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 Post subject: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2000 8:23 am 
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{Ed: This continues from the Keefer Case thread}

This is the first time I've posted a new topic--hope I've got this right! I just heard last night that the Keefers are going to appear on Good Morning America and on CBS News. And that prompted me to wonder, since this controversy is training a national eye on ballet, will the debate impact ballet positively or negatively? On the one hand, it galvanizes those many people who love ballet and wish it to have sovereignty over its own aesthetics to defend it passionately. On the other hand, it might turn off some potential ballet audience members who find the weight issue distasteful or offensive. A friend of mine believes that *any* controversy is good for the arts--no such thing as bad publicity, I guess. Just wondering what others think?

[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited January 01, 2001).]

<center>(Edited by salzberg to fix link)</center>

<small>[ 08-10-2002, 15:23: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2000 1:25 pm 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
Well, it certainly didn't hurt figure skating -- i.e., Harding/Kerrigan ...


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2000 1:50 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Congratulations Belinda on a topic well started!<P>Christina - LOL - shall we plan on knocking out some knees? NAH.......<P>One of the things that I hope will come through in this controversy is that it is not only ballet with this aesthetic, but several other fields also: modeling, acting, gymnastics, and to some extent track and field, diving (although to a lesser degree).<P>Ballet is not alone.


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 12:25 am 
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Geez, I really have so much to say about this whole topic I hardly know where to start. Especially because I've been saving up for a couple of weeks as the Keefer thread/issue developed.<P>Since the question we've started with in this thread is about how we think this issue will impact ballet's audience/potential audience I guess I'll just start by saying I personally don't feel as good about ballet anymore. I still think of my individual experience in class in pretty much the same way, but the way I think of the greater culture of ballet has changed. <P>Ballet - rather, the culture and writers which surround and support it - seem meaner to me now. Colder and even more "Ivory Tower-ish" than before people came rushing out to campaign for ballet to have "sovereignty over its own aesthetics" (a well-turned phrase, thanks for letting me borrow it Image). <P>In response to Belinda's suggestion the Keefer controversy "might turn off some potential ballet audience members who find the weight issue distasteful or offensive" - I really don't see this issue as being solely about weight though I do think it may keep some people from participating in ballet. We all keep buying clothes from the fashion industry and watching movies and ads full of thin people, so it surely won't stop everyone. Just people for whom this all smacks of a snobbery too irritating to bear.<P>Of course, I'd still be happy and honored to take class with any of the wonderful teachers who particpate on Criticaldance - like I said, the way I feel about ballet - class and the exercises hasn't changed, just how I feel about The Ballet. <P><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 8:47 am 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
Believe it or not, this topic arose at our law firm's annual Christmas luncheon yesterday. An attorney I work with was actually somewhat familiar with the case from tv coverage, but wanted to know if I could give her some insight -- e.g., just how prestigious was SFB; exactly what was considered wrong with the child, etc. I talked a bit about how, when visiting the library in my youth, I was intrigued by pictures of Russian children standing in their socks and underwear while being examined by a board of experts for physical attributes. I explained about feet, turnout and extension, and how it was possible that this child was gifted in these areas for all we know and that it appears this is merely a matter of weight. With the common theory that an obese (I don't know how weighty this child is) child of 6 has a 50% chance of being an obese adult, and a child of 12 has a 75% chance, it would seem that 8 is a bit young to be writing her off. <P>Now, I'm only talking about this in PRACTICAL terms, not legalities or ethics. I cannot at this time venture an opinion as to whether SFB is handling this correctly. I'm sure all of us have had certain memories and feelings prompted by this controversy. There have been a few times when I've heard a teacher from overseas bark about how he recalls everyone looking so uniform in the old country while I'm singing in my mind, "God Bless America." There's another fairly recent memory I have. A woman with a Bolshoi background (but no training in pedagogy) taught adults (many who had started training at a fairly late age) for a time at the school where I also taught. Many who had started with the school administrator, who stressed longevity in dancing, shifted to this other woman for the prestige of it all. This teacher saw nothing wrong with collecting extra money (beyond standard salary) behind closed doors from the students, as she pronounced, "I am from Bolshoi!" After perhaps about 4-6 months, I noticed (as did the school administrator) that these particular students had very "packed" looking thighs and buttocks. I surmised that perhaps they were tucking and gripping to give her the turnout she required. But -- in fairness, I thought it best to experience her class firsthand to render a final opinion. That's all I needed. We were only minutes into barre work when she screamed, "Is that second position?!?" I responded firmly, "For ME it is." I knew I was unwelcome from that point, but I also felt if I had stayed for more than one class, I would not be dancing for long. We (the school) later let this woman go, perhaps not so much for her teaching, but for some other questionable behavior. She then got her entourage to rent her a new space, pick her up and deliver her home, and transport portable barres to and from the space while also paying her a king's ransom to teach; later she taught from her new home. Every so often one of them would take class with the Serbian teacher I've been studying with for the past five years and we noticed that although they looked quite muscular, off the barre they simply could not MOVE. One of my dearest friends had been a part of this group for a long time, and we had fallen out of touch for a time. She told me recently that she had not taken ballet class for well over a year -- this talented young woman was completely turned off to ballet for good and was now going to Jazzercise classes. I was shocked to hear this from someone so passionate about ballet in the past -- all through her pregnancies, etc. She told me she was tired of paying a sitter and then paying the teacher some exorbitant amount so that she could be slapped, pinched, poked and belittled. I'm so sad that many adult students feel that unless someone is intimidating them, they aren't getting their money's worth. This is not the only teacher I'm aware of in my city who has a steady following of adults, while using Gestapo teaching tactics, and I wish it weren't so, but I wish adult students would also recognize that if they simply quit going to these teachers, the latter would have no one to teach and would become extinct, as they well should be. If a teacher is gentle and encouraging, instead of controlling and sarcastic, it doesn't mean she/he doesn't know their stuff. The reason I bring up all of the above in addressing the SFB situation is that, while recognizing that a certain aesthetic must be upheld in ballet, educators across the country would do well to recall exactly why all of those incredible dancers who defected to this country did so -- and thereby, not fall into the trap of making the same mistakes in this country. "Those who do notlearn from history are bound to repeat it."


