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 Post subject: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2000 10:30 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
[Azlan's note: this topic has been split off from the Does Body Type Matter? discussion]

Breaking news:

Quote:
Girl Fights For a Chance To Dance
Complaint filed over school's body-type rules

Edward Epstein, SF Chronicle

Like almost every 8-year-old girl, gap-toothed Fredrika Near Keefer dreams of being a ballerina.

But Fredrika and her mother charge the prestigious San Francisco Ballet School has unfairly dashed the young girl's hopes by violating San Francisco's new law banning discrimination against people based on their height and weight.
More

<font size = -2><center>(Edited by salzberg to fix link)</center></font>

<small>[ 08-11-2002, 11:33: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2000 10:31 pm 
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A press release from the plaintiffs:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>December 7, 2000<P>CURIOUS communications<P>contacts: <BR>Todd Edelman 415-789-8073 curioustodd@yahoo.com <BR>Krissy Keefer 415-826-4401 mobile: 415-948-8483<P>COMPLAINT FILED WITH SF'S HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OVER <BR>SAN FRANCISCO BALLET'S REJECTION OF EIGHT YEAR OLD <BR>DANCER IN FIRST TEST OF THE CITY'S NEW <BR>NONDISCRIMINATION LAW ON HEIGHT AND WEIGHT<P>PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY at 1:30pm <BR>at Dance Mission, 3316 24th St. (at Mission)<P>San Francisco, California - On November 15, Krissy Keefer, a choreographer and dancer, filed a complaint with the City's Human Rights Commission against San Francisco Ballet (SFB). The complaint is on behalf of her daughter Fredrika Keefer, who is now 9.<P>Ms Keefer is claiming that the SFB School has an admission process that does not take into account the skill level, talent, musical abilities, performing experience, or any other normal audition requirements of the applicant, that rather children are eyeballed to see if their body will perhaps develop into a body type that fits their aesthetic.This aesthetic has been a subject of hot debate around the country as health problems emerge as women and girls are forced into increasingly stringent requirements as to what weight requirements reflect the "normal human body."<P>The 7-month old Nondiscrimination In Contracts law, which was sponsored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, says, in part, that all agencies that contract with the City shall not "...discriminate on the basis...of weight (or) height..."<P>SFB, which receives over half a million dollars annually from the city's Grants for the Arts program has 21 days to respond to the complaint, which they have not done thus far.<P>The issue is compounded due to the lack of dance space in the City. This means that there are fewer alternatives to institutions like the SF Ballet. Fredrika's current school, Pacific Dance Theatre, lost their space and has moved to Antioch. They have to rent space in the City if they want to rehearse here.<P>"If there were other places to train, it would be a little less of a problem," says Keefer, "But dance in SF is becoming rare, so the exclusionary actions of the SF Ballet are even more damaging"<P>The early history of Ballet was filled with a wide variety of body types. Anna Pavlova, arguably the greatest ballerina ever, was a full-figured woman, like famous dancers throughout Europe, the Soviet Union and the United States.<P>It's only been the last 40 years that the Ballanchine aesthetic has ruled this dance form. This standard is narrow-literally-and modern ballerinas are forced to maintain unhealthy body weight. In Hollywood and in the fashion industry it's near impossible to get work if you're not thin - and young women have imitated this look across the country-and the result is anorexia and bulimia. There is wide-spread drug use to maintain abnormal and unhealthy body standards.<P>In Fredrika's case, the audition panel of the SF Ballet did not even judge the body of an adult woman, as she was only 8 at the time. In a very swift audition process they made a decision-mostly based on an eyeballing of her physique-to determine if she was SF Ballet material. The SF Ballet is not basing entrance on skill, but only on physique, or really a prediction of physique. Fredrika has trained for four years at Pacific Dance, and performed with companies including Terry Sendgaff and Dancers, Dance Brigade, City Slam and is currently rehearsing for Le Petit Nutcracker, to be performed next weekend. Many members of the San Francisco dance community have been amazed by her skill.<P>Fredrika had a full scholarship with SFB's Community Outreach Program based on her skill level but was told she should not audition for the professional ballet program because she "didn't have the right body type."<P>But Fredrika did audition, and was not given the chance to perform. All her actual skills were ignored as they did not audition 8 and 9 year olds for technique. They were only looking for bodytype.<P>"They didn't look at me," says Fredrika, "They had us do things that wouldn't prove that we're good." SFB told her mother the only chance for her daughter was the Community Outreach Program and that while in it, if she was lucky, she may be noticed.<P>"The SFB is heavily funded by local, state and Federal monies, as well as private donations" says mother Keefer, " They should have a program that reflects the real needs of SF's citizens, and the SFB school should foster a program of physical, emotional and mental well-being of its female participants as it pursues artistic excellence."<P>"Its not that we want them to simply change the words they use to reject students," Keefer continues. "They have to create an audition policy that reflects the true talent and skill level of the prospective students."<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2000 10:31 pm 
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And an opinion:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/12/08/DD157621.DTL" TARGET=_blank>Just Like A Ballerina</A></B><P>Jon Carroll, SF Chronicle<P>SO THIS IS interesting. A woman named Krissy Keefer, herself a dance professional, is suing the San Francisco Ballet School, which is the talent incubator for the much-beloved San Francisco Ballet, for rejecting her daughter as a student.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><B><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/12/08/DD157621.DTL" TARGET=_blank>More</A></B><p>[This message has been edited by Azlan (edited December 09, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2000 10:33 pm 
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And a couple more reports:<P><B><A HREF="http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001207/en/stage-ballet_1.html" TARGET=_blank>San Francisco ballet school charged with size bias</A></B><BR>By Andrew Quinn, Reuters<P><B><A HREF="http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20001208/us/short_dancer_1.html" TARGET=_blank>Mom Sues San Francisco Dance School</A></B><BR>By RON HARRIS, Associated Press


