While some of you readers who stumble upon my blog call me sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, racist and other words … Let us set the record straight about ballet, and the art that we so love and adore…
Some of the ugly truths about ballet… and then some.
1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially : discrimination against women
2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
Discrimination based on sex… while, I don’t know about you but ballet is very sexist… The roles in ballet that are very set; the mannerisms are very set, and the story lines are all heterosexual. While one commenter did point out that if someone had any misconceptions or preconceived notions about ballet they should go see one (which I agree with)… the reality is to see a ballet in middle america is kind of difficult, quite expensive, and what would they be seeing on stage. Oh that’s right, all story ballets are sexist. Men are doing bravura jumps and turns, while women are being delicate and soft.
If ballet is woman, according to Balanchine, well I don’t even know where this sentence is going because I can’t begin to fathom how that one applies to me. But, as a fashion editor, and as a gay man, not sure how that works out. In the world of ballet, I wouldn’t call it misogyny, but the reality is that all of the women in the classical works are helpless, or die, or need saving of some sort. Maybe Raymonda is more along the lines of of heroic role in ballet for women.
: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
As a gay man, I must hate everyone like me, and myself. I don’t know of a ballet that endorses homosexuality besides the Matthew Bourne ballets, but those are standards. (To clarify, the blog post about male ballet dancers was titled: 5 Misconceptions. So, while all of you gay men were offended… the reality is NOT ALL MALE BALLET DANCERS ARE GAY.) Not to mention the entire Tony winning musical, and movie Billy Elliot is basically all about homophobia in ballet… So to say and I quote from a comment that I didn’t publish, “To say that men (male) ballet dancers have a reputation of being gay is absurd.” Well… I don’t know what utopian society you live in, but the majority of people don’t.
: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
Ballet, is probably one of the most discriminatory of all the art forms. Hence why Misty Copeland is getting so much publicity. The reality is there is a lack of ethnic dancers, and type casting happens. Not to mention the roles in Nutcracker which I explained in another blog. Or why Russians still use blackface… It doesn’t get any more racist than that… Not to mention that racism that happens within the art form itself, like casting… You can count on your hands the number of Black Principal dancers in Major Ballet Companies. If there wasn’t racism within ballet, we wouldn’t need Ballet Black, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, or Dance Theatre of Harlem. So, before you go pointing the finger saying I am racist, take a step back, and look at you, look at the company you dance in and count the ratio of whites/passable white to ethnic.
There is one thing I won’t tolerate being called and that is racist. Every year when Nutcracker came I was cast in Chinese… When I was at CPYB I was called Oriental, and that isn’t one of my most fond memories. And being in huge ballet school like CPYB where there were 4 asian students, and one black student was not fun either. Especially because I grew up in a very low income, very ethnically diverse, amazing community neighborhood. Not to mention I am adopted from Korea, by white parents and I have brothers and sisters from India, Bangledesh, Korea, Africa, and so on… I do not like being called a racist when the university I went to had a racist demonstration and every mirror had a sign that said you can’t wash the race off your skin, which the protest was started by dancers… So, before going around writing on someone’s blog that they are racist… get your facts straight.
So, while everyone is judging my blog, I would like everyone to take a moment and think what you are doing to change ballet…. What are you doing besides dancing to contribute to the greater good and image of ballet. While Misty Copeland is taking one for the team, while Hee Seo continually has to prove herself among the principals at ABT, while I drive around and dictate to Siri about misconceptions about male ballet dancers… What are you doing?
If you aren’t doing anything to change the way the world views ballet, or how casting and promotions happen, you aren’t helping. While you are in the theatre, or in the studio working, when is the last time you decided to volunteer at a boys and girls club and teach free ballet classes to equalize racial equality in ballet? When is the last time, you as a male ballet dancer, went to go teach a free class so kids can see a male ballet dancer? I follow a lot of people on IG, and stalk people when I can’t sleep, so while you are on breaks and vacationing through Europe and Australia…. I am teaching free summer camps at title one schools in Southern California. And when I have free time, I am teaching at numerous title one schools, and giving workshops on how to go about in the world of dance and using education as a vessel to a part of the art form.
Now that I have defended myself, I am going to shed some light on some more taboo things about ballet…
Frail and weak… As I said that it is a common misconception about ballet that men are viewed as frail and weak like girls… I was slammed for that… But, ironically in Giselle Act II, the whole purpose is to look ghostly, ethereal and frail… In addition, second act Swan Lake calls for vulnerability, not to mention she is incapable of saving herself… Sleeping Beauty act II calls for the dream scene when she is basically begging the prince to come find her and save her. Cinderella is basically a servant needing a man to save her from poverty… So… the ballets in which we are portraying aren’t saying a lot either. Isn’t that the problem with most fairytales today and modern day feminists. I wonder what Mayim Bialik would say about the story lines of ballet? LOL.
Now, if we are going to talk about other taboo things… We can talk about weight, and body type and the severe ideal that artistic director’s promote. Which I have talked about numerous times through out this blog… Artistic Directors… they hold the power to change ballet, but they don’t. They aren’t changing the body type of ballet, and in fact they are just making it worse. They aren’t changing the racial demographics because they are lazy and don’t want to give out scholarships to a smaller children and nurture their students. They would rather scholarship prix winners to make their school look better and hope that they will eventually feed into the company. Currently, of the standing major ballet companies’ artistic directors I can really only applaud Peter Boal, and Tamara Rojo for changing the image of a company. I can not sing enough praises to those two. I raved about the two of them in other posts.
Not to mention that the majority of ADs are men… So, before you go around throwing the finger at me… shouldn’t you be looking at the source? Everyone blames or calls the modern day body type in ballet the “balanchine” body type… but everyone else endorsed it. If ADs were truly concerned about the image of ballet, then wouldn’t they change it?
With all this being said, I truly do hope that before you comment on my blog, or on facebook or other social media… I hope you are coming from the right place and making an education accusation. You can’t win over everyone, on another note- I would like to thank the 70,000+ viewers of my Manly Ballet… 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers. And I would like to thank hitting over 1 million readers in 4 months. I appreciate it all.