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Subject: "Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and c..." Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2494
Reading Topic #2494
Bruce Madmin

15-02-02, 08:03 PM (GMT)
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"Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
 
   Welcome to "Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost thread II"!

The old thread, at 163K long, was getting a bit too unmanageable. However there is still much to debate as you will note if you visit the original thread at:
http://www.danze.co.uk/dcforum/happening/2486.html

Please do pick up on where the old contributions left off and once again I'd put in a plea to keep things civil please.

Things can though easily stall with a new thread and I've been itching to respond to a particularly nice contribution from a couple of days back. It came from Alison and was the heartfelt story of her getting to ballet late because of assumptions about cost and access that are just not true and I suppose ultimately reflect a failure of dance and ballet to market itself appropriately. The posting is at:
http://www.danze.co.uk/dcforum/happening/2486.html#8

It caused Brendan to say "Alison's posting is one of the most passionate I have ever seen on this site. The Royal Opera House marketing people should make good use of it."

And here is what it brought forth in me...

Alison is right that ticket prices at the low end scarcely get mentioned and the whole place has an aura of poshness about it that I think puts many people off. And like her I kick myself for not discovering ballet and dance earlier!

At the moment the ROH marketing images tend to reinforce the poshness thing - all ball gowns, champagne flutes and black ties - to the point where BBC R4s Front Row (I think it was Front Row) did a 'shooting themselves in foot' piece about it. And the place is undoubtedly 'posh' - you won't see so many ordinary folks there as you would for other theatrical entertainments in London. There remains the feeling of an exclusive club rather then a city or nation come together to enjoy a subsidised high art. The ordinary folks don't realise they could go and the posh ones are pretty happy with how things are - and doubtless fully subscribe to the Southgate statement about not wanting to sit next to somebody in a T-shirt. Also some of those posh folks pay an awful lot of money to the ROH and without that the place would not run. We should be very thankful to such people (and I don't say this tongue in cheek - we should, they give millions), but also appreciate that their generosity comes at some cost.

Regular readers will know I always bang on about the Birmingham audience for BRB at the Hippodrome. There there is a felling of all social strata coming together and its very gratifying to see. I don't think this has just come about because people were alerted to some low seat prices. Bintley has gone out and is known to Birmingham in a way you don't see at Covent Garden and of course Bintley's entire demeanour is un-posh and very down to earth. That's been supported by sales and marketing that bothers with the local papers from all over the West Midlands. This gets reviews into weekly papers and one week the theatre critic is reviewing "Big Time American Wrestling" or "An Evening with Uri Geller" and the next "The Nutcracker".... so people see the ballet/dance as another option relevant to them, not something posh and isolated and reviewed by people who 'know' in papers that are far too large and boring. Probably half the national papers don't even cover ballet and dance and yet they probably represent more than half the population. There need to be winning strategies emerging form the opera house to get to these people. AMP have done it so why not ROH?

I'm encouraged to see all the talk from ROH of more big screen relays, BBC4 programs and even cinema chain coverage etc. Assuming this all comes to be it is marvellous news and will do much to make Covent Garden seem closer to people. The only concern I have is that the main stage at the opera house might still remain a desperately posh club and ordinary people self filter themselves to lesser venues where performances are not live... but they feel more comfortable. And ROH marketing will subtly push that. That would be a great shame and I believe should not be allowed to happen.

If you've not been to Birmingham to see BRB and their audience you haven't lived - or seen full and true access to live dance/ballet I suspect. The ROH is a very different set-up, but I'm not sure I see any sign yet of them marketing main house access outside the traditional straightjacket. Which is where Brendan came in with his comments re ALison's original posting I think...


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Tim Powell 15-02-02 1
  RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Brendan McCarthymoderator 15-02-02 2
     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... AEHandley 15-02-02 3
         RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Terry Amos 15-02-02 4
             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Isobel Houghton 16-02-02 6
                 RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Terry Amos 16-02-02 9
                 RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... alison 16-02-02 11
                     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Isobel Houghton 16-02-02 28
                 RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... AEHandley 16-02-02 12
  RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... tortie14 16-02-02 5
     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Jim 16-02-02 7
         RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Helen 16-02-02 8
             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Jim 16-02-02 10
                 RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Carly Gillies 16-02-02 13
                     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Carly Gillies 16-02-02 14
                     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... tortie14 16-02-02 15
                         RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Helen 16-02-02 16
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... tortie14 16-02-02 18
                     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... AEHandley 16-02-02 17
                     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Viviane 16-02-02 19
                         RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Jim 16-02-02 20
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Viviane 16-02-02 21
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... tortie14 16-02-02 22
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Helen 16-02-02 23
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Helen 16-02-02 24
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... tortie14 16-02-02 26
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Viviane 16-02-02 25
                             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... tortie14 16-02-02 27
  RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Bruce Madmin 17-02-02 29
     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Carly Gillies 17-02-02 30
         RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Viviane 17-02-02 31
         RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Isobel Houghton 17-02-02 33
             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... AnnWilliams 17-02-02 35
         RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Jonathan S 17-02-02 34
             RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Carly Gillies 17-02-02 36
  RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Bruce Madmin 17-02-02 32
     RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , a... Jim 18-02-02 37

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Tim Powell

15-02-02, 09:02 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #0
 
   The elitism argument is quite neatly reflected by the different audience in the expensive seats from Monday to Thursday and on the rest of the week. A stroll in the bar in the interval of the corporate part of the week will leave you in no doubt on the argument. The Fri/Sat performances are populated by a more human crowd and this is shown in the difference in the appreciation of the two groups at the beginning of the week you need to listen to the upper reaches to hear real applause.
I do appreciate that the corporates help to finance things for the rest of us but I would like to see a bit more warmth and genuine interest from them although a fair number will not have paid for their own tickets.
The BRB audience are another matter and great to be with wherever you sit in the house, one has no doubt that ballet is for all up there and the same has always been true at The Wells.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

15-02-02, 09:17 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #0
 
   LAST EDITED ON 15-02-02 AT 09:35 PM (GMT)

A few ROH points which are not meant to distract from the main thread.

Some of the ROH public areas are not obviously welcoming. Tony Hall has been wrestling a bit with the geography of the Opera House. I wonder if there isn't something very offputting about the design of the link (the ticket hall) between Bow St and the Piazza. It needs to be redesigned and the ROH needs a frontage on the Piazza, if necessary sacrificing the rent from some of the shops.

Perhaps in summer the Royal Ballet might have a stage on the Piazza so that passers by could see real dancers in lunchtime recitals? A kind of Linbury al fresco? Big screens are great but live performance is even better. Perhaps 50 main house tickets might be given away in a lunchtime draw there and then?

It would be a real advance to get Londoners to be comfortable with using the ROH's general areas (the Tea Dances have been a good start).

The main house programming needs to be more edgy. Maybe Wayne MacGregor and others like him should be invited to make work for the main stage. Some RB programmes might be deeply discounted in the way that Hans Werner Henze's opera was last year?

