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Ballet Diversity: Minorities in Ballet


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Guest Saji

I'm loving this discussion too! I was very much in a rush last night while typing my first response.

 

I want to add that my daughter's studio has an out reach program for children at risk. There are 2 city school districts involved with that program. These children if they are successful in the program, are offered full scholarship for their entire time at the studio. Sounds great? At first I thought so too. It's great for the children who live in the area where our main studio is, those children are all caucasion. The "sub" studio, in the other city, those students are African-American, Latino and white. The talent is there in all the groups. But, for the children at the smaller studio, transportation becomes a problem, once they are accepted into the school. At first, I thought it was because of lack of parental interest.

 

Here are some of the issues, that hindered some of the minorities in the program.

1. Most of the children were 1 of 3 or more children in the family. Finding someone to stay with the child for about 2 hours every day was a problem

 

2. The interests of the other children in the family. As we all know..ballet is very time consuming and requires alot of sacrifices.

 

3. Once the children main streamed, then they got the "You don't belong here", attitude from a select few.

 

Because of what I have learned at my daughter's studio, I can no longer say that economics is the reason why the minority children here, drop out.

 

The parents that I've talked to wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for their children. But because of work, childcare and prejudices, the children eventually stop coming.

 

Keep this going......may though this discussion, good suggestions could offer a solution for this issue............Thanks

 

Daughter's home, so I'm rushing off again

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calamitous

I have a slightly different question on this topic. My DD has the luck of dancing in a program with many AA's and some other minorities, but in our city is pretty black and white.

However, all her instructors are white. She does occassionally work with an AA dance instructor privately, but this is the only non-white instriuctr I know in the area. In other people's dance programs are there many AA instructors?

 

I ask, because this young women brings many new AA's into her dance classes, because the families when they stop by see her teaching. They also begin ballet classes with her because she does the liturgical dance at a large church. SO it seems like it is her presences in her AA community helps to make other families aware of ballet as an option for thier children. (well I do have to say, it is ALL girls that are in her classes.)

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calamitous

Saji- I was posting at the same time, excellent comment about transportation. THe issue is so complex, but hering different points of view and from different places in the country (world if others join in) is so thought provoking.

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Mel Johnson

I look forward to the day when in the studio and on the stage, the only minority group is the non-dancers!

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Momof3darlings

Mel--I agree! That is the day that being of the human race is all that matters. One day...............

 

vj

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Guest Saji

With all do respect, We are of the human race, and it already does matter. It matters because, we need to continue in the spirits of the Mahatma Ghandi's, the Mother Teresa's and the Martian Luther King, Jr.'s of the world who have left a legacy for us and a charge to not let the efforts of their lives be in vain. They made changes.

 

I wonder where South Africa or this world would be had Nelson Mandela, on the first day of his jail sentence said, "I look forward to the day that there be no more aparthide. Maybe this "thing" IS bigger than I. Maybe I should just dismiss what I see and know. Maybe I should admit defeat. That way, I'd be able to go home".

 

What if Paul Rusesabagina would have gave into his doubts and fears and decided to save only his familiy in Rwanda?

 

Changes occur because there are people who engage in conversation and in action. Changes in the arts and the appreciation of the arts needs to change. Those of us who have been blessed to know the beauty of ballet should want the whole human race to experience what we know. At least, I do.

 

It is my hope that one day, the children of this world can do things equally. It is my hope, that one day "ballet" will be color blind. That one day isn't here. My concious won't let me rest on the laurals of "one day". I owe it to the children who dream of dancing, but don't believe they can, because they are not white.

 

I think we all agree that we look forward to the day that in the ballet world, the only minority is the non-dancers. That being said.....Help me figure out what to do in my tiny part of the world, to make a change.

 

As a Christian, I also ponder sometimes what would have happened if Jesus would have said to God, "This world doesn't want a change. Look at them. They are happy in their evil ways. Why should I die for them? Why should I care?" What if Jesus would have done nothing?

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Saji, it sounds to me as though you are extremely involved in your community. In your earlier post this afternoon you described your daughter's ballet school as having an outreach program but you've also explained the reasons you feel that many of the families in need are not able to avail themselves of the program - mostly due to logistics.

 

If you were able to work with the administrators of the outreach program in conjunction with other parents and other community groups to help organize the logistical support systems that are needed, that would be a huge first step. Perhaps you, along with someone else you know, can work on getting the ear of your city council, your State representatives...and also start researching monies that might be available for some form of transportation, etc.

