After days spent rallying against "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer's flippant comments about boys doing ballet, the dance world triumphed on Monday. Not only did Spencer issue a lengthy on-air apology, complete with an interview with Robbie Fairchild, Travis Wall and Fabrice Calmels, but over 300 dancers gathered outside of the "GMA" studios for an impromptu ballet class.
The dance field seemed geared to press forward with positivity; a change.org petition urging "GMA" to cover the benefits of ballet for young men has gathered over 40,000 signatures, and many are examining the ways in which the #boysdancetoo movement can be made more inclusive. This made it all the more disheartening to open Instagram this morning and see that Fox News commentators Raymond Arroyo and Laura Ingraham took the bullying a step further last night, mocking Spencer's apology on a program called "The Ingraham Angle."
Last Friday, Dance Magazine published what has already become our most-read story of all time. At 2.8 million views and counting, our take on Lara Spencer's cruel comments about Prince George taking ballet prompted an enormous response from both the dance community and those who were simply bothered by what amounted to the bullying of a 6-year-old on national television.
But Spencer's comments struck a nerve for dancers especially. Rarely have we seen our field so united, or so passionate.
Most everyone agrees that Spencer's comments were unacceptable and reflect broader ignorance about both dance and gender. But some more nuanced takes have been left out of the hundreds of new stories about the controversy.
We found some perspectives from the dance world you might not have seen yet—and broke down why they're important:
When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (Okay, maybe more excited.)
This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.
As a young dancer, I was taught that falling out of a relevé, even during class, was not an option. I was told to never, ever give up on it. "Die for it," my ballet master used to say.
I used to love, even dream, of being immersed in dance every day. But after 10 years of pushing myself beyond my limits as a full-time dancer, something started happening to me internally. My vision would get blurry, my body felt like I was spinning, and my ears would ring.
I did what I always did—I ignored the warning signs and pushed through it. I never wanted to look weak or incapable as a dancer, even if I was in a lot of pain. Even if I felt like I was going to pass out.
I began feeling this way every day. From what I can remember, that was when I started blacking out while I was dancing.
Is dance a sport? A Google search of that question will yield hundreds of results of impassioned arguments about whether or not we should consider dance a sport. The fact that breaking was recently provisionally added to the 2024 Summer Olympics program is certain to make the conversation even more heated.
When I was 13, I was in a class with boys who were a few years older than me at the School of American Ballet. One day before class, I gave a little sass to a 16-year-old classmate who was swinging his leg as his warm up, showing off his flexibility.
"Kick that leg," I say.
"Wear those briefs," he replies.
My face went beet-red. Was I supposed to be wearing a dance belt? I was sure I was too young, but I asked a friend of mine just in case. He told me, gracefully, that yes, I needed one and that it was a topic of some discussion among my older peers.
Even though I had been at SAB for three years, when to wear a dance belt had never been discussed.
I spend a lot of time reflecting on the direction dance is heading. How do we chart the trajectory of our field? Simple: Through the choices we make when crafting our seasons, the works and choreographers we invite to be part of our repertoire. Fostering the creation of new art is the most important responsibility of every artistic director.
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In the past several years, ballet has been called out time and again for not fostering, presenting and commissioning the work of women. Recently, highlighting women ballet choreographers has become somewhat of a trend, with companies pioneering initiatives to try to close the gender gap, or presenting all-women programs.
But numbers don't lie, and unfortunately, we still haven't made much progress.
I hate asking for money. I am tired of feeling like we, as dance practitioners, are constantly begging for every morsel of sustenance. We are often seen as the poor stepchildren of the arts, usually thought of as having nothing tangible to sell.
"Dancers can do everything these days," I announced to whoever was in earshot at the Jacob's Pillow Archives during a recent summer. I had just been dazzled by footage of a ballet dancer performing hip hop, remarkably well. But my very next thought was, What if that isn't always a good thing? What if what one can't do is the very thing that lends character?
Irene Rodriguez's recent Dance Magazine interview—which mentions only a few of the many flamenco companies in the U.S. and claims a lack of innovation in American flamenco, and has already drawn criticism in a letter to the editor penned by Ensemble Español—brings to the forefront a deeper problem surrounding flamenco in the United States.