But there are other issues. The ticketing system is labyrinthine. I wonder if there should be preferential booking for anyone? Why shouldn't people be able to book ROH tickets in the simple way that they do at any theatre in London?

As to the Friends of Covent Garden, I wonder if it is time for a revaluation? To attend a Friends' gathering is to become startlingly aware of the greying of the dance audience. The same people come again and again. Yet they are the converted - and not the new audience that the Royal Ballet needs to be reaching out to. OK, the Friends raise useful extra money, but I wonder if, in some ways, they aren't part of the problem?


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AEHandley

15-02-02, 11:22 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #2
 
   I have to say, I'm baffled by this whole subject. To me, arts and entertainment aren't elitist, class ridden or, come to that, relevant. They can be expensive. I don't find the atmosphere at the ROH any more intimidating than that anywhere else - you find pseuds and cliques and snobs in all theatres, whatever the entertainment on offer. If I want to see/hear/experience something in the theatre, and I have the time and the money to do so, then I do, and I don't much care who I'm sitting next to. I always used to go to ballet, opera and concerts on weekdays when I worked in London - now I work in Portsmouth I go on Saturdays. I have noticed no difference in the audiences (but that may be because I don't spend a lot of time looking at the audience, because that's not what I've spent the money on). I don't think that accessibility to art (high, great or otherwise) and entertainment is something that can be legislated for - and if it's anybody's business it's the BBC's rather than the ROH's. I have read Ms Houghton's diatribes with increasing bafflement and concluded that I inhabit a different planet - I stick to my assertion that when all's said and done it's only dancing. Ballet is entertainment - at its best it can lift the spirit, possibly ennoble the soul or a load of other such stuff, but mostly it just brings pleasure. It's worth doing and worth seeing but it isn't - IT REALLY ISN'T -life or death. And it certainly isn't political, despite attempts to make it so. I can't imagine musicians having this sort of discussion - perhaps I'm missing something? I go to concerts because I love music, and I go to ballets because I love dancing. I probably get most enjoyment, though, from the straight theatre because I know nothing about acting and so can enjoy it uncritically (and without fear of being accused of having the wrong political stance, which seems to be very important all of a sudden). Enduring art is not, cannot be political - the point about the Diaghilev-sponsored stuff is not that it had a message, it's that it was good enough to last. Oh, and far more people listen to Stravinsky's music than watch Fokine's ballets.

I am beginning to feel that it I must be morally dissolute to feel this way - please, someone, tell me that they go to the theatre for sheer enjoyment too!


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Terry Amos

15-02-02, 11:35 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #3
 
   I didn’t intend to have anything to do with this so-called discussion because it seemed to me so misconceived and futile. But some people are making such wild statements that I feel it almost a sacred duty to point them out.

Isobel Houghton says she believes the welfare state should receive funding, far beyond the needs of an opera house. Where has she been? It does receive that sort of funding: billions and billions compared with the ROH grant. If the whole of the ROH grant was withdrawn and distributed throughout the population we would get about 35 pence each. That would do nothing for the welfare state. So why drag the welfare state into the discussion?

I’m surprised at Brendan saying that the government spends a huge amount on ballet. It is not a huge amount. It is peanuts compared with the overall spending (and wasting) of governments. That wisest of Prime Ministers, Mrs Thatcher said she didn’t believe in saving candle-ends and that is all the ROH grant is. And what if it does go to support middle-class audiences? They pay most of the taxes. They are entitled to something in return.

Isobel Houghton seems to have a wonderful knowledge of what everybody in the country thinks about the ROH and ballet. My own guess is that most people and particularly the uneducated proletariat (her phrase), she is so fond of, couldn’t care less about either. I live in what I suppose she would call a working class area, (although personally I don’t like to divide people into classes) and I’ve never ever heard anybody mention the Opera House or ballet. She says the Royal Charter is an object of contempt for much of the population. Oh, come on. Hardly anybody has even heard of the Royal Charter and that includes most of the people who do watch RB and BRB. Do I detect a slight note of anti-royalist feeling in all of this? Surely she knows that this is contrary to the views of the population at large. Doesn’t it introduce a big contradiction into her own argument?

Some of you who post here are apart from society, says Isobel Houghton. She means, of course, society in her terms and as she would like it to be. Well good for those who want to stay apart from it, I say. Don’t be browbeaten by these ever so politically correct people who take upon themselves the right to tell everybody else what to do, what to believe and how to behave.

Dance is prejudiced and ballet is racist. Good heavens, I never noticed. But I think the statement needs a little bit of proof. What are these passive aggressive (another contradiction?) policies? And is the quoted statistic that non-Caucasians (what a frightful term) make up 40% of British society correct? Where are they all? As for Jerry Douglas, he was no worse off than most boys who join the RB. They are all bored witless for two years. He should have accepted the offer of a job at BRB, who are a bit better in that respect. However, I can think of one boy at BRB who did almost nothing for two years. But he stuck it out and became a Principal.

Actually I begin to wonder about these people who go around calling everything and everybody racist. Can it be that they are the real racists? They certainly seem totally obsessed by race.

Finally, we must all be grateful for the insight into the politically aware reasoning that led de Valois to employ Nureyev. I never realised the Cuban Missile Crisis came into it. I thought she simply felt he was a very good dancer.

Just before posting the above I saw the previous message from AEHandley. I can tell him that I too go to watch ballet for the sheer enjoyment it gives me. All this angst and breast beating and attempts to make ballet a sub division of the social sciences leaves me as astonished as it does him.



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Isobel Houghton

16-02-02, 01:32 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #4
 
  
>My own guess is that
>most people and particularly the
>uneducated proletariat (her phrase), she
>is so fond of, couldn’t
>care less about either.


It was NOT my phrase, it was the phrase of another poster who said he thought it would be awful if we had the sensibilites of the uneducated proletariat.

>Doesn’t
>it introduce a big contradiction
>into her own argument?


Do you mean anti Royalist or Monarchist? You make sweeping judgements and your technique of dissemination is somewhat lacking.
>
Don’t
>be browbeaten by these ever
>so politically correct people who
>take upon themselves the right
>to tell everybody else what
>to do, what to believe
>and how to behave.

Excuse me but I never said I had a right. I'm merely introducing debate which is sorely lacking. However, there is a difference between the brand of political correctness which is a form of tyrannical semantic facism which arose in the Universities of the US in the 70's and is the antithesis of serious debate, and the brand of political correctness which many choose to rubbish, in order to uphold their views without taking on board views other than their own.
>
>Dance is prejudiced and ballet is
>racist.

No I didn't say dance is predjudiced, I said the Royal Ballet is predjudiced. Okay then name five dancers of black origin who have danced with the Royal Ballet. Of course you never noticed, your viewpoint is totally white on. The statement is proved by the conspicuous lack of black, asian and non-caucasian (and I used that phrase to point out that racism is skin coloured bias, as a jew it always amuses me how racists change their views of me, a caucasian, when they find out about my ethnicity. I'm white until I'm tarnished with the same brush of ignorance which paints the racist mentality.