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 10:51 am 
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Excellent post, Christina.<P>Some random thoughts of mine that it brought to mind. Some of those incredible dancers who defected to this country, not all, but many of them, in my experience, ended up teaching in the same autocratic manner as they had experienced from their teachers. <P>Your mention of your experience with second position - and the excessive demand for turnout - I took a class from a certified RAD teacher in this area who took exception to my first position. When I am in my very best first position my knees do not quite touch, because I am very slightly bowed in the knees. Her comment was "she would make them touch". I never came back, but I wondered what happened to her students.<P>A teacher who insisted that I wear Woesner pointe shoes because it made my foot look better even though it was giving me plantar fascia problems - problems I had never had before - nor since. <P>Gelsey Kirkland talks about these things in her book "Dancing on My Grave".<P>Excesses like grand jete' that is now often done over split. I get questions all the time from students worried that their arabesques are not more than 90 degrees. And, of course the constant refrain in the letters I get about weight, weight, weight.<P>They think that 5'7" at 120 lbs is overweight........


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 11:15 am 
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Posts: 498
Location: neworleans, louisiana
I think it's very true that this story had brought to the fore of many of our minds experiences that we might have long forgotten. It goes to our lifetime struggle for feelings of worth and belonging. On the one hand, I do not think self esteem is something to be handed out to school children like mimeographed documents. I detest this "new" thinking of self esteem being some sort of birthright people are entitled to just for taking up space. It can only develop as a consequence of being curious about the world around you, interested in the welfare of others as well as yourself, and finding a passion you are willing to put some blood, sweat and tears into. HOWEVER, if and when someone finds that passion, he/she should feel free to pursue it without being written off by others from the get go. <P>With regard to your first position, I have just the opposite. I must keep my heels apart at least an inch in order to straighten my legs. (And same in fifth, which some hyperextended people forget is just as true as in first). Interestingly, I also took a series of lectures on teaching children from a visiting RAD teacher, who, when discussing the topic of hyperextension and straightening of the legs, said there is now some shifting back from straightening the legs to allowing a somewhat relaxed knee with children to bring the first position closer. Call me dense, but I couldn't really understand this. After I discovered Marguerite Porter's tape in which this ex-ballerina who looks absolutely GORGEOUS in the harshest of lights, and post-career, post-baby, post-40, etc., I was gratified to see her take a first position with the thighs completely pulled up and her heels as least as apart as mine. For the rest of my life, if Marguerite Porter does it that way, so will I.


