Although the New York Philharmonic's upcoming production of Carousel focuses on Rodgers & Hammerstein's iconic music, the show will also feature one exceptional moment of dance: It's just been announced that New York City Ballet principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild will guest star in a pas de deux in Act II. Peck will dance the role of Louise and Fairchild will portray the Carnival Boy, dancing choreography by Warren Carlyle. The show, performed in New York February 27–March 2, will be telecast nationally on PBS through "Live From Lincoln Center" on April 26. Find out more at nyphil.org.
I remember the first year that I competed at the Youth America Grand Prix. I was 17 years old and particularly excited to be participating in a competition that focused on ballet. First up for my age group was classical, where I danced Kitri's Act I variation showing off all of my strengths: personality, speed and the ability to jump and turn. I felt really proud of how it went—imperfect, but not terrible.
The next day I performed my contemporary solo, a dance I choreographed to a jazzy version of The Beatles' "Blackbird." I danced in bare feet with my natural hair out. Halfway through the solo I forgot the steps and improvised my way through the rest. I felt mortified, defeated and heartbroken. Later that day, I was pulled aside by one of the competition's organizers congratulating me (what?) and telling me that they wanted to work to get me a scholarship to The Ailey School. I had already participated in Ailey's intensive the summer prior and had discovered that modern dance was not the language in which I wanted to develop. I wanted to do ballet.
Fentroy in William Forsythe's Pas/Parts
Angela Sterling, Courtesy Boston Ballet<p>These suggestions are examples of what I consider well-intended ignorance, also known as implicit bias or micro-aggressions in today's conversations regarding race. These subtle comments are put in place to remind you to stay within the box that society is comfortable with you residing in. Don't look too eccentric, don't get too angry, don't go into this neighborhood, don't, don't, don't… The ballet world, with its Eurocentric history of extreme racial discrimination and elitism, is no exception to this. "You don't have the right body type for ballet, you couldn't possibly dance there because there are no others like you, powder your skin lighter so you blend in, you're so good at contemporary." And also, the whispers behind our backs: "They have to be featured because they're the only Black person." All of this amounts to the realization that no matter what work you put in, your dancing will always be overshadowed by your skin color.</p><p>These are the experiences of most dancers of color: your friends, your peers, your teachers. Yet our resilience is clear. We continue to show up because despite the systemic racism that follows us like a shadow every day, we have the right to be here. </p>
Brooke Trisolini, Courtesy Boston Ballet<p><strong></strong><strong>I love my friends of color. How do I tell them that and what can I do to help them?</strong></p><p>Start by checking in on them. This is a traumatic time for our entire community, but reaching out to those close to you shows that you support them. While they might not always have the words or energy to express how much it means to them (because quite frankly, we are exhausted), it matters.</p><p>In having these conversations, listen to them and really hear what they are saying. As uncomfortable as it might be, try your hardest to pivot your feelings away from yourself. This isn't the appropriate time to show your empathy by inserting your personal experiences because, in a way, it belittles the severity of what we are experiencing right now.</p><p>Consider finding ways to donate to the cause. Do your research and find what place you want your money to go (historically black dance institutions, <a href="https://mobballet.org/" target="_blank">MOBBallet</a>, <a href="https://blacklivesmatter.com/" target="_blank">Black Lives Matter</a>, and the <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd" target="_blank">George Floyd Memorial Fund</a> to name a few). If you need to raise money in order to donate, get creative with how to do that and don't be ashamed to tell the world what you're doing it for. If you're crafty you can make items and sell them, if you're good at teaching you can teach classes for the sole purpose of donating your income, the options are endless.</p>
In 1984, Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell took one of ballet oldest surviving ballets, Giselle, and gave it a uniquely American twist: He moved the ballet's setting from medieval Europe to an Afro-Creole community in 1840s Louisiana. The resulting production, Creole Giselle, featured an all-Black cast and was hailed by critics as a groundbreaking achievement. While the ballet hasn't been performed for quite some time, it was filmed for television in 1987, starring current DTH artistic director Virginia Johnson in the title role.
This weekend, we'll have a chance to witness this important work. On Saturday, June 6, at 8 pm EDT, the company will stream Creole Giselle on its Facebook page and YouTube channel as part of its DTH on Demand Virtual Ballet Series. And throughout the week, DTH is hosting preview events on its social media platforms with original cast members and current company artists.
Lorraine Graves and Lowell Smith in Creole Giselle
Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives
Updated on 5/27/2020
Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.