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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New York City Ballet’s Rachel Hutsell Is Turning Heads in the Corps

Posted in Africa, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2021-08-23 03:33Z by Steven

New York City Ballet’s Rachel Hutsell Is Turning Heads in the Corps

Pointe
2018-05-22

Marina Harss


Rachel Hutsell Photographed for Pointe by Jayme Thornton.

“I’m very cautious by nature,” Rachel Hutsell says over herbal tea at Lincoln Center between rehearsals. You wouldn’t think so from the way she moves onstage or in the studio. In fact, one of the most noticeable characteristics of Hutsell’s dancing is boldness, a result of the intelligence and intention with which she executes each step. (What she calls caution is closer to what most people see as preparedness.) She doesn’t approximate—she moves simply and fully, with total confidence. That quality hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Even though she has been at New York City Ballet for less than three years, Hutsell, 21, is regularly cast in a wide variety of repertoire. She has already collaborated with several choreographers, including Troy Schumacher, Gianna Reisen, Peter Walker and Justin Peck, on new works. “She’s not afraid to make mistakes,” says Peck, who has used her in two premieres, The Most Incredible Thing and The Decalogue. “And she’s open to exploring new movements.”…

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After Misty Comes Marie: Breaking Barriers in ‘The Nutcracker’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2019-12-01 01:45Z by Steven

After Misty Comes Marie: Breaking Barriers in ‘The Nutcracker’

The New York Times
2019-11-28

Gia Kourlas, Dance Critic

Charlotte Nebres is the first black Marie, the young heroine of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” at New York City Ballet. 
Charlotte Nebres is the first black Marie, the young heroine of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” at New York City Ballet.
Heather Sten for The New York Times

This year, for the first time, New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” has a black Marie, the young heroine whose life is charged with magic.

She may not remember it, but during the first summer of her life Charlotte Nebres canvassed for Barack Obama with her mother, Danielle, who carried her in a sling. She attended political rallies. And on a frigid day in January 2009, she accompanied her parents and older sister to his inauguration.

When Charlotte was 6, Misty Copeland became the first female African-American principal at American Ballet Theater. That, she remembers.

“I saw her perform and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” Charlotte, 11, said. “When I saw someone who looked like me onstage, I thought, that’s amazing. She was representing me and all the people like me.”

Now Charlotte, a student at the School of American Ballet, is breaking a barrier herself: She is the first black Marie, the young heroine of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” at New York City Ballet. It’s a milestone for the production, which dates to 1954.

It isn’t lost on Charlotte that she “got to grow up in a time when it wasn’t just like, oh yeah I can do this, but not do this,” she said. “There was nothing holding you back.”

But the cultural shift reaches beyond Charlotte, whose mother’s family is from Trinidad (her father’s side is from the Philippines), as her school works to diversify its student body. In addition to Charlotte, the other young leads this season are Tanner Quirk (her Prince), who is half-Chinese; Sophia Thomopoulos (Marie), who is half-Korean, half-Greek; and Kai Misra-Stone (Sophia’s Prince), who is half-South Asian. (The children are always double cast.)…

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Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Media Archive on 2019-08-20 13:59Z by Steven

Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story

Dirty Movies — Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
2019-04-03

Redmond Bacon

Tender portrait of iconic ballet dancer doubles up as an exploration of fatherhood and also of the artist’s home nation Cuba – now available on VoD

Director – Icíar Bollaín – 2019

When I was very young, my parents took me to ballet class. I immediately baulked at the idea and sat on the floor until my mother gave up and took me home. At the time I believed that being a ballet dancer was the worst possible thing on earth; now I see it as a massive lost opportunity. Carlos Acosta’s own father, Pedro (Santiago Alfonso), wasn’t as magnanimous as my mother, completely ignoring his son’s wishes in the pursuit of a higher aim.

His bet paid off, turning Carlos Acosta (nicknamed Yuli) into one of the greatest ballet dancers that ever lived; the first black man to perform at the Royal Ballet in London. Played at three different ages by Edlison Manuel Olbera Núnez, Keyvin Martínez and finally by the man himself, Yuli…

It starts in the poverty stricken streets of Havana; a place where the best options for young men to make something of themselves is through sport or dance. Carlos’ talent, expressed early on through street dance, gives his father an idea, and soon he is dragged to an audition at the National Ballet School of Cuba. But Carlos doesn’t want to perform ballet and mocks both his future teachers and his parents by putting on a tongue-in-cheek Michael Jackson-homage. He derisively describes ballet as something “for faggots”. Yet it is this very same ebullient spirit that lands him a place. His talent cannot be denied.