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2000 2:50 pm 
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The one thing I would NEVER call you, Christina is dense !! LOL That teacher you described, maybe......<BR> <BR>I agree with you (again) that self-esteem cannot be handed out, but it can be fostered and aided. And, as teachers we all need to be mindful of that - and as parents too. It is obvious from your posts that you are a very caring teacher. <P>That is much more difficult that it seems on the face of it. Teachers and parents get tired, frustrated, angry, stressed. And, students and children are always aware and vulnerable to the adults around them. <P>But a caring parent/teacher keeps trying.....and on good days makes it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2000 4:03 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
An excerpt from an opinion by Kathryn Castle in the SF Chronicle:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>This isn't just San Francisco Ballet's problem. It's a societal problem. We are addicted to our ideal image of the ballerina as a woman forever young, trapped in a prepubescent body. We are stuck with the idea of the fine arts as something that belongs to the privileged few.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><B><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/12/29/ED166641.DTL" TARGET=_blank>More</A></B>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2000 4:23 pm 
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Very interesting article, Azlan, ...<P>When I first began teaching I assumed that I would probably come across few students with both the physical ability and the talent to dance. But I was wrong.<P>What surprised me most was that there was no lack of talent - only lack of opportunity.


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2000 4:49 pm 
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"good questions are asked and answered....."<P>Yes - I agree. For those that don't read every article linked to (what?!) may I just call attention to Ms. Chen's Dance Insider article - it's tidy yet robust.<P>Just popped back in to this post - "tidy yet robust" - I think I like that in dancers too! Image<p>[This message has been edited by Priscilla (edited December 30, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2000 5:13 pm 
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I have some problems with the Chen article though, especially this bit:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>For Fredrika, one of her strengths is her ability to dance and perform. (She is currently starring as Clara in the Pacific Dance Theater's production of "Petite Nutcracker.")<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>I've heard differently from people close to the Pacific Dance Theater itself. I wonder if anyone there would like to elaborate... but maybe they'd rather not. The usual private email to me would suffice, if a perception needs to be corrected.<p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited December 30, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2000 2:33 pm 
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Here is the site for SAB which has a picture of some little girls in ballet class. I suppose this is what they want the girls to look like - scroll down a tad when you get there- it's the colored picture toward the bottom-<P><BR> <A HREF="http://www.sab.org/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.sab.org/</A> <BR><p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited December 31, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2001 9:43 am 
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What a loaded topic!!Regarding the statistics of childhood "obesity" being reflected in adulthood obesity; although these stats are undoubtedly very true-- remember-obesity vs. a dancer having a few extra pounds or being "muscular" are two different things. <BR>It will be interesting how this all plays out. Schools like SAB and San Francisco ballet are obviously very specific about the body types they will take. Just as in high level, professional musical training or in sports, there are obviously some prerequisites. It's not a "democracy" or "one for all and all for one". These schools obviously think body type is one of these prerereqs. The goofy thing about this whole body issue is that body types, in my experience, can change quite a bit during puberty, and then, where are we? (Both in boys and in girls). Those dancers who were accepted with those perfect little bodies, that have been training their hearts out since 8 yrs. old suddenly, "oh my" have breasts, hips and thighs. And the dancers who were rejected as "too plump" may have slimmed down and stretched out. The turnout, hip rotation thing does not usually change too radically, though. <BR>The girls vs. boys thing is a more sticky wicket. As in anything else in life, folks, it's all supply and demand. For very 50 talented girls with potential in ballet who audition, there might only be 10 boys, if that. The schools have to "grab" those boys, chubby,not chubby, talented to varying degrees, if they want to continue thier viability as a school and professsional company.<p>[This message has been edited by trina (edited January 02, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer case's aftermath
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2001 10:45 am 
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Location: SF CA
I agree weight can change, and I always tell my students that the body they have now may not be the one they have as an adult. I have never seen a pair of bad feet change into fab arches or turn out suddenly appear from the hip.


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