>
>Actually I begin to wonder about
>these people who go around
>calling everything and everybody racist.
> Can it be that
>they are the real racists?
> They certainly seem totally
>obsessed by race.

Very good keep telling yourself that, an aphorism of idiotic proportions. I never said everything and everybody is racist, what I am saying is that an organisation in which there has been what two black dancers in a history of over 60 years can hardly be said to have a sterling equal opportunities policy. However, if anyone casts their mind back to the documentary, The House, when Dowell went to White Lodge to pick girls to play Clara in the Nutcracker and chose a half chinese girl one of the teachers protested that her ethnicity would not be appropriate for the stage, for that ballet. Dowell much to his credit castigated her for that attitude, but the attitude was obvious an endemic one and can be seen from the lack of non-caucasian dancers on the ROH stage over the years. And I say that because racism is down to the colour of skin. It's the litmus test by which a racist colours their initial opinion of a person.
Furthermore, Jerry Douglas could never be just another "boy" he was touted by the RB as the first dancer of African descent that they had taken into the company. The media was allowed to portray him as such, he was held up as a symbol of the progressive nature of the RB and then his abscence was conspicuous. If they had wanted him to be just another talented youngster, his colour would never have been an issue. But it was, and the ROH was happy to use it as such. But tell me how many black friends do you have? Do you have sons, daughters grandchildren? How would you feel if one of them married a black man or woman, lived with a black man or woman had children by them or entered into a homosexual affair with one? If you could say that that would be utterly unimportant to you, just as long as they were happy I take it back. I mean you yourself have said you've never noticed colour as an issue, or could that be that the only colour you see is white? Or the only colour you focus on rather as being relevant to your sphere of experience.
>

>
>Just before posting the above I
>saw the previous message from
>AEHandley. I can tell
>him that I too go
>to watch ballet for the
>sheer enjoyment it gives me.
> All this angst and
>breast beating and attempts to
>make ballet a sub division
>of the social sciences leaves
>me as astonished as it
>does him.

The tone of aggression to this thread saddens me. An art form that does not see itself as creating for the whole of the nation in which it exists is a poor art form. A poor organisation. The apathy and unwillingness to discuss the wider implications of art and its relevance to its society is distressing. Such apathy, and in the face of such apathy perhaps then the apathy of the ROH as an organisation is understandable and forgivable, it's merely the tone of the audience its creating for. The lack of imagination in programming, the callousness of the organisation in terms of consumer rights and relations, the lack of intelligence and insight into its place within society is a reflection of its audience, or apparantly some of them. The fact that you or the breathtakingly obtuse AE Handley don't see art as an expression of the society it exists within is worrying.


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Terry Amos

16-02-02, 11:33 AM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #6
 
   Here are some comments on Isobel Houghton's latest.

"No I didn't say dance is predjudiced". Cf posting 33 para 5 line 10.

"I never said everything and everybody is racist, what I am saying is that an organisation in which there has been what two black dancers in a history of over 60 years can hardly be said to have a sterling equal opportunities policy."

This is to misunderstand the difference between a necessary and a sufficient proof. It could be that only a handful of black dancers of appropriate quality wanted to join the RB.

"But tell me how many black friends do you have? Do you have sons, daughters grandchildren? How would you feel if one of them married a black man or woman, lived with a black man or woman had children by them or entered into a homosexual affair with one? If you could say that that would be utterly unimportant to you, just as long as they were happy I take it back. I mean you yourself have said you've never noticed colour as an issue, or could that be that the only colour you see is white? Or the only colour you focus on rather as being relevant to your sphere of experience."

I don't intend to answer these points which can only be regarded as impertinent in both senses of the term. It gives me some idea of what it must be like to be interrogated by the thought police. You are guilty unless you prove otherwise. What I will comment on is my attitude to black and asian dancers. The company I watch most is BRB. It doesn't have any black dancers but it does have asians. I regard the latter in exactly the same way as I regard the rest of the company. Nor do I get the slightest impression that the company or its audience differs from me in that respect. Indeed, I would guess that the most popular female dancer with the company and audience over the last ten years was Miyako Yoshida. Nor do I think it would be different if BRB had black dancers (they did try to get Douglas). It wouldn't bother me in the slightest as long as they were good enough at dancing. Nor, by the way, does it bother me that you are jewish.

"The tone of aggression to this thread saddens me"

Well, I have to say that I think you are mostly responsible for that.

"An art form that does not see itself as creating for the whole of the nation in which it exists is a poor art form. A poor organisation. The apathy and unwillingness to discuss the wider implications of art and its relevance to its society is distressing......the lack of intelligence and insight into its place within society is a reflection of its audience, or apparantly some of them. The fact that you or the breathtakingly obtuse AE Handley don't see art as an expression of the society it exists within is worrying."

I forget who said that whenever people started to talk about society he wanted to get out a gun, but I know what he meant. Why all this distress and worry? Lighten up! Can't you accept that some of us, probably most of us, go to watch ballet to be entertained and enjoy it? We don't want to be lectured about society, politics and race. There is far too much of it around; it has grown, is growing and ought to be diminished.


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alison

16-02-02, 02:16 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #6
 
   LAST EDITED ON 16-02-02 AT 02:19 PM (GMT)

>No I didn't say dance is
>predjudiced, I said the Royal
>Ballet is predjudiced. Okay then
>name five dancers of black
>origin who have danced with
>the Royal Ballet.

Well, just immediately off the top of my head: Carlos Acosta, Jose Manuel Carreno, Jerry Douglas, Eddie Shelman, Stephen whose surname escapes me from Ballet Frankfurt, and a few others whose credentials as being of black origin I would have to double-check because frankly I don't usually notice people's racial origins unless it is glaringly obvious.

Then, of course, there are all those dancers of various oriental origins you'd have to include as non-Caucasian, not to mention Benazir Hussein ...


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Isobel Houghton

16-02-02, 10:47 PM (GMT)
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28. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #11
 
   >Well, just immediately off the top
>of my head: Carlos Acosta,
>Jose Manuel Carreno, Jerry Douglas,
>Eddie Shelman, Stephen whose surname
>escapes me from Ballet Frankfurt,
>and a few others whose
>credentials as being of black
>origin I would have to
>double-check because frankly I don't
>usually notice people's racial origins
>unless it is glaringly obvious.
>
>
>Then, of course, there are all
>those dancers of various oriental
>origins you'd have to include
>as non-Caucasian, not to mention
>Benazir Hussein ...

Very good. And how many were trained in the UK? How many stayed with the Royal for a long term basis? Why did Douglas leave? Why did Accosta have his full-term contract changed to guest due to the lack of roles and performances offered. Carreno? Latino definitely not dark, proud African descent black. Hussein despite ethnicity was white skinned, the delicate eurasian features and non-black skin of oriental dancers is not black. Ethnicity and racism finds its ulitmate litmus test in skin colour. How many black dancers have come through the school entered the company and established long-term careers? Two swallows do not make a summer. Sorry to burst your bubble.



