Inspired…

They say when one door closes, another one opens. The problem with that saying is that sometimes you can’t just wait around for a door magically open. Sometimes you have to find the door yourself and push it open. So, that is what I am doing. After a bunch of job offers and numerous opportunities around the US, I’ve decided to really just work for myself. I didn’t really think of it before, don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for this blog, but why was I teaching, coaching, and working for other companies, when I could be investing in my own?

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So, I was looking for a sign, and then I started reading a bunch of different perspectives and stories from ballet. This inspired me, inspired me to really push forward with a Ballet Education. I decided to start drawing those who have inspired me, and they aren’t just ballet dancers. There is a mighty long list, so hopefully, maybe there will be numerous additions to the Inspired Collection.

ABE logo 1So, where does this lead me? The rebranding of A Ballet Education. Thank you to Lisbet Photography and Misfit Design. For helping me recreate and reinvent A Ballet Education.

Yup! It is happening and going full force! So, what does this mean? I am hitting the road again. I will be in Los Angeles again from October 12-18. Come take 10 hours of intense A Ballet Education classes, or come watch and take notes on the Ballet Education Curriculum at the Downtown Dance & Movement Studios.

Untitled 2Register today by clicking here!

TEACHERS: if you are intersted in sending your students and you are interested in coming to observe, if you have 3 students come to the intensive, you can watch for free.

 

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Ballet & the Passable White Standard…

edit: Post number 200! Apparently it is a big deal on wordpress and you get a little sticker! Thanks for all of the love and support.

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Is passable white alright? The media has been covering ethnicity in ballet a lot lately, and as much as that is appreciated… and as beneficial as I think it is… the reality is, I don’t think they are covering the right thing…. They are covering the fluff of race. So, because I have nothing to lose, or a lot to lose, who knows, I thought I would once again touch again on ethnicity in ballet… Whether we like to or not, and as uncomfortable as it makes us, that’s okay because we aren’t talking about it in the open… we are blogging about it. 🙂 So if you are reading this and feeling squirmish and are ready to click away, that’s okay too, but shame on you… And if you are ready to start the conversation that really matters… Let’s go!

While Eric Underwood brought up the need for manufacturers to create an ethnic look to ballet aesthetics… The bigger problem I think solely boils down to two positions… positions that made me start this blog, positions that have me so frustrated, so irritated, that it makes me wonder why I haven’t applied to be one somewhere bigger to start making a change… Artistic Directors and School Directors. DUN DUN DUN! *if I could add dramatic music I would*

While I sketch dancers around the world, I have noticed the lack of color in my digital palette… Which wasn’t very surprising… but what was more surprising was the unfortunate ignorance of people writing into my blog criticizing “me and my apparent lack of knowledge about ballet, Misty Copeland, and Under Armour… ” So, I took a moment to rant to myself before blogging, and now that I have taken more cold medicine and had chicken noodle soup, I can cohesively put some thoughts together.

Diversity in ballet is clearly in the lack… but at the same time, not all ethnicities, or individuals are created equal. Unfortunately, in ballet, the paper bag and ruler principle applies, silently. Then again this principle was never just written out for the world, well it was…. but you get the idea…  If you don’t know what this is, it is a principle that was used/ still used to justify ethnicity, human rights, education and entitlement stemming from colonialism and slavery. It is basically, not to sound cruel, if your skin is as light or lighter than a paper bag, and your hair is as straight as a ruler, you are favored and thus “passable white”… If you look at most professional ethnic dancers at major ballet companies… on stage… with makeup and pink tights… they are passable white.

Ballet companies defend themselves when asked about race with three arguments… well they aren’t really arguments but sad, hide behind a truth statement with a shitty truthful statement. Mostly US companies, because I have yet to see a European company actually put out a statement to defend their position…
1. We employ diverse dancers from around the world… That is truthful, but the reality is all of these dancers are passable white: Korea, Japan, China, Cuba, Spain, Europe, etc…
2. We employ the most talented dancers, and the competition for contracts is extremely stiff. Again, a sad truth…. The problem can’t be fixed at the moment… (will go into this below)
3. Ballet is a visually aesthetic art form, so we have to create a cohesive look for our company. Again a horrible truth. You must ask yourself, how can we love, obsess over, devote our lives to an art form that silently reflects racism? and yes it is racism, preference is still considered a cause of microaggressions.

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So dear readers, the answer isn’t to boycott the ballet because if we stop going to ballet performances there would be no companies for us to watch… And the answer is definitely not writing in angry hate mail… that gets you nowhere… You could start a blog like myself as an option… Companies can’t just go randomly find ethnic dancers on the street and pull them into the company and say, “You are a principal dancer”.. They actually have to blend with the company’s style of dancing and technique… That is true… So, here is what has to happen to see diversity in ballet…. And truthfully… sorry to those who have written in… you have to have good technique… period. Regardless of ethnicity….