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2000 10:33 pm 
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According to SFB, a response, available publicly, has been filed with the Human Rights Commission (415-252-2000).


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2000 10:34 pm 
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A comment from Octavio Roca:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/12/09/DD141289.DTL" TARGET=_blank>The Barre Shouldn't Be Lowered</A></B><BR>Octavio Roca, SF Chronicle<P>Some common sense is in order. <P>A little girl has been denied admission to the San Francisco Ballet School for many complex reasons that basically boil down to this: Competition is stiff, and that's the breaks.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><B><A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/12/09/DD141289.DTL" TARGET=_blank>More</A></B>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2000 7:04 am 
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This is a two-sided hair shirt – and both sides of it are painful – and itchy. And difficult to scratch. I have to say at the outset that I have never been a fan of the Balanchine aesthetic. I feel it is harmful, artificial and high manipulative. It is both a threat and a sword to the female dancer – or model – or actress. It sets a false standard. It says to me that the male body is the norm and the female body is subject to the whims of taste. But, that is my personal opinion. <P>I don’t think we are dealing here with “rights” – I have no right to entry into a school for singers, or pianists. I do have a right to try to employ a private teacher, but no inherent right to entry to an opera company. I have a right to audition for an orchestra – but no right to be accepted. I am guaranteed the right to pursue happiness, but I am not guaranteed the right to attain happiness.<P>We have all agreed that an employer must not be allowed to discriminate against an applicant based on color, creed or gender. But does this extend to inherent talent or body type? These two qualifications are, to some extent, not under the control of the applicant. And, yet they can be an imperative to the success of the applicant. I wonder if the City of San Francisco has altered its policies for the acceptance of police officers and fire fighters to include the truly obese to its training programs? <P>There are many instances in our society where one’s qualifications for employment are based upon physical limitations; the military, fire fighters, police officers, postal workers, as well as qualifiers for Olympic teams. Though I deplore the current vogue in acceptable body types for ballet dancers, it does exist. It is what the public will pay for tickets to see. <P>The problem in this instance, it seems to me, is judging the body of a child. An overweight child is not necessarily an overweight adult. As I understand it, the body increases its weight level just before a growth spurt. A stubby duckling can indeed turn into a svelte swan. Though I was not there and am not aware of quite how the student was informed of the failure for consideration, I think that more care might have been given to the manner of the audition, since it was stated in the article that her skills were not assessed. The dismissal perhaps should not have been quite so curt, the feelings of the student taken into consideration. Bruised hopes can be worse than bruised bodies. But I don’t think that the answer to those bruised hopes is the court system. It could even be argued that the San Francisco Ballet was saving this child from further bruising. It did publish its requriments in advance of the audition. <P>One might ask – what is the basic reason for the existence of the San Francisco Ballet School? Is it to produce dancers for the company or is it in the business of training all comers and keeping their hopes and dreams alive? What is the best use of the time, skill and, yes, money, that the school has in its inventory? <P>As for the use of public monies in the arts and therefore a say in the use of those monies, that is not new. The monarchies that paid for the arts – ballet, opera, drama, music – almost always stipulated how it was to be spent. He who pays the bills, calls the shots. And, that is the two-sided haired shirt. <BR>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2000 12:45 pm 
