokesperson, etc., which I sincerely doubt any of the other named ABT dancers who were promoted or new members joining do.  

 

It struck me last night that the almost-saturation media coverage she's received over the last year or so has felt almost like a film's campaign for the Oscars.

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I think the story's also magnified by her presence on social media and the number of fans she's attracted who might not otherwise go to the ballet. To quote the Guardian, she's made ballet "mainstream".

 

It is to be hoped, of course, that they will ultimately explore beyond her performances, rather than taking the attitude of "If it's not Misty dancing, I don't want to go", but judging by experiences relating to Darcey Bussell, I suspect that the percentage of those who do will be relatively low.  You were asking, Sunrise, whether Bussell's high profile adversely affected perceptions of her colleagues, and I would say definitely yes.  Not, perhaps, in the eyes of those who investigated further and came to their own conclusions, but certainly in the eyes of many members of the general public, who assumed that because they'd heard of her she must be better than everyone else - at everything.  (And the same was true of Acosta, of course).

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I think what is interesting is that she has gotten a publicist and therefore the world has paid attention. Could then, the ballet companies and other stars pay for more publicity and stories. As her stories aren't particularly more interesting than the back stories of what is going on with most dancers.

 

So lets make them all know to the .mainstream public and let them find their favourite performers. They are like superheroes after all :) I think with more Cinema and TV coverage then the boudnaries of high ticket prices would not mean that the fans could not see their stars. Sorry a little off topic, but to be fair, there is an ABT promotions topic, and only Misty has her own one (for the reasons stated).

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Further to much of the foregoing discussion, from tomorrow's Links comes an extract by experienced NY critic Leigh Witchel at the end of a review of ABT's recent R&J:

 

 As for Copeland, it’s myopic to ignore her story in favor of her dancing. Is she a world-class ballerina? No, and neither are most of ABT’s female principals; the company’s been a man’s company for at least two decades. She’s an excellent dancer deserving of her rank, and she filled the seats of the Met and brought in an audience who might not have gone to a ballet. They saw a real ballet, not a music video or “So You Think You Can Dance,” and they liked it. Copeland has gone beyond being a dancer to becoming a cultural phenomenon. Many have become principal dancers on far less.

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EDIT: Carlos Acosta is Guest Principal at ROH, I am not aware, but was his race news? His Don Q has been touring in the US so you could say that he should be an inspiration as all dancers to the world.

 

I don't know if his race was at the time news (wasn't into ballet at the time), but he is definitely an inspiration. In the documentary First Position, Joan Sebastian Zamora (now with ENB) speaks of him as an example to follow, and one of the reasons why he hopes to join the RBS. I can't imagine he is the only one.

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I must admit, looking back to 1990-odd, my perception is that his race was less of an issue back then than it would be now.  OTOH, that could just be my memory being selective ...

 

To be honest, it may be something that most people wouldn't like to mention, but with a publicists eye for a good headline I think it's the reason it has been seen as such an achievement. Even though she is not at all the first black principal dancer at ABT all Desmond Richardson was the first to very little fanfare in 1997.

 

With all of the stories for the past year on her and the social media stories, Misty Kardashian sorry Copeland has raised an interest in her....less so ballet as a whole.

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I haven't been into ballet for long enough to know how this issue has varied over time - and also I've never lived in the USA, where it seems there are much more prominent and visible issues of racial politics in general than there are here.  However, I don't think I'm wrong in saying that in ballet there is perhaps considerably more prejudice (overt or otherwise) towards black women than black men.  Men don't tend to have to spend the beginnings, or majorities in most cases, of their ballet careers playing swans, sylphs, snowflakes, wilis, and all manner of other things in which it's preferable if you look (a) identical to your neighbour, and (b ) as unobtrusive in a white tutu as possible.  I've had a couple of very uncomfortable conversations with audience members who would not otherwise consider themselves to be racist, about how such-and-such a black dancer "stuck out like a sore thumb" in the corps of Swan Lake (for the record, I didn't agree - I *noticed*, processed it briefly, resumed my suspension of disbelief, and moved on, just as I do at an opera if I see a black singer and white singer playing close relatives).

 

I bet female black dancers get commented about like that a lot when they're in the corps, and I'm sure some of it must get back for them to hear.  It must be very liberating to be promoted out of the realms of corps work.  There's just so much whiteness and paleness in the female side of classical ballet, from what passes for the standard colour of a pointe shoe or a pair of tights, to the fact that audiences still go wild for a "white act".

Edited by RuthE
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I haven't been into ballet for long enough to know how this issue has varied over time - and also I've never lived in the USA, where it seems there are much more prominent and visible issues of racial politics in general than there are here.  However, I don't think I'm wrong in saying that in ballet there is perhaps considerably more prejudice (overt or otherwise) towards black women than black men.  Men don't tend to have to spend the beginnings, or majorities in most cases, of their ballet careers playing swans, sylphs, snowflakes, wilis, and all manner of other things in which it's preferable if you look (a) identical to your neighbour, and (b ) as unobtrusive in a white tutu as possible.  I've had a couple of very uncomfortable conversations with audience members who would not otherwise consider themselves to be racist, about how such-and-such a black dancer "stuck out like a sore thumb" in the corps (for the record, I didn't agree - I *noticed*, processed it briefly, resumed my suspension of disbelief, and moved on, just as I do at an opera if I see a black singer and white singer playing close relatives).

 

I bet female black dancers get commented about like that a lot when they're in the corps, and I'm sure some of it must get back for them to hear.  It must be very liberating to be promoted out of the realms of corps work.  There's just so much whiteness and paleness in the female side of classical ballet, from what passes for the standard colour of a pointe shoe or a pair of tights, to the fact that audiences still go wild for a "white act".

