Black in Ballet: Coming Together After Trying to ‘Blend Into the Corps’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2021-09-01 01:54Z by Steven

Black in Ballet: Coming Together After Trying to ‘Blend Into the Corps’

The New York Times
2021-08-17

Brian Seibert


The cast of “Stare Decisis,” from left: Kouadio Davis, India Bradley, Rachel Hutsell, Robert Garland, Misty Copeland, Erica Lall, Kennard Henson and Alexandra Hutchinson. Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

A rare gathering of Black dancers from different companies meet to discuss a new production on Little Island, curated by Misty Copeland and Robert Garland.

Last year, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the protests that followed, American ballet companies started talking a lot more about race. About the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion that organizations of all kinds were addressing, but also aesthetic assumptions, implicit biases and longstanding practices particular to ballet and its history.

“There were innumerable panel discussions,” said Robert Garland, the resident choreographer of Dance Theater of Harlem. “But I felt that for the younger Black dancers, it was a heavy burden to be responsible for all of that.”

Garland wanted to help them, and in the way that he knows best: by making a dance for them. That work, “Stare Decisis (To Stand by Things Decided),” has its debut on Wednesday as part of “NYC Free,” a monthlong festival at Little Island, the new public park on the Hudson River.

The most significant feature of “Stare Decisis” is its eight-member cast: an extraordinarily rare gathering of Black dancers from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Dance Theater of Harlem. Misty Copeland — Ballet Theater’s first Black female principal dancer and one of the most famous ballerinas in the United States — is among them. (Little Island asked her to present a program.)…

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How should a dancer look? Ask Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera

Posted in Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2015-07-20 01:38Z by Steven

How should a dancer look? Ask Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera

The Melissa Harris-Perry Show
MSNBC
2015-07-18

Melissa Harris-Perry, Host

Dancers Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera discuss their pioneering work as, respectively, the first African American and Filipino American principal ballerinas at the American Ballet Theater.

Watch the video (00:07:46) here.

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Black Dancers, White Ballets

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2015-07-17 15:28Z by Steven

Black Dancers, White Ballets

The New York Times
2015-07-15

Laurie A. Woodard
New York University

MISTY COPELAND’S elevation to principal dancer with American Ballet Theater is a tremendous accomplishment for her as a ballet dancer and as an African-American ballerina. Neither her talent nor her achievement should be underestimated. But even as she reaches the apex of her art in the role of Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake,” her promotion poses complicated questions about black artists in classical ballet.

This country has a long history of embracing exceptional African-Americans decades before we will fully admit their equal talent and abilities. Whether it was Jackie Robinson, Halle Berry or Barack Obama, somebody had to go first. The world of classical ballet is no different.

Since ballet was developed in the court of Louis XIV in late 17th-century France, it has proved resistant to evolving beyond its roots as an elite, rigidly European art form. Balletomanes, choreographers and directors generally concurred that black bodies were unsuited to the lines of classical technique. Racism and discrimination continued to plague ballet, and throughout most of the 20th century, African-Americans were largely barred from quality training and professional careers.

Largely, but not completely. Although Ms. Copeland is the first African-American ballerina to attain the rank of principal dancer with the historically white A.B.T., she is not the first African-American professional ballerina. In fact, the line is long and illustrious, including Janet Collins, who danced with the Metropolitan Opera House in the early 1950s; Raven Wilkinson, who joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1955; Nora Kimball, one of the first African-American soloists (a rank below principal) with A.B.T.; and the legendary Virginia Johnson of the Dance Theater of Harlem

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Misty Copeland Is Promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-30 17:16Z by Steven

Misty Copeland Is Promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater

The New York Times
2015-06-30

Michael Cooper

Misty Copeland, whose openness about race in ballet helped to make her one of the most famous ballerinas in the United States, was promoted on Tuesday by American Ballet Theater, becoming the first African-American female principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history.

Her promotion — after more than 14 years with the company, nearly eight as a soloist — came as Ms. Copeland’s fame spread far beyond traditional dance circles.

She made the cover of Time magazine this year, was profiled by “60 Minutes” and presented a Tony Award on this year’s telecast. She has written a memoir and a children’s book, and has more than a half-million followers on Instagram. An online ad she made for Under Armour has been viewed more than 8 million times, and she is the subject of a documentary screened this year at the Tribeca Film Festival…

…That race could still be such an issue in 2015 — and African-American dancers still so rarely seen at elite ballet companies — has been depressing to many dancegoers, and has led to impassioned discussions in the dance world and beyond about race, stereotypes and image.

More than a half-century has passed since the pioneering black dancer Arthur Mitchell broke through the color barrier and became a principal dancer at New York City Ballet in 1962, and a generation has elapsed since Lauren Anderson became the first African-American principal at Houston Ballet, in 1990. But City Ballet has had only two black principal dancers in its history, both men: Mr. Mitchell and Albert Evans, who died last week. And Ballet Theater officials said that the company’s only African-American principal dancer before now was Desmond Richardson, who joined as a principal in 1997…

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