Option 1: Replace the current heads of major companies…. Like no offense to Australian Ballet but David needs to go…. And as much as I love Peter Martins… his time is probably up as well…. Royal Ballet has been bouncing around directors… so he’s probably on the way out anyways…. Paris Opera made a smart move with Benjamin but is now replacing him with goddess Aurelie Dupont sooo maybe that is good… I think even Bolshoi and Mariinsky’s directors are ready for a change… Here is the reason why:
These directors were brought up in the age of conservative ballet, and as they learned to be in a company, perform and create they learned in an environment that was safe, reserved and untouched… They are part of the generation of classical ballet…. Classical ballet is dying… Or is dead. Companies just don’t perform the classics anymore… Which ironically, companies use the classics as their defense for a black corps member to stand out in…. Well…. if you look at what is performing next weekend…. EVERYTHING seems to be contemporary… Like no joke: Boston, Tulsa, Atlanta, Richmond, Stuttgart, and the list goes on and on. Soooooo, again… bad artistic directors… sorry if I offend any of you reading this, but it is true…. :/

Most of these AD’s grew up dancing, when dancing was still, or is still a privilege… which is a great mindset to instill in students, but elitism is never a good thing. It is a privilege to dance, yes… but it isn’t something that is given, it is earned…

Option 2: Replace the school directors… and when I saw directors I mean even the teachers and the board….
A ballet school is where everything needs to start… There are so few dance jobs to begin with, that we have to be fair from the beginning, and this would start at the ballet school level. In order for it to be a “fair” playing field for jobs, you would have to have the world’s ethnic representation ratio in ballet dancers… Which is like quite impossible… but fun to think about. But if African American dancers make up less than 2% of the world’s professional ballet dancers (Not modern, not contemporary) that isn’t very hopeful… But if we were to look at the percentages from the world’s population database, as of 2014 people of
African or of African Origin decent are 13.5% of the world’s population…. While whites of European decent make up 12.9% of the worlds population…. Asian/Pacific islanders make up 57% of the worlds population… and Latin/Latin Decent make up 8.7%….

So if you took a worldwide company like say…. American Ballet Theatre… That isn’t very hopeful… and if you look at Paris Opera or Bolshoi… well… it doesn’t get any better… BUT, in Europe’s defense… most of their companies are state companies, so it make sense to hire dancers from their own countries… Kind of… because they don’t always follow those rules… *cough cough* royal ballet *cough cough*
I really don’t know why Royal Ballet irks me the most when it comes to ethnicity… Oh yeah, I remember why… Thier school has a huge influx of Asians and other ethnicities in their upper school… but they don’t hire them into the company… duh. Oh and Paris Opera just hired their first African descent dancers Awa Joannais… (note that it was under Benjamin Millpied…) And not to mention Asians make up half the world’s population so you would think that there would be more Asian principal dancers… Like ummm hello, did we not watch the Prix de Lausanne… Asians galore.

So, I am not saying give everyone a free ballet education, because that would ruin American dance studios and ballet schools hahaha. But, what I am saying is that studios/ ballet schools should be recruiting ethnic dancers who have the potential to dance: natural turnout, good feet, hypermobility, etc at a young age (age 8-10) and recruit them, and prepare them to push the distance… I would include body weight/ skeletal frame but in America these days there is little difference in the obesity category when it comes to race, and obesity isn’t genetic. Talking mostly about girls… (NYU) http://journalism.nyu.edu/publishing/archives/race_class/othergirlsstuff.html
So- by replacing school directors, with new directors and innovative dance teachers, like myself… lol, you have to find dancers with potential and carve them a path into the ballet world… If elite ballet schools only get to pick dancers who are already trained, who are already polished for their SI programs, and scholarship spots etc…. then it isn’t right… Potential and diversity should factor in as well…

Now, as the press covers people have paved their way into the limelight of ballet, I applaud them all as well… But the reality is… it really doesn’t make a difference. I point out that Desmond Richardson became the first African American male dancer in 1997… And it wasn’t till 2015 that another African American reached principal…. The point here isn’t to criticize ABT, but it is to point out the lack of students available to pull from… And it didn’t help that JKO school wasn’t founded till 2004. Hee Seo was the first Korean, and I believe the first Asian Woman as a principal dancer, (I could be wrong about being the first Asian woman as principal but looking back as the rosters… (I am like 80 percent confident in that statement) and last year Stella Abrera being the first Pacific Islander, specifically Filipina to become principal… So since Desmond Richardson, ABT in the past 20 years next season has yet to “ever see a talented potential African American Male Dancer who deserves a principal spot or has the potential to be a principal dancer?”… *side eye*