 

To be fair, the colour maybe a discussion and something that is noticed, but the point that all over dancers look identical and their costumes and bodies help this happen. Having heard a million different ways that a ballet dancer can be described, in terms of their body form, their lines, proportions and how they move is very important to how a ballerina is seen or noticed.

 

I think it takes a very thick skin (whatever the colour) to listen to many people talking about every single thing about your body and how you move, that is without commenting on the view of beauty in facial features, which can be a very distressing discussion for a ballerina to hear.

Edited by SwissBalletFan
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  • 1 month later...

I hope that I do not cause offence from this comment. I do however find the issue of 'colour' in ballet an interesting issue. We should all be 'colourblind' and all ballet dancers treated on their merits...unless you are the first 'black' principal dancer of ABT, most influential 'black woman' etc.. I congratulate Misty on her promotion as a dancer, and equally as much Ms Abrera, who is a post script to the whole 'black thing'. As a person who has supported EQUAL rights and with an African American US president, (also First Lady who is a big supporter of Ms Copeland), Sportsmen and other athletes who are of African American heritage.

 

In short, I am shocked that where we fight for 'not observing a person's colour' isn't it all a bit backwards to report this news to such an extent? Especially when there is a lot of other good ABT news too.

 

Everyone has a right to their own opinion of course....but sometimes the real world and what really happens is very different from what we imagine.   I don't agree that we should all be colourblind  as colour does exist. We should all do what is fair and treat everyone equally regardless of race and it is well known and well documented that this has not happened in the ballet world. You have only to do a bit of searching on the Internet or speak to  a number of people about their experiences.

 

Why has there never been a black female principal in ABT?  I don't believe that it is simply because there has never been a black female talented or skilful enough until Misty came along? Surely there are a myriad of reasons but to overlook prejudice and discrimination as an important factor would be an error.  

How many of the Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers (principals) found work anywhere after the company disbanded ?Even Tai Jimenez who eventually ended up at Boston Ballet (as a principal) couldn't find work.  I think it's easy to dig a bit deeper  and  perhaps understand why Misty Copeland's situation made such news.  There would probably be no need for such a story if ballet in America and elsewhere  was as 'colourblind' as  most of us would like to think it is.

 

Having studied,lived and worked in America (and had some dance training), I'm glad it got some press... to me it's almost on the same level (sic) with them having a black president  - it's not something I thought I would see in my lifetime. Moreover Misty's reach beyond the ballet world will inspire a whole new generation of ballet dancers (across race lines) .   I'm not sure about the bit of having a publicist and all that but I suspect that is to do with maximise earnings outside of ballet too.   And frankly, it would've been very difficult for Misty to have mounted the campaign after she didn't get the promotion...

 

Carlos's race wasn't a problem because it's always easier for men...there are more black men in ballet.  Arthur Mitchell who was a principal in NYCB and for whom Balanchine created many roles was the individual who founded DTH in 1968. He saw a need for it then and given what has happened in America, I find it hard to believe that the dance world would move faster than American society and there would be a 'colourblind' environment at ABT or at NYCB for that matter.   

 

I am afraid that  RuthE's story of the conversation where another member of the audience said '...how such-and-such a black dancer "stuck out like a sore thumb" is very much the black experience in ballet. Most female dancers would never get that comment...not about their complexion.

 

 

To be fair, the colour maybe a discussion and something that is noticed, but the point that all over dancers look identical and their costumes and bodies help this happen. Having heard a million different ways that a ballet dancer can be described, in terms of their body form, their lines, proportions and how they move is very important to how a ballerina is seen or noticed.

 

I think it takes a very thick skin (whatever the colour) to listen to many people talking about every single thing about your body and how you move, that is without commenting on the view of beauty in facial features, which can be a very distressing discussion for a ballerina to hear.

 

We all know it takes a thick skin to be a dancer  (as we've heard it from lots of dancers) but trying to equate comments about someone's feet, height, turn-out technical skill or lack thereof is not the same as hearing comments about your complexion which is intrinsically linked to your race. How many black female dancers stories have you listened to that you breezily dismiss what lots of people in the ballet world admit is an issue? You might not like it but I think it takes an extra covering of skin for black female dancers...

 

I certainly don't agree that dancers look identical and their costumes and bodies help this happen.  Precious Adams will not look identical to the other girls in Swan Lake  or in La Bayadere. This is just a fact.  Do you really think, for example, that Precious Adams dancing the lead in Swan Lake wouldn't cause some consternation?  And that in what is known to be a very conservative art form that there wouldn't be some resistance to her presence?  

 

Stating the things we want to believe (or that we and our small circle of friends might believe) doesn't invalidate the concerns or experiences that many people have had and continue to have.  Yes, being a ballet dancer is very difficult and only few people make it. It has always been this way for a long time. The truth is also that black dancers  (especially females) regularly encounter discrimination and prejudice and this makes it more difficult for them...  I would like this not to be the case but it's simply not what the few black women who've made it into the top echelons of the world have chronicled...

Edited by Jamdancer
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  • 2 weeks later...

Take a peek at Ms. M. Copeland (ABT principal) as she takes over the final weeks of the Broadway run of the revival of ON THE TOWN in the role that Ms. M. Fairchild (NYCB principal) had originated in that particular production.  This is a stage 'put-in' rehearsal filmed by a US TV station - which is why elements are marked and there is only a piano.  Such rehearsals are usually overseen by the Production Stage Manager. 

 

http://pix11.com/2015/08/21/see-it-misty-copeland-as-ivy-smith-in-broadways-on-the-town/

Edited by Bruce Wall
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  • 3 weeks later...

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