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AEHandley

16-02-02, 03:26 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #6
 
   The fact
>that you or the breathtakingly
>obtuse AE Handley don't see
>art as an expression of
>the society it exists within
>is worrying.

I would like a formal apology for this very public insult.

Anneliese Handley


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tortie14

16-02-02, 00:24 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #0
 
   LAST EDITED ON 16-02-02 AT 00:31 AM (GMT)

Yes, I think I would admit ballet is elitist. I was fortunate enough to be brought up by a "regular" at ROH. My Mum was one of those who went every night during the war to theatre, ballet and opera, sitting in the gods. She chose to spend her hard earned money that way and has such a host of fantastic memories from those days. I think there was a great widening of the audience and a deliberate attempt to bring art to the people (free concerts at lunchtime etc) to keep up the morale of people during the Blitz. And I think the ethos of Lillian Baylis in the early days meant there was a solid core of keen supporters who sacrificed the niceties of downstairs for accessibility/ frequency of performance up in the cheap seats. That core was knowledgeable and loyal. I think the ROH lived off that for a long time and has only in the last 10-20 years begun to be lost hastened by the closure and the revamped ROH. When I started regularly in 1980's that core audience was evident. The Amphi was a friendly place for regulars.

I get cross when the press bang on about how expensive seats at the ROH. I used to stand on the terraces Arsenal, now I compare that cost to my nephew's season ticket for Crystal Palace, things certainly have changed. If you can afford football you can definitely afford ROH.

BUT I agree that the ROH has a lot of work to do - both in marketing and also in staff training - there is a house style similar to many upmarket shops, of staff looking down their nose, being very patronising and adopting a snooty drawl - to put customers in their place. There are some staff you clearly think they are doing you a HUGE favour just selling you a ticket. Many of the front of house staff, ushers, etc are charming and helpful but staff in the box office and on the enquiry desk have been both rude and unhelpful to me which I think would put people off. They also have shown a very poor knowledge of seats/sightlines etc - giving incorrect information. Their patronising and rude attitude creates a barrier that would prevent many from feeling welcome in the House. I hope perhaps Ross Stretton can contribute to creating a less intimidating atmosphere at the house. I have done my bit by complaining when I have had particularly rude or unhelpful service from staff there but fear it is spitting in the wind.

At the risk of being elitist, I do regret that the audience is less knowledgeable about how to watch ballet, less familiar with the works, and many more people who are there cause they think it's the thing to do rather than because they enjoy ballet. And I don't know how you get round the "dumbing down" of the audience (wanting to clap after every pdd, solo, at every pause even when it breaks the atmospher, flow or drama of a piece). Perhaps lots more programmes like the TV stravinksy where they explain the ballets, put them in context and help people to understand and appreciate them. Plus many more free pre-performance talks better advertised. Perhaps some guidance at the start (like they have for Gloria). I certainly think the "Education" department should do more than arrange school events and do more to develop the audience for ballet. Again, I pin great hope on Ross Strettons desire to get all departments working together so marketing, education, box office all working to the same mission - which should be developing and extending the audience for ballet which is the best ballet company in the world!

There is little we can do as individual except to spread the word where we can that you can buy tickets at the ROH.

My final ROH beef - reduce the ridiculously long period that you have to book ahead or have more that can be booked nearer the time. That is something that really stops people getting tickets because unless you are "in the system" and up with booking dates etc you haven't a hope unless you can queue for day seats. It makes the whole matter, complicated, obscure and difficult to deal with. There has to be a more user-friendly way to sell tickets.

There is so much the ROH could do but whether they have the will to do it - is another question. I live in hope and appreciate the privileges I have enjoyed being brought up by a ballet/theatre/opera mad Mum! Who I might add was "working class".

I don't know about high art - but watching ballet bring me much joy and pleasure and delight.



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Jim

16-02-02, 07:32 AM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #5
 
   It was the following clip from one of Isobel's postings that lost me some sleep:


If you could say that that would be utterly unimportant to you, just as long as they were happy I take it back. I mean you yourself have said you've never noticed colour as an issue, or could that be that the only colour you see is white? Or the only colour you focus on rather as being relevant to your sphere of experience.

It seems that we are expected to state our credentials before commenting on racial issues. OK, I am a university biology lecturer with a complimentary role of Resident Tutor (Warden) of a mixed hall of residence. Over the last 20 years I have mopped many a tear of boys and girls of all races who have come to my flat to spill the beans about their family/romantic/financial/health worries. I have some good friends who are black/Asian and, though I have never had such a girlfriend, I recall a period lurking in my chequered history when it was not for want of trying. Various beloved nephews/neices have had such partners and my sons were raised withing a context of a minority culture (Welsh speaking).

Now, I will get to dance eventually, but I need to start on more familiar ground, with higher education. In a class of 60 or so first year biology students in Leicester, less than half might be of white European ethnicity. The rest would be mostly Asian, with a smattering of black or Chinese. No discrimination so far - we need every fee-paying student we can get. In the second year, students have to select a stream to follow, toxicology, biotechnology or ecology/environment. It is extremely uncommon for a black/Asian student to choose the ecology stream. As Leader of this Stream, I might be vulnerable to suggestions of discrimination if it were not for the free choice. I have heard comments like: "Asians don't care about the environment"; "Asians prefer a warm laboratory to cold, wet fieldwork"; "Asians don't like wildlife"; and so on. But there are only two facts we can work with: (1) Students have a free choice; (2) Asians/Blacks are grossly under-represented in the ecology stream. So we come to

Choice or discrimination?

Presumably the thousands of dance schools for children around the country, like us in a university, derive their income from a fee-paying clientele? Surely there is no racial discrimination at the recruitment stage? When my son went to dance lessons when he was little, there were three sections available, ballet, tap and jazz. He took best to the tap, and even participated in a ittle show and very dapper he looked and very proud of him I was. But I wonder if any of you out there have noticed any association, based on choice alone, as to which aspect of dance different racial groups tend to choose, or prefer? And if so why?

I have often discussed with students why Asians/blacks "don't like ecology"; and as far as I can see it usually boils down to "parental influence". Perhaps they see the "human" side of biology as more important, and certainly more employable, than the "wildlife" side. So we come to the issue of:

Racism or cultural heritage?

"Parental influence" is presumably handed down and becomes entangled with the concept of "cultural heritage". Can anyone point to parallels in dance schools? Has there ever been, for example, a suggestion that "black girls don't much like dancing on pointe" to match my observation that "Asian students don't do ecology"? To what extent might choice, parental influence or "cultural heritage" explain the under-representation of non-whites in ballet? Do they consider ballet to be relevant to their cultural heritage?