Another thing people use in the ballet of ballet and ethnicity is the lack of ethnicity in storybook ballets… like where are the black swans, where are the Asian swans, blah blah blah… Honestly, these stories were curated in Europe… and even though Goldilocks has golden hair… and snow white has hair as dark ebony wood… or Cinderella’s skin so fair… I doubt that actually matters to directors… I think they are looking for women who evoke the idea of being a princess, evoke beauty, and evoke the passion that is ballet… But if there aren’t ethnic girls in the corps, in the school, or even given a chance … Well… we won’t be seeing them on stage… I mean hello… if a blonde woman can dance in La Bayadere, Don Q or Corsaire… I am just sayin… I think they are truly looking at who is technically and artistically ready to headline a ballet… You also have to be emotionally stable, and have a level head as you are about to go under an extreme amount of pressure.

A lot of young ethnic dancers have written in and even asked me to doodle them, which I eventually will do for free… but the big issue I see… is the lack of technique and lack of turnout, a lot of them have pretty feet… and most of them are young enough to still change the shape of their legs and feet. The problem? Bad teachers, bad training, or can’t afford elite training… Like dear teachers around the US, it isn’t that hard to give the correction… STRAIGHTEN YOUR KNEES… like dear baby Jesus, sooo many bent knees… >____< If they don’t do it on their own, do it for them… You can’t be “on your box” and have bent knee…. *side eye* what is America teaching *end of side eye*

So, where does this leave us in this ginormous post? That if you want to see a change in the ballet world… You need to support scholarship funds, you need to support company endowments, etc… Don’t just donate money to a ballet company- but you actually have to go in, and talk to someone about programs designed for ethnic dancers… You can’t just donate tons of money to a company… They will spend it how they see fit, and 9 times out of 10 it will be to pay off debt… You have to do a little work.

Now that we have a lot of the crazy out of our systems… Let’s talk…. Besides being angry and sharing inspirational stories on facebook what have you done to change ballet?
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Don’t forget to follow my Insta @aballeteducation or go to my doodle store by clicking here!

Everybody is talking about ballet, but are we talking about the right thing?

The Race for Race in Ballet

I’ve talked about ethnicity before, but now I am going to talk about it even more. Most of you probably won’t like what I have to say, so here is my apology ahead of time.

Everyone is talking about ballet, and I mean everyone. But, are we talking about the right thing?
Seriously, congrats to Stella and Misty. I’m sure the majority of the world agrees that you should be principals. Personally I’m not a fan of Misty Copeland, I fell asleep in her world premier in the Firebird in Orange County. I was not impressed when I saw her in Sleeping Beauty either. Just not a fan of her dancing. Stella…, not a fan of her dancing either, but I don’t dislike her dancing.  So, did they get promoted because they deserved it? Or were they promoted because the world pressured Kevin to? No clue. But here is what I do know…

I started my very first blog because of ethnicity, well lack of ethnicity in college. It was titled: YELLOW LIKE ASIAN. In my frustrations after finishing school, I started teaching dance at a Title One Middle School in middle of nowhere, ghetto California. There was so much potential, but the problem is the school systems don’t support the arts and there was no where for them to go after middle school and most of them couldn’t afford studio time.  So, in my frustrations, I left. Now, I have a company and I am all like ethnic pride, ethnic pride, ethnic pride, and after watching dancers audition– the majority of the company is white or latino. This then lead me to think, wow, I am such a hypocrite. Then I realized that it wasn’t because I was being racist, it was because the lack of training the other dancers had.  Then I remembered, “No shit. They don’t have the money to train.”

Then I was like, lets start a go fund me campaign to have scholarships for ethnic kids who have good grades so we can offer them amazing training, who have potential. I even posted it on here for the School of Redlands Dance Theatre and didn’t raise 1 dollar. Then I was like, fantastic, the rest of the world is just as bad as I am.  They are like misty copeland, ethnic dancer ethnic dancers! and I am sitting here like, “You won’t even support a non profit who is willing to train dancers.” The problem is that a 10 year old ethnic student or 13 year old ethnic student with no training is going to get a full ride to SFB with no training. The problem isn’t the institution of ballet… the problem is our communities and the communities that support the arts… To fix the ethnic dancer ratio in ballet, isn’t to just demand companies to hire ethnic dancers… the answer is to even the ratio of potential dancers… So, as I am going about planning my company class tomorrow, I was like hmmm we need to find a way to get the arts more money. No, we need to get schools that support the arts more money. No, we need educate the communities we live in about the arts.