This is played out against a political and ethnic backdrop that acutely portrays the complexity of the Afro-Cuban experience. In one haunting scene, Carlos’ father takes him to his great-grandmother’s plantation, showing him how he is a direct descendent from the slave trade. Meanwhile his white mother escapes with her white relatives to Miami, benefiting from the same privilege that is denied to the young man. Pedro spins this hardship into a positive, telling Carlos that if his descendants could survive slavery, then he can become anything he wants…

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A Century of Times Dance Photos, Through the Lens of Misty Copeland

Posted in Articles, Arts, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-22 22:43Z by Steven

A Century of Times Dance Photos, Through the Lens of Misty Copeland

The New York Times
2019-04-13

Remy Tumin


The ballerina Misty Copeland reviewing photographs for the Past Tense: Dance section in The New York Times’s building. Karen Hanley/The New York Times

Ms. Copeland, the American Ballet Theater’s first black principal ballerina, served as guest editor for a special section on dance photography.

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

There’s one photograph from The New York Times archives that stands out to Misty Copeland. It’s a black-and-white image of a group of young ballerinas, boys and girls, their dark skin accented by bright tights and tutus.

“They look so uncomfortable,” Ms. Copeland said in a recent interview. “In ballet, we’ve never been told there was a place for us to fit in. You can see that within this image.”

The “tension and awkwardness” that Ms. Copeland said she saw in the photo is familiar to her. She was the American Ballet Theater’s first black female principal dancer. Last month, when she visited The Times to serve as a guest editor of a special print section featuring dance images from our archives, she saw those threads throughout dance history.

The section is the latest from Past Tense, which highlights stories and photographs from The Times’s archives. Veronica Chambers, who leads the team, said that of the six million photos in the archives, at least 5,000 are dance-related. A dedicated section was a natural fit, as was the choice of Ms. Copeland as its guest editor, Ms. Chambers said…

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Sono Osato, Japanese-American Ballet Star, Is Dead at 99

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-12-29 02:39Z by Steven

Sono Osato, Japanese-American Ballet Star, Is Dead at 99

The New York Times
2018-12-26

Richard Goldstein


Sono Osato rehearsing a number from the Broadway musical “On the Town” with the show’s choreographer, Jerome Robbins, in 1944. It was one of two hit musicals in which Ms. Osato appeared in the 1940s.
Eileen Darby/Graphic House

Sono Osato, a Japanese-American dancer who toured the world with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, performed with the Ballet Theater in New York and then gained acclaim on Broadway in the World War II-era musicals “One Touch of Venus” and “On the Town,” was found dead early Wednesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 99.

Her death was confirmed by her sons, Niko and Antonio Elmaleh.

In the 1930s, Ms. Osato was a groundbreaking presence in Col. Wassily de Basil’s Ballets Russes, the world’s most widely known ballet company. She was the company’s youngest dancer when she joined, at 14; she was also its first performer of Japanese descent…

…Although she was born and raised in the Midwest, Ms. Osato seemed an incongruous choice to play Ivy Smith, billed as the “all-American girl,” in “On the Town.” Her father, Shoji, was a native of Japan, and her mother, Frances, was of French-Irish background…

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Chyrstyn Fentroy — First Black Woman To Join Boston Ballet In A Decade — Debuts As Snow Queen In ‘The Nutcracker’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-12-02 22:07Z by Steven

Chyrstyn Fentroy — First Black Woman To Join Boston Ballet In A Decade — Debuts As Snow Queen In ‘The Nutcracker’

WBUR 90.9 FM
Boston, Massachusetts
2018-11-30

Arielle Gray, Arts Fellow

Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of Boston Ballet)
Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of Boston Ballet)

Artificial snow falls gently from the top of the stage of the Boston Opera House, encasing the space in an ethereal glittering glow. Beneath it dances Chyrstyn Fentroy as the Snow Queen, entwined in an elegant flow of limbs and carefully choreographed steps with the Snow King. The Boston Ballet is rehearsing for its opening night of “The Nutcracker,” the other worldly production based off of E.T.A Hoffman’s novella. Fentroy debuted as the Snow Queen on Thursday evening and will star in the role again on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Fentroy makes a stunning Snow Queen, traversing the stage in a series of light, precise steps. The role is a notable milestone for Fentroy, who has been deeply involved in the world of dance since she was old enough to walk. She tells me she’s the first black female dancer to join the Boston Ballet in the last decade.

