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A Week in Ballet…

by David King

Ballet– for the sake of ballet? Ballet for the sake of tradition? Or ballet as a living, breathing, real art that is comprised of real people? It is easy to forget, that ballet dancers are people, that they are entitled to their lives, opinions, and lifestyle choices. Over the last few weeks, due to the war/conflict/invasion/your choice of word, ballet has once again drastically changed. Recently, I was criticized that I wasn’t using my platform to do more for Ukraine, and that a drawing wasn’t enough. In the past, you could support whoever and the backlash wouldn’t be severe, but now, anything you say that can be interpreted as less than, is criticized. I have been criticized for being a gay man, for not being a bigger advocate for the queer dance community, for being Asian speaking about racism, for being too mean of a teacher because of the tone of my voice, for not being Asian enough, for not being diverse enough, or my socioeconomic status. It is also why I haven’t been creating content anymore. It just seems that everything thing you do seems doomed.

But, this week, ballet has changed…

It seems that every news source reported that famed icon, prima to the gods, the siren that is Olga Smirnova left the Bolshoi. Victor Caixeta, a Brazilian soloist at Mariinsky, also left. The two will have joined Dutch National Ballet. But, these are not the only ones leaving Russia. Dozens of students studying at the famous institutions (Vaganova School, Bolshoi) have also fled the country, joining the numerous international dancers who have left Russia: Jacopo Tissi, David Shares, Zander Parish, Adrian Blake Mitchell.. and the list goes on. Because of one man, ballet world has become divided, and everyone has something to say on it.

Graham Watts reported it for the Spectator.

The New York Times has ran numerous articles.

Numerous organizations are helping raise funds for Ukrainian Dancers and Students. YAGP has launched a massive fund to help.

Ballet Dancers and Directors all over the world have posted to their social media. Including NYCB, Associate Director Wendy Whelan went under criticism and was told to be “less political.”

But, it’s not just having an opinion anymore. The economical strains are strangling ballet left, right and sideways. The supply chain crisis has made it impossible to find pointe shoes, and now with everything going on, Pointe Shoes from Russia are close to impossible to find/get. Hannah Foster for Pointe Magazine.

But it isn’t just all bad news this week, San Francisco Ballet just announced their new Executive Director. So, it will be the first time at SFB there is a female ED and AD. So that is fancy.

Lauryn Lovette was named resident choreographer for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. (Article here)

And so, this has bogged my mind down for the last two weeks, as ballet begins more and more of a transformation. Last week everyone was talking about the Forsythe’s interview with the Guardian. And, I find it funny, that for years people have been saying the same thing, I have been saying the same thing… I would even say small comp schools who have done hip hop ballet and ballet using jazz music have done it for years… but when a 70-something, white man, who holds the elusive ballet prestige, or is a part of the “club” says it… it is groundbreaking, earth shattering, and will go viral.

And that my friends is the problem.

Ballet is still this exclusive club ran by white men and women who have allowed or have been forced into giving dancers, artists, directors of color, queerness, gender jobs… sometimes when not even qualified, just to tick a box.

So in conclusion: I have no F’n clue what ballet is going to look like in the next five years, but it is going to look different. Better or for worse, it’s changing, it’s failing as a culture, as an art, and as a representation of our time… Truthfully, if it wasn’t for SYTYCD, Dance Moms, Dancing with the Stars, TikTok and Instagram, ballet/dance wouldn’t even be considerate relevant or a part of pop culture…. Think about that.

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