Which brings me to the final and most difficult point:

Cultural context and appropriateness

This enters a very tricky area and I feel more exploratory than assertive here. How would you feel if you were watching the corps de ballet at the start of the fourth act of Swan Lake and you noticed that one of the corps was a boy? I believe I would feel perplexed, my eyes would follow him round and the "uniformity" of the corps would be lost. Presumably not what the choreographer intended. Yet, create a ballet where all the swans are boys and - well, we all know the effect that had. Would we be labelled as "sexists" to regard the single boy as inappropriate in that context? To what extent would the arguement be altered if it was a context of race rather than sex?



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Helen

16-02-02, 11:02 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #7
 
   Lots of very good points, Jim. I find your last paragraph especially interesting - the difficulty is that we are all (myself included) afraid to discuss this issue honestly for fear of being considered racist.

On the subject of the social mix of audiences, I certainly notice a difference between the audience in the stalls, say, at the ROH, and the audience in the stalls at the Liverpool Empire. The audience in Liverpool is much more representative of the whole community, and nobody is in the least intimidated by ballet. But I think this also applies to audiences at the Albert Hall and the RFH, so I don't think it's a North/South divide thing so much as a Opera House/other theatres divide. Obviously some people do find the ROH offputting, though I must say I don't see it myself.

And I must correct Isobel on one thing - the girl that Dowell chose to be Clara was half Japanese, not half Chinese. Although it doesn't alter her point, I'm sure she would like to be accurate.


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Jim

16-02-02, 12:11 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #8
 
   >I find your last paragraph especially interesting - the difficulty is that we are all
>(myself included) afraid to discuss
>this issue honestly for fear
>of being considered racist.

Thank you Helen, this prompts me to crank the ratchet by one more notch, based on the premise that if you tell a sober man that he's too drunk to drive he'll laugh at you, but if you say the same to a drunk man, he's liable to bop you one! I think it should be discussed as maybe many of the tensions in this country stem from a fear of discussing it.

I'll start with Mayerling. This seems to be a historical ballet based on (more or less) real people whose ethnicity is presumably known. If a black dancer was cast as Mary Vetsera, the point could be made that it was a technical mis-cast and racist overtones would conceivably be avoided. What about a black Juliet? Could it be argued that Shakespeare hadn't conceived a "mixed" romance, and this would also be a mis-cast? Or a black Cinderella, Aurora, Odette, Firebird or Manon? All these stories presumably have their origins firmly ensconced in white European folklore or literature.

Progressing to the notion of a black dancer in a corps of 32 swans, sylphides or Shades is more problematical. Artistically, it might be argued that the whole aesthetic point of a corps is to appear as uniform as possible, and any dancer, of any sort, who stands out from the rest for whatever reason, might be miscast. What about a black Wili? Presumably there were black girls who were deceived in their mortal lives?

I think there is a point to argue as to whether black girls or boys aspire to be Auroras, Siegfrieds or sylphides? I don't know the answer to this but before accusing ballet of being racist, I would want the evidence of how many black and white candidates, of equivalent examination achievement, are accepted and rejected into senior dance schools (I could do an objective statistical test in 5 minutes if anyone will give me the data). You can't accuse discrimination if there are no qualified applicants, as in the ecology example in my posting above. And it might be the customers (audiences), not the schools, who are the real culprits.

Finally, if someone objects to a single black member in an otherwise white corps (say), is this racism? Or is it aestheticism?



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Carly Gillies

16-02-02, 04:42 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #10
 
   Perhaps the question should be turned round a little.
From “Is ballet elitist?” to
“Ballet IS elitist – So why are we so uncomfortable about that?”

To watch top class ballet is to watch the elite of ballet dancers – arguably the elite of any dance form.
These performers are the best. They have committed their lives to an art form that they love and are happy to suffer for. Their drive is quality and their aim is to strive for perfection.
This should make it precious, but in present day society can also make it seem just anachronistic.
Long gone are the days of craftsman and apprentice, when woodworkers, artists, stoneworkers and tailors were also striving for quality and creativity, and when the apprenticeship ended with the making of his “masterpiece” for his masters approval.
Most of us now do jobs where the driving forces are efficiency and economy and the aim is “best compromise” rather than best quality ( Oops – was that “job satisfaction” that just disappeared down the toilet?)
Watching ballet for me then becomes a privilege, and also a kind of vicarious pleasure – the people I watch have strived, suffered, committed and are performing as nearly perfectly as they can for my pleasure. And there’s a kind of shared satisfaction in something well done to the best of someone’s considerable ability, which is nowadays lacking in ordinary life.

Ballet’s relevance in society? Well for many it will have none anymore. I think though it should be treasured and protected for its beauty and also for its example of all these fine qualities.

Why the ROH is seen as elitist is a different question.
It is a shame that some feel so strongly about it that they will not visit at all.
I suggest this may be because to them the ROH has become a symbol of all that is to be despised about privilege, exclusion and class division.
The reality (and I speak from the experience of a recent visit there for the first time in 30 years) is that it is a pleasant and welcoming place.
The Upper slips (4 pounds a ticket) were a little distant from the action, but we were surrounded by friendly folk who, like us, were filled with that childlike anticipatory excitement that is part of the fun of any night-out for me.

Evidently the ROH is seen as being exclusive. Perhaps it should be very careful in it’s marketing to seem not so. Perhaps it should even change its name - What about “Covent Garden Song and Dance place?
But when all is said and done any individual’s attitude to a symbol is just that – an attitude.



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Carly Gillies

16-02-02, 04:47 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #13
 
   Jim: Bravo to you for raising a subject that has been troubling me too. More later when I've time. Didn't mean to ignore your post when posting mine above - just didn't have time to finish it earlier. Carly


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tortie14

16-02-02, 05:02 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #13
 
   LAST EDITED ON 16-02-02 AT 05:47 PM (GMT)

LAST EDITED ON 16-02-02 AT 05:04 PM (GMT)

Carly - good point about the name - of course during the war the ROH became a dance hall - accessible to all. Perhaps that demystified it for my Mum's generation they went there just as they would have been to a church hall for a dance with friends, so there was no problem feeling intimidated when the Sadlers Wells Ballet moved to the Opera House. Plus with the market was working and the area around the House was much less smart - with the "caff" just opposite the House in Floral Street serving the people from the market and those queuing for tickets in the early hours.

Quite agree that the dancers strive for perfection, work incredibly hard for many years, and only a few get into the Royal Ballet and it is therefore an elite. It is highly pressurised and like all areas of the entertainment industry - it is not fair or equal or eqalitarian - it is ruthless, tough and capricious - if face fits, your body looks right you're in - if not, however good a dancer you may be - you're not cast or offered a contract. But the rewards are great too. It all goes against equal opportunities really - some are just too tall, too short, get injuries etc. It is not fair. But I am so grateful they are willing to go through it for all the pleasure I get from watching the ballet.



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Helen

16-02-02, 05:36 PM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #15
 
   I think it was actually Carly who mentioned the striving for perfection and so on - I agree, but I can't take the credit for the comment.


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tortie14

16-02-02, 05:46 PM (GMT)
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18. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #16
 
   LAST EDITED ON 16-02-02 AT 05:48 PM (GMT)

Sorry Carly to give your glory to Helen as it was such a valid and useful point. Have changed my post. Thanks Helen.