Growing up as the daughter of two dancers in Los Angeles, Fentroy spent a lot of time in the dance studio. “’The Nutcracker’ specifically is something that’s kind of been a part of my life forever,” Fentroy told WBUR. “I grew up watching my mom do the Sugarplum Fairy variation and spent so many years in the wings watching performances.”…

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Misty Copeland: the trailblazing ballerina loved by Prince, Obama and Disney

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2018-11-12 03:26Z by Steven

Misty Copeland: the trailblazing ballerina loved by Prince, Obama and Disney

The Guardian
2018-11-07

Lyndsey Winship, Dance Critic

‘I had this awakening’ … Misty Copeland.
‘I had this awakening’ … Misty Copeland. Photograph: Danielle Levitt for the Observer

She thinks ballet’s broken – and has a plan to fix it. The star of Disney’s Nutcracker reboot talks about racism, nude shoes and growing up bendy

Ballet was definitely my escape,” says Misty Copeland. “It was the first thing I’d ever experienced in my life that was mine – only mine, not my five other siblings’. It gave me a voice, made me feel powerful.”

When Copeland discovered ballet she was 13, living with her mother and siblings in a motel in California. She was a shy, slight child who rarely spoke and tried not to be noticed. Twenty-three years later, hers is the kind of transformation story even ballet might think far-fetched. In 2015, she became the first black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre – and with that a spokesperson, poster girl, and bona fide star. Barack Obama sought her out as an adviser, Prince invited her on tour, Spike Lee wants her in his films, and people queue up to meet her at the stage door of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

And now the latest chapter in her real-life fairytale has begun to unfold. Copeland is dancing in Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a cinema revamp of the Christmas favourite starring Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman

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‘A Lot Is Still So Much the Same’: Misty Copeland on Decades of Racism and Ballet

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2018-01-28 02:54Z by Steven

‘A Lot Is Still So Much the Same’: Misty Copeland on Decades of Racism and Ballet

TIME
2018-01-16

Olivia B. Waxman


Misty Copeland (right) and Raven Wilkinson at the Urban World Film Festival in New York, NY, on Sep. 27 2015. MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock

In the years since she became the first black ballerina to be a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has become a well-known symbol of breaking down barriers in her art. The strides she has made build on the work of one particular dancer — a mentor of Copeland’s, Raven Wilkinson, who broke new ground in similar ways during the 1950s. And, though much has changed since that era in both civil rights and on the stage, Copeland tells TIME that there is still a long way to go.

Wilkinson’s passion for ballet began at an early age and would take her around the nation with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. As the first African American ballerina to dance with a major touring troupe, she performed the coveted solo waltz in Les Sylphides.

But her story — which is told in the new picture book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, written by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, and released Tuesday in time for Black History Month in February — didn’t always feel like a fairy tale…

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From Misty Copeland: Adjustments, Tips and Inspiration

Posted in Arts, Media Archive on 2017-11-12 17:53Z by Steven

From Misty Copeland: Adjustments, Tips and Inspiration

The New York Times
2017-11-08

Siobhan Burke, Dance Writer
Brooklyn, New York


Misty Copeland (center) coaching students at Harlem Stage on Monday (facing the camera, Emily Lugohart and Gabriela Urena). Credit Marc Millman

Dougie Baldeo, a 13-year-old ballet student at Harlem School of the Arts, stood onstage Monday night as Misty Copeland offered him pointers on his port de bras, or carriage of the arms.

“Once you start moving, I don’t want to see the claw creep back in,” she said, referring to his sometimes tense right hand.

Dougie was one of 13 students selected to study — if only for an hour — with Ms. Copeland, one of the most famous ballerinas in the world, who in 2015 became the first female African-American principal dancer with American Ballet Theater.

And if the students, from Harlem School of the Arts and the Dance Theater of Harlem School, were already feeling nervous because of all that star power, there was added pressure: an audience. The event, “A Misty Copeland Ballet Class,” organized by Harlem Stage at its Gatehouse space was open to the students’ families and peers, with a few seats available to the public…

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