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 Post subject: Skin Colour as Costume?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 1:32 pm 
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2010/may/25/royal-ballet-triple-bill-review?showallcomments=true#end-of-comments

"Wheeldon's Tryst also pushes its dancers into fraught terrain, especially its central pas de deux. Melissa Hamilton and Eric Underwood make their debuts this season, and physically they are ideal: the visual contrast of Hamilton's translucent fairness against Underwood's dark skin, the bendiness of both their bodies bring a rarefied strangeness to Wheeldon's choreography."

This is the kind of thing that would have been said about Agon when Arthur Mitchell performed it the first time!

But that was the 1950's !!


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 Post subject: Re: Skin Colour as Costume?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:41 am 
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Location: London UK
Thank you for raising this point and for printing the link that includes a reader challenging Ms Mackrell's comments. She defends her view by saying:

Quote:
"Dance critics write about bodies and I wanted to be able to treat the colour of Eric and Melissa's skin on the same level as the suppleness of their limbs as just one more physical fact."


Eric Underwood is proving a very popular dancer with the Royal Ballet and I would venture to say, something of an audience favourite. One of his best roles is in Wayne McGregor's Limen where he dances with fellow American Sarah Lamb; Ms Lamb is very blonde and pale and I personally found something aesthetically very beautiful in their contrasting colourings, so I think I understand Ms Mackrell's comments especially in view of the fact that few male dancers in the RB possess the level of physical beauty that Mr Underwood is blessed with.

If I may refer the the reader's responses rather than the original review, here is something I have a lot of sympathy with:

Quote:
It would be an even bigger deal if the black male was a Black British Ballet dancer, not Brazilian or South African. Have you noticed the darker skinned dancers are never British dancers maybe the homegrowns are only good enough for the BRB!!


Agreed, though I feel I should point out there is now a dearth of British born dancers of any skin colour. He/she goes on to say

Quote:
It's as if it's preferable for the Black Male to appear "Urban" and rehearsed in a youth centre rather than admitting you have been technically trained.
Ashley Banjo from Diversity apparently has a Royal Ballet trained mother who has a successful dance school. This hasn't really been publicised that much, I guess it would take the "street" out of the Street Dance!


Perhaps this reflects the current taste of the British public that seems to be developing an increasing appetite for this form of dance over and above classical ballet which is something of a shame. There does seem to be a drift towards 'urban' and away from other forms and it is correct to say that there were an impressive number of black dancers in training in the mid eighties, but the bar came crashing down if any of these highly trained individuals aspired to classical dance, something I was very aware of as I worked with some notable black dancers at that time. How ironic it is that now black dancers are able to join ballet companies an increasing number would have no interest in doing so.


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 Post subject: Re: Skin Colour as Costume?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 1:46 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 05, 2010 4:26 am
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Quote:
Eric Underwood is proving a very popular dancer with the Royal Ballet and I would venture to say, something of an audience favourite. One of his best roles is in Wayne McGregor's Limen where he dances with fellow American Sarah Lamb; Ms Lamb is very blonde and pale and I personally found something aesthetically very beautiful in their contrasting colourings, so I think I understand Ms Mackrell's comments especially in view of the fact that few male dancers in the RB possess the level of physical beauty that Mr Underwood is blessed with.


Hello Cassandra,

Thank you for responding, you mentioned the aesthetic beauty of the black body, but for me I think it is more than the skin tone. You mention both dancers are American, I feel the performance dynamic of US trained ballet dancers suits contemporary ballet better than British trained dancers especially Balanchine trained dancers.

But to make more of the physique and colour rather than the technique denies the training and artistry of the dancer, does this mean a white dancer wouldn't do the part justice? Does this mean a small male cannot play a Prince (Baryshnikov) or a bigger male (Mukhamedov) cannot do British "Style" ballet, but within the Royal Ballet as the Guardian response says, the "exotique" dancer can get away with it, if there is something that makes them "different" be that skin colour (if not British, Black or Male), Russian, Brazilian, South African or American) or build as I mention.

I just feel in 2010 it is a bit sad that we are talking about performing professionals in terms of skin colour. I also agree that this is what a dance critic in 1957 would have written about Arthur Mitchell and Diane Adams in Agon.

Or do different ethnicities have different movement qualities? Discuss!


Thank you

Kembo Dee


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