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AEHandley

16-02-02, 05:44 PM (GMT)
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17. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #13
 
   I couldn't agree more, Carly!


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Viviane

16-02-02, 06:17 PM (GMT)
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19. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #13
 
   During past decades the line between elitism and snobism has become very thin.
Utterly signs of 'catching attention' and statements of 'wealth' have conquered an important place in many peoples live....it's only sad to constatate that lots of people are impressed, are put off by this or are feeling uncomfortable with it.

I only can recognize that the dancers are the only reference to 'elite' in ballet.
Indeed -as Carly stated- they have to be talented, have the right body proportions and be able to cope with the high demands of the job.
One simply need to accept that all humanbeings can't be the same but definitely are equal : one can't sit all on the best chair ?! In our current time where consumption is one of the biggest aims, one has lost the ability to be content with what one has achieved...there is too much envy....based on utterly signs. We have lost so much : amazement, emotion to name a few.
It all has so much to do with education, bringing up children as stable, selfconscious, openminded people isn't easy.
We have been reading here a lot of contributions who proved that ballet isn't elitist.
All from people who's interest in the artform reached far beyond the so-called 'elitist' facade. It all has to do with 'encouraging the interest' and here education (Paul A.offered a splendid example !) and later on marketing must be able to fill the gap.
In a lot of cases the sticker 'elitism' is created out of ignorance about the subject.(who calls playing golf elitist ?)
And sadly enough mass-media are underlining -again and again- this statement towards ballet. Have a look at news-publication : how many times will you encounter the word elitist connected to ballet ? The two together are spoken out in one breath

Ballet is definitely an artform to me...and a PROUD one, based on a tremendous rich tradition. Ballet means and expresses so much more than the simple sum of the ingredients. Every balletperformance is a 'unique' one...what a wealth !
I simply adore the 'ethereal' in it...in big contrast with my own work that will survive myself (wah...sometimes a treathened issue). You can't catch ballet in his integrity, no matter what we try with video and photographs.
And from time to time there is that - totally unexpected- extra sparkle...when ballet moves you. We have to cherish our dancers, they are craftsmen of an exeptional type !

on racism :
>I think it should be discussed as maybe many of the tensions in this country stem from a fear of discussing it.

hmm...'fear of discussing' : Jim, as a distant observer with some modest experience on the field during last years, I consider this as a 'typical British' problem !? (hope I don't need to hide now )



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Jim

16-02-02, 07:15 PM (GMT)
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20. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #19
 
   >hmm...'fear of discussing' : Jim, as
>a distant observer with some
>modest experience on the field
>during last years, I consider
>this as a 'typical British'
>problem !?

I think it's Helen that should be credited with the "fear of discussion" observation, not me. However, I think it might well be a characteristic of the English. I believe the Welsh, and possibly also the Scots and Irish may well be less inhibited about discussing such matters, but I wouldn't want to comment to far on their behalf.


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Viviane

16-02-02, 07:22 PM (GMT)
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21. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #20
 
   >I think it's Helen that should
>be credited with the "fear
>of discussion" observation, not me.

Oh yes, excuse me Helen...I had too much to catch up with !

>However, I think it might
>well be a characteristic of
>the English.

...sometimes they just drive me up the wall
glad to hear there do exist exeptions to the rule !


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tortie14

16-02-02, 08:14 PM (GMT)
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22. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #21
 
   LAST EDITED ON 16-02-02 AT 08:16 PM (GMT)

As someone who has celtic as well as English blood, I object to this idea that being afraid of being accused of racism is a characteristic of the English. I am happy to admit that English people traditionally (though it is fast changing) would do almost anything rather than be embarrassed in public and there has been a British reserve and good manners were paramount. But I blame the fear of discussing "racism" on imported political correctness which was invented by the Americans. Add to that the post-colonial angst and shame and you have "white" "English" people who have been vitually silenced for fear of getting it wrong, being embarrassed, being labelled "racist" or in anyway encouraging BNP and racists. You only have to see the furore surrounding the Home Secretary's White Paper comments to see lots of strong feelings aroused by the idea that there is anything valuable/worth promoting about the "British".

Well, now I am very embarrassed and will probably not be able to post for a long time - having dared to speak up in defence of the English - that endangered species.

And I am sorry the English upset you so much Viviane - but c'est la vie!


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Helen

16-02-02, 09:26 PM (GMT)
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23. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #22
 
  
But I blame the
>fear of discussing "racism" on
>imported political correctness which was
>invented by the Americans.


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Helen

16-02-02, 09:31 PM (GMT)
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24. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #23
 
   LAST EDITED ON 16-02-02 AT 09:48 PM (GMT)

Posted the above quote accidentally before I had finished! I meant to say that I think this might well be true, but I think many people just genuinely do not want to hurt anybody's feelings.

I'm Celtic too, mostly!


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tortie14

16-02-02, 10:38 PM (GMT)
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26. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #24
 
   I agree Helen, and as I tried to say, many of us also don't want to say anything that might give fuel to racists or might be offensive or hurtful. This discussion has got a bit off the ballet but I guess it is following the point made - you would react to one man in a female corps of swans, can you therefore reactto one black swan in a corps of white swans without being labelled racist.

As a fan of Carlos Acosta, I admire his dancing, stage presence, and being black is not an issue or hindrance to appreciating the ballet. Yes, to be historically accurate Albrecht would not be a black Cuban but with his entrechats - he's the Prince for me. I am more distressed by dancers with no presence and poor technique. And it would be dreadful if we were denied the opportunity to see him dance at ROH because he was not white and therefore not a realistic Prince/Romeo/Des Grieux etc. In fact, his is a good example for this thread. He went to ballet school because they gave a good education and a hot meal at lunch time, it was the way out of the barrio and his father was desparate to find a way of getting away from bad influences that were leading him into trouble. His life was transformed by being able to get a training to make use of his natural abilities. In this country, he would never have got to White Lodge - his family would never have been able to afford dancing lessons and it would just not be seen as an option. How many Carlos Acosta's are we losing because they simply don't discover what talent they have? It is our loss and theirs.


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Viviane

16-02-02, 10:33 PM (GMT)
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25. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #22
 
   >And I am sorry the English upset you so much Viviane - but c'est la vie!

Tortie, I don't want a misunderstanding raising here.
I'd better kept my mouth
Just wanted to react on 'not able to discuss' in general.
In some very important matters I haven't been able to have discussions to the point...when the other party started to get 'embarassed' one started with big talk..."we will inform the Board" and other nonsenses. Looking for a real solution wasn't possible.


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tortie14

16-02-02, 10:44 PM (GMT)
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27. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #25
 
   Viviane - no problem - I was just being uncharacteristic and speaking up and teasing the "old" enemy (only guess from your name you are French). After all, Waterloo was not THAT long ago!

Please keep talking.