For example. Little Jessy, who we raised money for to go to LA Ballet , thank you again by the way, is latina. She is first generation. Her parents don’t believe dancing is a career and don’t have the money to support her dancing. Carlos, a former student of mine who went on scholarship to the Rock School and North Carolina School of the Arts, same issue, parents didn’t understand careers within the arts, and didn’t have the means to support their child in that field. Now he dances for my company. Then I look at all the kids I teach at the school district- so many potential dancers, but don’t have the money to train at a real school or studio… So they dance in after school programs, which is great, but they don’t have the refinement of a ballet dancer, the tenacity instilled into jazz dancers, and their work ethic and dedication is attacked by culture and family values.

So, while the issue of race is still a hot topic in ballet… We need to ask ourselves, “Really, am I helping the cause?”

Then, I saw that DTH (Dance Theatre of Harlem) was searching for a soloist or principal dancer. This raised my eyebrow… I was like seriously? WTF. Number one… DTH does not have rankings… And number two… if their “superstar” is going to Washington Ballet for the upcoming season… why not endorse one of your own dancers. Again… the real reason why i started my blog comes out… I am seriously thinking… I know four dancers in DTH who are beyond spectacular… so instead of spending some extra effort in PR, and Marketing… you would rather bring an outside person in? WTF. Shame on you.

Tulsa Ballet announced they are going on tour in Italy this upcoming season, which is beyond fantastic… Which then lead me to be like, oh yeah the AD is Italian. Then I was like WTF… why are we bringing in all these foreign ADs… No offense to Tulsa Ballet, since he has been there 20 years… but like WTF. We have Angel at PA Ballet f’ing up that… No offense to latin dancers… but all of his new hires were latino. Which is great to diversify PA Ballet, but your comments about cleaning out balanchine affected dancers was a little crude. Go back to spain where your company really didn’t do well… Then I am scrolling through social media and see like all these random videos of semi ethnic dancers… Claiming how hard their struggle was… You can’t hop on the band wagon in hopes to get a job or promoted… Misty Copeland already put the pressure on… And I am sure when ABT announces their fiscal reports… donations will have soared.

this lead me to be like… ethnic or passable white?

As American History is horribly tainted in racism… And in the education system we had light as a paper back, and hair straight as a ruler, as a guideline for collegiate acceptances. Now, has that same rule come to ballet? I am not questioning if someone is ethnic or not ethnic…  If you have see Misty Copeland on stage… You wouldn’t know she was black. This lead to me to believe why she was able to move into ABT in the first place… Then I was like Latins and Asians… And after looking at who has made it into abt… I was like ummm passable white. Versus say Mariinsky who has a Korean Principal Male… Obviously the only ethnic dancer. He guested for ABT alongside Hee Seo… Talk about Racial Profiling… Unless she requested him… then that is odd too because like she is gorgeous next to Roberto Bolle and David Hallberg. Don’t be greedy Hee Seo. Haha.

Then I was like NYCB probably has had the biggest criticism for ethic dancers. Period. I mean like… talk about flies in milk. While Albert Evans, Arthur Mitchell, and Jock Soto made City Ballet Principals and paved their way into ballet history, and Amar Ramasar making his mark in ballet history… I’m like… 0 ethnic female principals. 1 asian in the corps. SMH. Then I was like oh yeah… The only way to get into NYCB is to go to SAB… and I think only Peter Boal is the only person ever to start at SAB and finish as a principal. Which lead me back to why we should be supporting schools.

Now finally, as I am the bottom of the bottle of malbec- When the world of ballet decides to obsess over someone new, or find a new topic to be controversial about… What side of the line will you be on? Those who bitched and moaned on social media, which does nothing. Or did you actually contribute to a school, fundraise, talk to your studio’s owner and ask to set up a fund, or parent’s association to help ethnic dancer… Did you applaud misty and stella because they had finally made it, or were you there writing letters to ABT encouraging their promotion and donations to the school for under privileged kids? Did you donate to project plié or buy your starbucks everyday before you take your child to class and sit in the hallways knitting with the other moms? My friends have decided they would support RDT’s school by instead of going out to dinner every night, that they would cut back and use that money to support a student.  I mean we do go out every night, and spend way too much money on bottle service, dinners, and more anyways. We have decided that Tuesdays will be our fancy dinner night, and we will only go out Fridays and Saturdays. We will then cut checks to RDT. We couldn’t give up coffee. haha. So, what will you do?