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First, I don't think that because the school receives public monies that it shouldn't reserve the right to choose its students. However, the audition process should be inclusive. I think that even if it's lengthy and drawn out, unless you ask the auditionees to submit photos and a resume and then call selected dancers to come audition you really owe them the opportunity to give it their best shot. Nothing is more defeating than to be turned away before you even get through the centre work, especially if you are under the age of 10. <P>I've seen a lot of strong dancers from Canada turned down by the SFB professional school, so they obviously have very particular standards but it's hard to know how they applied to this case as that evidence is not currently available and will probably not come out until they go to court. <P>I would be interested to know exactly what information the mother received when she was informed that her daughter did not have the "correct" body type. The weight issue has been bandied about in the posted news articles but was it a question of weight or structure? (Does anyone know if the Royal Ballet School still uses X-rays of children's feet to determine their adult height and whether they're suitable candidates?)<P>Ballet, and dance in general, is a discriminatory art form, but I would argue that most professions are--you don't get the job without the required credentials. In dance the body is the tool and the accepted shape is what's in vogue; there's just no way around it no matter what discrimination laws are in place. That doesn't mean that you can't dance professionally if you don't have the accepted body type but it does mean that you can have an awful time finding employment, and when and if you do get a job you better have thick skin because the public will let you know what they don't like about your physicality toute de suite.<P>Structure and weight are nasty issues. I've trained with people who were talented dancers but didn't fit into the accepted body criteria. One girl had a very wide bum as a result of the width of her pelvis. Jobs in clasical ballet for her would have been few and far between. Later when I studied contemporary dance at a University one of the profs told a student that she could be successful if she lost weight which caused a bit of stir (something that wouldn't have seemed unusual at ballet school where they can be very tough about weight), but at a University discrimination is a hot issue. Was it cruel or kind to tell the dancer (who was not a child, she was an adult) what her realistic prospectives in the field were?<P>The Edward Epstein Article in the SF Chronicle states:<BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>"It's a shame, especially for small girls, who long to be ballerinas, because only a small percentage of girls can reach that body type"<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>That's an understatement if I ever read one. The thing is, they will try. Whether or not it's spelled out for you, it's implied. Children are very aware that the successful Principal dancer is almost always the thin one with small bones. I knew of girls at the RWB school eating toilet tissue to supress their appetites in the 80s and an acquaintance of mine spent a month eating only broccoli--successful as a diet for the vertically challenged, not so good if you need to be in a position other than horizontal.<P>Maybe a court challenge like this is necessary in order to change the public's perception of what is an acceptable body on stage. Dance professionals know that what is important is who can perform the job. Artistic Directors don't have a lot of leeway. They answer to a Board who expects them to hire the kind of dancers who look the way they expect dancers to look and it just goes down the line to professional schools who are training people to eventually bring into their companies. <P>It seems like this has been a private issue in ballet for so long; everyone knows that these issues are inherent in the field, but internal politics means there really isn't a forum to address them publically. <P>Manon Rheaume was the first woman to play NHL hockey, she played one exhibition game as a goalie. She fought the system her entire childhood, challenging the courts to allow her to play on elite boy's teams. It's issues like these that make us re-evaluate our accepted cultural ideals of what is appropriate and acceptable in any given area. I'm not saying we need to crush the institution, but maybe it's time to chip away at it a little?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2000 2:29 pm 
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One of the inherent problems that the ballet faces is that it is not only about dance - it is also about beauty. And the concept of what is beautiful is only framed within a particular time and space. <P>Other forms of dance are certainly often beautiful - but that is not always their original intent, as I understand it.<P>Therefore, to some extent the ballet is a captive of its time. In order to fulfill the requirements of beauty it also has to fulfill the requirements of what is beautiful.