Tortie


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Bruce Madmin

17-02-02, 09:02 AM (GMT)
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29. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #0
 
   I thought I would also post this here - its an entry I just put in the reviews links page and is very pertinent..

ROH Audience
Why it's trainers, not tiaras, for a night out at the opera.
Vanessa Thorpe, arts correspondent
Good to see the ROH coming out fighting re their posh image! An interesting story and nice to see some metrics around about who visits the Opera House. However I'm not sure I've detected much, if any, change in the (ballet) audience since the ROH was reopened. Hopefully they will be able to repeat their research in a couple of years and see how things are moving.
"For generations, the popular image of the average Covent Garden operagoer has remained the same: grey-haired and doddery, the men wearing formal evening dress, the women draped in the family jewels. But the Royal Opera House has discovered that its audience is much more in tune with the twenty-first century than expected.
    "The modern opera or ballet fan is much less well-off and younger than Royal Opera House officials had believed, according to new research.
    "Ticket-holders are now just as likely to arrive dressed in ordinary high-street fashions as designer labels. And, after the performance, a large proportion of them will return to a student flat or a modest starter home. 'These independent figures are encouraging, as they show we are already attracting a far broader spectrum of the population than was previously thought,' said Tony Hall, executive director of the opera house, who is leading efforts to dump its elitist image after its £78.5m National Lottery award for refurbishment."
http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,651649,00.html


I'm really pleased to see them coming out but like all 'messages' it needs testing and interpretation...

The question I ask readers is "over the last 10 years have you seen a change in the RB Covent Garden audience and if so in what direction etc?"


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Carly Gillies

17-02-02, 10:11 AM (GMT)
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30. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #29
 
   I just wanted to make a couple of comments following the posts of Jim, Tortie, Isobel Houghton and others about racism in Ballet.

I’ve previously worried about how much this was fact,and how much assumption. Racism is alive and sick in society at large so presumably also exists in ballet – but to an exceptional extent ?
Jim’s point about choice is a very valid one. Children have an aparently bewildering choice of activities and even for those who want to dance there is a big choice.
It would be extremely interesting to know what factors influence that choice.
Cultural background, wealth, geography, expectations (and the various factors that influence that) must all play a part. I wonder if and where the research is about this.
If anyone knows of any I would genuinely be interested to see it. And forgive my ignorance if actually there's loads and I just amn't aware of it.
I suspect (but have no statistics) that Scottish highland dancing has a higher proportion of participants from a Highland background than from elsewhere in Scotland or elsewhere in the world.
And as Jim points out it’s much wider choices than dance that seem to show ethnic differences. The interesting thing would be to look for the reasons – not simply to try to even things up by artificial means.
So how much is choice and how much (if any) due to possibilities being limited or blocked by racist policies?

I wonder if Cassa Pancho has any evidence that would help here.
'Ballet Black' has been created to give people with coloured skin the chance to perform classical ballet. The reason given is that they are otherwise denied this opportunity.
If that is the case I sympathise with this idea, but am I the only one to have felt a little uncomfortable at their initial auditions which were only for people who are black or from an ethnic minority? Is there another dance company anywhere that is EXCLUSIVELY black?

So what about different coloured skins in the corps de ballet?
Yes. Lets have it.
I think the hesitation about a “single black swan” has to do with the ‘single’ – and therefore more immediately noticeable/identifiable - factor, than the colour factor. Make it 3 (or 10 or most) black swans and there’s no problem.
Theatre director Peter Brook deliberately chooses to have multi-ethnic casts (even for the Royal house of Denmark) and it adds to the esthetic appeal of the whole.
Why should it matter at all if the Houses of Montague and Capulet were from every ethnic mix imaginable – this is theatre/ballet. We’d still be able to tell who was who by the costumes.

And Isobel, In fact I do pass your test for racial prejudice. Interesting that you also throw possible homophobia into the mix.
If my son had a black male lover would I mind most the colour or gender? Well to be quite honest I think that there are more important personal attributes than either of these.


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Viviane

17-02-02, 11:09 AM (GMT)
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31. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #30
 
   LAST EDITED ON 17-02-02 AT 11:38 AM (GMT)

I do know examples of about 8-10% black young dancers attending vocational school. It's significant that only a few go further in upperschool ballettraining. Most of them choose the Contemporary or Musical-direction. I know there are different reasons for that -most of them- equal to these for the other students. But we can't deny the phychological factor of being 'put off' in some way during the training !

And to keep the discussion to this page :
My answer to Jim's "...where does nationalism stop and racism start...?"
I like to answer with the example of POB : not so long ago it was simply NOT possible to enter the company if you were not French ! (even if you were the child of a French/Belgian couple !)...and I fear this hasn't changed yet.

>Is there another dance company anywhere
>that is EXCLUSIVELY black?

I thought the Alvin Ailey Company...but I'm not sure if this is still the case.
Oh, and forgot to mention the "Dance Theatre of Harlem"
http://www.dancetheatreofharlem.com/index.asp

Another thought : We are supposed to be openminded on the issue of integration of ethnic minorities in our society, and I have no problem with that. But, have you ever thought about the opposite ? Ever seen 'white men' taking part in a cultural event in f.i.Africa ?


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Isobel Houghton

17-02-02, 05:04 PM (GMT)
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33. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #30
 
   >And Isobel, In fact I do
>pass your test for racial
>prejudice. Interesting that you also
>throw possible homophobia into the
>mix.
>If my son had a black
>male lover would I mind
>most the colour or gender?
>Well to be quite honest
>I think that there are
>more important personal attributes than
>either of these.


I never set out to give a test or guideline to racial discrimination, and I absolutely agree that these are the most superficial traits on which to judge a person, or their worth. Why I brought this up was in the context of ballet and the ROH in particular.
What I find most interesting is the fact that a topic I brought up about race or rather colour of skin within the context of a company has sparked such debate concerning personal predjudice and heated disavowals of discrimination. I believe that predjudice is endemic within any culture any race. I purposefully did not use the word ethnic or ethinicity and used the word caucasian, because ethnic is one of those words that has become a misnomer, or rather misused. White anglo-saxons are an ethnic group, however the way the word is perceived is now a statement of skin colour or rather black skin colour or not pure aryan white at least (if any such group actually exists). The anger sparked over such dicey semantics shows how sensitive we are to words, or rather how sensitive we are to this issue. The Stephen Lawrence case I found interesting for the fact that although it highlighted the insitutional racism within the police force and quite rightly too, the onus brought upon Stephen's life and death was that he was "innocent" that he wasn't a drug dealer, petty criminal just an ordinary young man in the wrong place at the wrong time. That the predjudice surrounding the neglect of his case was wrong as it worked upon the assumption that a black man in South London was tarnished with the brush of criminality that is the root of much perceived racism towards young black men in our society. However, would his death have been any less senseless, criminal, brutal or deserving of investigation if he had in fact been a petty criminal or dealer? He was a man waiting at a bus stop, he was killed in a horrific fashion, yet his moral "worthiness" had to be an issue before he could be worthy of justice.