 

Grassroots is where it all begins - and it begins with one person with an idea, who finds another to help and so it goes. It sounds to me as though you've got part of a plan already in place - now it's time to get publicity for your cause to make the arts - and perhaps specifically ballet - more inclusive. My guess is that you know more than a few people who just need someone to help them to see it can be done. :thumbsup::blushing:

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I have a slightly different question on this topic. My DD has the luck of dancing in a program with many AA's and some other minorities, but in our city is pretty black and white.

However, all her instructors are white. She does occassionally work with an AA dance instructor privately, but this is the only non-white instriuctr I know in the area. In other people's dance programs are there many AA instructors?

 

I ask, because this young women brings many new AA's into her dance classes, because the families when they stop by see her teaching. They also begin ballet classes with her because she does the liturgical dance at a large church. SO it seems like it is her presences in her AA community helps to make other families aware of ballet as an option for thier children. (well I do have to say, it is ALL girls that are in her classes.)

 

I agree, it seems far and away most ballet teachers are white and are female. Over the years, my daughter's school has had a couple of AA teachers (currently an AA male teacher). There have also been other male teachers (white). I can't answer with any real knowledge about whether the presence of the AA teachers has encouraged the AA children to take or to continue with ballet classes, but I know for a fact that the presence of male teachers has encouraged boys (both white and minority) to take ballet. Having someone who has walked the path ahead of you and is willing to encourage the younger ones (and their families) following behind could make quite a difference.

 

Saji, it is sad that these families are often not able to take advantage of the scholarships for the reasons listed, or because of prejudices they become discouraged and eventually drop out. Has the school considered offering the scholarship students the more advanced lessons at the sub-school located in the students' own neighborhood? I'm sure one of their goals may be to assimilate these students into the main student body at their primary location, but they may have to ask theirselves if that is a realistic goal at this point--however, it may be an entirely realistic goal at a further point into their training when the students are older and some of the logistical problems won't exist.

 

Amitava, I agree by minorities, all minorities are included in this discussion. I believe a couple of years ago a mom of a ballet student who also studied traditional Indian dance (and who was Indian, I believe) used to post on Ballet Talk, but unfortunately I have not seen any posts from her in quite some time. It would be interesting to hear her views on this topic, too.

 

While I'm not considered a minority, my grandmother was 1/2 American Indian. Unfortunately, she felt ashamed of her heritage, and refused to talk about it to any of her grandchildren, leaving me with little knowledge about this part of my family's history.

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Momof3darlings
We are of the human race, and it already does matter

 

Saji--you are correct it already does matter. With respect as well however, I think you may have hugely misread my intent to that statement. I am looking for the day when it doesn't HAVE to matter to ANYONE. The day when my children are looked at by the majority of people who see them as "those really nice girls" and not "those really nice AA girls". The day when people say "your children are so well cultured & polite" and their hidden agenda isn't to say "your children are so much more cultured & polite than I heard AA children were". Those are exactly the days MLK, and Ghandi spoke of. The days when the "content of one's character NOT the color of one's skin" mattered. Being human does in fact matter, but alas I am still reminded that the world around me doesn't always look at me as human first.

 

For teachers--I will say that DD had one AA ballet teacher in her lifetime on a regular basis. (She is exposed to many when she goes to SERBA or when she has gone to YAGP). That teacher, although she did not like her personality, still went a long way in confirming to DD that she was on a path worth taking. Her teachers now are minorities, although not AA, and it has been their ability to cast without prejudice that has kept DD encouraged and with goals to try and achieve.

 

I owe it to the children who dream of dancing, but don't believe they can, because they are not white.

 

For those of us with older dancers, (and even the younger ones)it is important that in their hectic dancing lives, they are mentors to all youth at their studios. It is important that they set the example by not only striving to be their best but in reaching out and encouraging those below them in levels. What may not be achieved in their parents lifetime, can become closer in theirs if they reach out.

 

When extra funds are available, take another dancer to the ballet with you. Show them what can be achieved if they stick with it. Research which companies come to town and work through a church or studio to get reduced if not free tickets to take a group to the show. Many companies will also have Master classes open to all levels. Have DD's perform in church (or anywhere else for that matter) when possible, if this interests them. The times DD has, the first question is "where do you take your dance classes, I wish my daughter could take classes?" Talk about opening a dialogue.