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2000 2:58 pm 
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Good point Basheva. So...what is beautiful?


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2000 4:01 pm 
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We keep talking about the SFBS "receiving public money", but we don't know what they receive it <I>for</I> -- organizations rarely receive public money to use as they see fit; the monies are usually awarded as the result of grant proposals, in which the companies outline their plans for the money and, in return, the granting agency awards some percentage (usually less than 100%, although -- ahem -- <I>I</I> have written proposals that were fully funded) of the requested amount on the condition that the company use it for the purpose originally proposed.<BR> <P>------------------<BR>=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=<BR>Jeffrey E. Salzberg, Lighting Designer<BR>This Day in Arts History: <A HREF="http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg/arthist.htm" TARGET=_blank>http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg/arthist.htm</A><BR>Online portfolio: <A HREF="http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg" TARGET=_blank>http://www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg</A> <BR>"Compliments to Jeffrey E. Salzberg's subtle lighting effects. . . ."<P><BR>

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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2000 5:35 pm 
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What is beautiful she asks? That's not only a brand new thread - but a whole new board and still there would be no answer. But it can be said that there is a general perception of beauty. Most people would agree that a sunset is beautiful - but I am sure you could find others who don't think so. <P>However, the ballet company will present what the public wishes to pay for and if the public says it wishes to pay for a certain aesthetic that is generally deemed beautiful - then that is the standard for this time and day.


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2000 1:34 am 
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The Times on the Keefer case. The Royal Ballet School says, 'A spokesman for the Royal Ballet in London said that in theory they would accept a plump ballerina. “But you would be hard pushed to find a dancer who is overweight because ballet is so physically demanding.”'<P>Actually one or two of the current crop of RB dancers defy the 'skinny, skinny, skinny' aesthetic and they are jolly good dancers.<BR> <A HREF="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,48717,00.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,48717,00.html</A>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2000 10:42 am 
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I was pulling your leg a little Basheva Image<BR>But I think you have made the arguement-there are infinite standards of beauty.<P>What the court will have to consider is whether the entry standards employed by the SFB school are reasonable or if they are not in accordance with the current laws, in which case the court may rule that it is unacceptable to turn competent students away who don't fit a certain definition of "beauty". <P>I guess what I meant by "maybe it's time to chip away [at the institution]" is that it is questionable whether ballet schools and companies have kept up with the times, as demonstrated by this potential court action. In the eyes of the law they could be seen as dinosaurs, mind you lovely, agile dinosaurs. Maybe it's time for some evolution?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: The Keefer Case
PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2000 11:25 am 
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I understand, Marie - and though I didn't type it in - I was smiling as I typed my answer.<P>Personally, as stated before I am ready for the evolution of which you speak, Marie. But on the other hand, playing devil's advocate here, and taking it to an extreme, should a ballet school also be legally forced to accept someone who is a dwarf (in the medical sense of that term) who is otherwise competent in dance? How would this person fit into the scheme of the corps de ballet in which there must be according to the original design and intent of the choreographer, a similarity of look, size and movement? <P>It is this very similarity, for instance in the Shades scene in La Bayadere, that entrances us. <P>We could also extend this argument and look at the way restaurants hire people. Here in San Diego, as elsewhere I am sure, we have a tremendous variety of ethnic restaurants. In Mexican restaurants the staff is very obviously, and overwhelmingly of Hispanic origin. This is also true in many Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants, to cite just a couple of examples. <P>When I go into a Mexican restaurant and the staff is Hispanic, dressed in Mexican ethnic clothing, Mariachis playing traditional music, there is no doubt it does add to the ambience of the restaurant. Is this fair? Should the restaurant be forced to hire non-Hispanics? This must also be seen in the context of the importance of the tourist industry here - people come here for a taste of Hispanic culture.<P>So we are talking here not only of the concept of beauty - but the law states "height and weight" , and yet it is those very attributes that often lends beauty to the similarity of movement in the ballet. <p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited December 11, 2000).]


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