The fact that 70% of drug related crime is carried out by white members of our society, but 65% of prisoners in Britain's prisons serving time for drug related crime are black is a figure that doesn't take much deep thought to work out that perhaps our perception of race, culpability and criminality is somewhat skewed within our culture.

The ROH by its very nature is associated with Royalty, associated with a family with a stunning record for racial and ethnic tolerance, NOT. By its very nature it is an institution linked with racial disharmony, colonialism and predjudice, and to believe that this does not impact on the perception of the wider public on the nature of the art that is created on the Covent Garden stage and those it is created for is an idiocy.

To the poster who said totally erroneously and ignorantly that the majority of tax in this country is paid by high earners and so they have a natural right to spend their money on artistic pursuits such as ballet which is outside the scope of the menial earner is offensive and just not true. The country would grind to a halt if the "menial" unskilled worker united and refused to do the work which is the backbone to a society functioning. And do you truly believe that the huge sums earned by industrialists etc is money wholly gained in moral pursuits? The only difference between many a street smack dealer and many of the "great and good" - as they are so laughingly called, sitting in the expensive seats in Covent Garden is often that they are on different branches of the cash from crime tree..

The subject of homosexuality is another issue linked to this and why I brought it up within the culture of ballet. Ballet is an art form that has been devastated by AIDS, though you'd be hard pressed to realise since the galvanised political statements of other art forms to the crisis were not taken up by the ballet establishment. Nureyev even refused to even state that he ever had AIDS indeed his surgeon refuted his death from AIDS until later. He had a right to his privacy you may say? Perhaps, however, he also had the right to protect his sexual partners which he did not and committed the ultimate evil of knowingly infecting others with the disease. And this is sadly the nature of ballet, the nature of "High Art" as AE Handley odiously refers to it, if it ignores social evils or relevancy it doesn't happen.

I never attacked the right of people to go to ballet because they love and enjoy it, it is nothing to feel guilty about, i never said it was. However, the acrimony and aggression which the debate has thrown up points to the guilt perhaps being closer to home than people might like to admit even to themselves.



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AnnWilliams

17-02-02, 06:10 PM (GMT)
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35. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #33
 
   Isobel, the 'acrimony and aggression' is all yours. I happen to agree with most of the points you have made in your various postings, but I resent the hectoring manner in which they have been made.

On the matter of black dancers, it may be of some relevance to note that among the new ROH Board appointees announced last week is the black writer and critic Bonnie Greer. Whether or not this will have any eventual influence on the intake of black dancers to the RB I do not know, but I do know that I am absolutely thrilled at her appointment. I've been a huge fan ever since she started appearing on BBC2's Newsnight Review as a voice of sanity between the bombastic Germaine Greer and the lugubrious Tom Paulin.


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Jonathan S

17-02-02, 05:19 PM (GMT)
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34. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #30
 
   This debate is no more than that - a debate. Yes, it might be interesting to gather the evidence, do statistical analyses, talk about the sorites paradox involved in working out how many black swans you need in Swan Lake before it looks right, or discuss who thinks an audition for black or ethnic minorities is 'racist' or not. At the end of it, we'll all put down our teacups and say 'must do this again some time'.

Ballet Black on the other hand is about moving and shaking, about real people in the real world. As a friend and colleague of Cassa's, I've watched the company from the start, and been at the auditions. It's exciting, it's remarkable, it works. It's about providing something for people which wasn't there before. Cassa has scored all sorts of firsts with Ballet Black - like having a black dancer from ENB teach ballet to a studio full of aspiring black dancers. If you've worked in the ballet world in England for long, you'll know how unusual that is, and what a tremendous, positive achievement it represents.


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Carly Gillies

17-02-02, 06:33 PM (GMT)
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36. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #34
 
   At the
>end of it, we'll all
>put down our teacups and
>say 'must do this again
>some time'.

If that was the case I would neither feel compelled to add to this debate, nor could I be bothered to do so if I felt it was going to affect no-one. We're all open to being provoked and having our opinions honed by others' views. That's important when the issue is prejudice of any kind.
>

>Ballet Black on the other hand
>is about moving and shaking,
>about real people in the
>real world. As a friend
>and colleague of Cassa's, I've
>watched the company from the
>start, and been at the
>auditions. It's exciting, it's remarkable,
>it works. It's about providing
>something for people which wasn't
>there before. Cassa has scored
>all sorts of firsts with
>Ballet Black - like having
>a black dancer from ENB
>teach ballet to a studio
>full of aspiring black dancers.
>If you've worked in the
>ballet world in England for
>long, you'll know how unusual
>that is, and what a
>tremendous, positive achievement it represents.
>
And I wish Cassa every success. I understand the fact that she wants to do this for aspiring black dancers. I just hope the company will be a racially and culturally INclusive one.



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Bruce Madmin

17-02-02, 04:52 PM (GMT)
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32. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #0
 
   This has proved a lively thread and there are more miles in it yet. Its filled up rapidly because we are covering several areas and we want to tease them out into new threads now this one is getting so long.

The biggest issue is the debate around racism and ballet - the RB has featured in this but its more generic than that. Now we have a regular diary, by Cassa Pancho, about the forming of her company Ballet Black and the BB website has a postings section which we think it would be good to use for the ongoing debate. From all perspectives it will introducing new posters and ideas to one another and I hope that all our contributors (and those lurkers!) go over to the following thread and continue the discussion:
http://www.balletblack.org.uk/phpBB/viewtopic.php?topic=20&forum=4&0

I'm also setting up a new thread here about elietsm, social class and ballet and that you can find here:
http://www.danze.co.uk/dcforum/happening/2502.html

So go off and debate (with respect please!)


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Jim

18-02-02, 09:00 AM (GMT)
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37. "RE: Thread II - Ballet, elitism, social class, relevance , and cost."
In response to message #32
 
   I'd like to pick up a point made by Jonathan S in the earlier thread:

Yes, it might be interesting to gather the evidence, do statistical analyses, talk about the sorites paradox involved in working out how many black swans you need in Swan Lake before it looks right, or discuss who thinks an audition for black or ethnic minorities is 'racist' or not. At the end of it, we'll all put down our teacups and say 'must do this again some time'.

Jonathan, I respect all that you say, and agree with some of it. However, I find myself siding with Carly on this point.
Allegations have been made that there is racism in ballet (I believe certain companies/schools have been implicated, but I will leave that for now). This seems to me to be a rather serious allegation, for which convention allows only one of two outcomes: "guilty" or "not guilty". If "guilty" then something needs to be done about it pretty damn quick. If "not guilty" then we need to understand the factors that conspire to create this perception in some people, and correct them.

Because of the emotive nature of this topic, human judgements are liable to be, at best, subjective or, at worst, prejudiced. I thik that gathering the evidence and allowing the cold mathematical impartiality of the Central Limit Theorem can be one way of getting an unbiased picture of the situation. I speak as a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society (Ooops - sorry about the "Royal" )


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