Friday, March 14, 2008

my (brief) take on dance in Newsweek

(NOTE: I'm running to class now but will write more later. This is just a quick rundown for the moment...)

If you haven't heard by now, ABT dancer Sacha Radetsky wrote the weekly column My Turn in Newsweek magazine this week, and it's all about the struggles of male dancers with the stereotypes and stigmas associated with ballet.

See the article here. "Don't Judge Me By My Tights."

I've waited a few days to see some of the discourse around the article and hear opinions about it from some other people before posting my two cents about it - mainly because I'm sort of coming at it from many different standpoints: dancer, writer, publisher...

The bulk of the conversation about the article seems to be happening over on the winger on a post from David (one of Radetsky's fellow ABT male dancers). Read it all here. Many people seemed thrilled about the appearance of the article and the arguements he makes for male dancers becoming stronger thanks to ballet, and proud of their masculinity. It goes on at length to drill in the fact that he's a ballet dancer and is not gay, therefore facing additional challenges in a primarily women's world of dance. Winger comments show that many people relate to the article and agree.

Another opinion I've heard about it is that the article is awful. It basically goes against the gay thing...and more to that extent. Also to that end, another blogger posted about how male dancers really don't have it all that tough in the ballet world because they are in such high demand, and it's not comparable to the challenges women face in a "man's world" in other industries and businesses.

Here's where I come in.

When I first saw that the article was out, my gut feeling was, "Yay! Dance in a major national weekly magazine! Exposure! Publicity! I wish I had the opportunity to write a dance article for them, but they never publish about dance!" So, my initial thoughts were extremely positive about the fact that the article was there at all. It wasn't just a performance listing or a short review of a major company or just an advertisement. It was a full page piece written by a dancer himself. Particularly with the recent dance critic cut at the LA Times, any dance writing widely published seems to be good news.

Then I read more into the article. While I agree that there is definitely a stereotype of male dancers and many of them face the challenges written about here, it's no easier for female dancers. We face far more competition in ballet...there are hundreds more girls than there are of boys shooting for a (short-lived) professional career in this field. On one hand, this breeds those problems for guys...but from a female perspective, there seems to be a number of more plaguing issues: pressures to be thin, the whole body type hype, competition, fewer scholarships, and the list goes on. There's no denying ballet is tough for everyone involved (not just dancers...choreographers, presenters, etc) and I think what would have been better for this article in Newsweek was if it addressed maybe more, different, or just general problems about the dance world rather than just the male stereotypes.

I respect that Radetsky did write the article and the topic was one of importance to him, and again, any publicity for dance is good publicity. I also understand that the My Turn column is what it is. But I feel like when dance is so rarely exposed to the general public like that, there are deeper issues to be exposed...funding anyone? Things like that...

Just my opinion. I'm glad there are conversations going on about the article, particularly on blogs. And I'm super glad Newsweek published the piece at all, and hope that maybe this will spark more appreciation or at least awareness of dance in everyday life.

PS- I'm open to other viewpoints and am still contemplating the article and stuff, so feel free to comment and shout out your opinions

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