 

Speaking of churches--while transportation is an issue for some. How many churches have buses that sit during the week waiting for weekend church activities? Approach a church to see if this could become a weekday ministry.

 

Since church is calling, I'll think of more later. We have to remember this will happen bit by bit.

vj

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I teach at a ballet school in Israel. Because our children come from different ethnic backgrounds, they have various shades of skin colour from light to really dark and no-one thinks anything of it. The common denominator is that they are usually Jewish. However, we do also get applications from Israeli Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, though the latter is rare, because of religious constrictions on the girls. We are always delighted when this happens. Perhaps because of the mixture of skin colour there doesn't seem to be any problem with integration. I have four Arabs out of a class of 16 girls, who after an initial period of shyness are quite definitely part of the "gang". I hope that my "this is perfectly normal" attitude to the girls may be a part of their easy integration, but it may also be that they are really lovely kids. I must say I like building bridges with ballet!

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Hi everyone!

There are so many issues and I find it is personaly hard to deal with the ones that are more subtle, less clearly expressed...( reaction from other students at the studios, being by passed for corrections by teachers, etc.). My ballet teacher actually gave me a copy of the June Dance Magazine and I really enjoyed reading it.

Maybe we could start the positivism here at B.A and start a forum section that deals with minorities issues and ballet, where students/teachers dealing with specific problems could go and express themselves. I think the range of issues is so diverse from "how to take care of your hair" to "how to deal with body type ( long classical line, but often muscular without being bulky??!-Yet the romantic repertoire is the one that appeals to you and NOT the roles that requires strength)" to stage makup, pink/brown colored tights for performance and competitions, etc, etc...

Even if that forum would not be THE most active one, I believe that promoting discussion is always one step ahead to finding solutions.

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Victoria Leigh

A special forum is an interesting idea, Sylphide. We will think on that and discuss it for a while. :shrug:

 

I have learned something from this whole thread that may be very helpful in my work. We do have a number of AA students in our program, and while a few of them are very serious and commited, I do find that some of those who have a lot of potential just do not push themselves. They are less religious about attendance, and they seem to almost hold themselves back sometimes. Perhaps the things that were said here about the discouragement in their community, plus the push for college and other kinds of majors, could contribute to their fear of really going for it in ballet. There is one in particular who I have had for several years. She has progressed, but not nearly to where she could have. I keep encouraging her and pushing her, but she just doesn't push herself. Hmmmm, perhaps it's time for a little chat with her. I had not thought of things like that being the reason. Thank you, those of you who posted about that.

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Guest Saji

Momof3darlings....I didn't misinterpret what you typed. My posting, was an attempt to demonstrate that a more hopeful perspective is achievable NOW! My response was not an attack on you at all. :unsure: I just would like everyone to think critically about our topic. What matters are the reasons why comments like..."Your child is so well behaved. Or, "She doesn't act like most of the black children I know.", are being made. We can't get to that one day, unless we start working...today. My apologise if I offended you.

 

Ms. Leigh, thank you for the rise of your conciousness. Thank-you, for what I believe you will do.

 

Last month, I was joking about how I hoped that my daughter, doesn't chose dancing over college. I recall saying, that I'd prefer her to tell me she's going to Harvard as opposed to telling me she wanted to dance. (I wasn't really joking)! A mother, whose daughter dances with Boston Ballet, told me, "She can go to Harvard and still dance for Boston." So now, when the time comes, if the time comes, I can put a compromise on the table.

 

Her comment made me realize that college and ballet can go together. Something I never thought about before. Currently, there are a few colleges and universities who work with some Ballet Companies. A graduating male student informed me of that. He also added that Harvard is one of those universities.

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I love the idea of having a forum for some of these issues. We are a caucasian family of 7, our 4th child being African American. She brings up issues that I sometimes have a difficult time answering, like, "Mom, why are my thighs bigger than the other girls in my class?", or, "I'm tired of wearing my hair in a bun between classes, but when I take the ponytail out, it just sticks up".

 

She happens to have the body type that Sylphide mentioned, slim, beautiful line, straight back, just a little more muscular in certain places. I want to be able to give her answers to her questions, and being able to come to this wonderful group with my concerns would help me to help her.

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Victoria Leigh

The thing is, I'm wondering if we really need a separate forum. Why can't these things be discussed here? Or, at least on the PTA forum, which would probably be better.

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