Why are so many flamenco dance companies and dancers in the U.S.—especially those pushing the form forward—overlooked and undervalued? Why do we constantly have to defend our work?
Last week, I attended a show I'd been eagerly anticipating: Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise at The Shed, a brand-new performance venue in New York City. Not only was I looking forward to Akram Khan's choreography (not to mention a sword-wielding PeiJu Chien-Pott and remixes of Sia's music), but I was anxious to get a taste of The Shed's ambitious inaugural season.
Despite the slick marketing and big names involved, Dragon Spring fell short, with its cheesy dialogue, disjointed pacing and problematic narrative.
But something that evening bothered me far more than what was happening onstage.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine attended a professional contemporary class one morning, and later that evening perused Facebook to find that the teacher had shared a video of her dancing a phrase from class. A successful and professional working dancer, she was horrified to see a video of herself online that she had never given permission to be used, or even been approached about.
Story ballets that debut during American Ballet Theatre's spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House are always the subject of much curiosity—and, sometimes, much debate. Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre was no different. The ballet follows the eponymous heroine of Charlotte Brönte's novel as she grows from a willful orphan to a self-possessed governess, charting her romance with the haughty Mr. Rochester and the social forces that threaten to tear them apart.
While the ballet was warmly received in the UK when Northern Ballet premiered it in 2016, its reception from New York City–based critics has been far less welcoming. A group of editors from Dance Magazine and two of our sister publications, Dance Spirit and Pointe, sat down to discuss our own reactions.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
When I first came to dance criticism in the 1970s, the professional critics were predominantly much older than me. I didn't know them personally and, as the wide-eyed new kid on the block, I assumed most had little or no physical training in the art.
As slightly intimidated as I felt at the time—you try sitting around a conference room table with Dance Magazine heavy hitters like Tobi Tobias and David Vaughan—I smugly gave myself props for at least having had recent brushes with ballet, Graham, Duncan and Ailey and more substantial engagement with jazz and belly dance. Watching dancers onstage, I enjoyed memories of steps and moves I knew in my own bones. If the music was right, my shoulders would wriggle. I wasn't just coolly judging things from my neck up.
Last Friday, through an appeal to an independent arbitrator, the American Guild of Musical Artists successfully reinstated NYCB principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, previously fired for allegedly circulating sexually explicit texts containing nude photos.
AGMA opposed Ramasar and Catazaro's terminations in order to prevent the setting of a dangerous precedent that would allow dancers to be fired under less understandable consequences. But we cannot allow future cases to dictate the way we handle this situation—particularly a union committed to "doing everything in [its] power to ensure you have a respectful environment in which to work."
A woman passes three men in the street. The men pursue her. They thrust their pelvises at her. They continue to pursue her after she slaps one's hand and walks away. They surround her. She glances around at them in alarm. One snatches her purse (to review the Freudian significance of purses, click here) and saunters off with it, mocking her. She tries to take the purse back, and the three men toss it over her head among each other. They make her dance with them. Each time she indicates "No," the men try harder to force her submission to their advances.
This is all within the first 10 minutes of Jerome Robbins's Fancy Free, a 1944 ballet about three sailors frolicking on shore leave during World War II, beloved by many and still regularly performed (especially during the last year, since 2018 was the centennial celebration of Robbins's birth). Critic Edwin Denby, after the premiere with Ballet Theatre, called it "a remarkable comedy piece" and "a direct, manly piece."
I was on my favorite treadmill when it happened.
My best running buddy was on my left. To my right, a total stranger with whom I'd suddenly become competitive. As the 15-person group headed into a two-minute push, the instructor got hyped, and the remix blasting Rihanna's "We Found Love" transitioned to "Smooth Criminal."
After a slew of homophobic and misogynist Instagram posts got Sergei Polunin dropped from an engagement with the Paris Opéra Ballet and a host of other opportunities, we thought we'd heard the last of him for a while.
And he has been relatively quiet for the past two months, at least on social media. (In one interview he says that he deleted his Instagram; in another he says it was hacked and shut down.) We hoped he was taking time for a much-needed intervention—some of his posts were truly disturbing and suggested deeper issues at play.