Racism in dance: is there more racket or more murder?

opinion Berlin State Ballet

Is bright make-up racist?

Stand: 5:08 pm | Reading time: 3 minutes

Combo Manuel Brug Berlin State Ballet La Bayadère Combo Manuel Brug Berlin State Ballet La Bayadère

Ballet is an art of synchrony: Manuel Brug

Quelle: Yan Revazov; Claudius Pflug

Germany’s major institution has been plagued by scandals for years. Now a black dancer from France is raising accusations of racism against the Berlin State Ballet. Can that be in an ensemble in which people from 30 nations dance?

Dhe excitement at the State Ballet is – again – great. Why? A black dancer Chloe Lopes Gomes, engaged in Berlin since 2018, not noticed on stage, was terminated in accordance with regulations in September at the end of the season. And now that she has nothing more to lose, she pulls out the club in the weekly magazine “Spiegel”: “Racism” is her reproach. She had been bullied by a training master because of the color of her skin, and she was the third from the left in the “Swan Lake” team that she had to put on light make-up as a uniform foot-fluttering people.

Will the Berlin State Ballet, which is artistically and institutionally ruined, be dissed here again? A cliché has already become established about this institution: It is a ramshackle troop indulging in a backward-looking stereotype of the 19th century that is hopelessly yesterday’s art aimed at eliminating the individual. It is true that ballet is scourged by bad political decisions. Since 2014, the end of the Malakhov era, which was pale at the finals, the ballet with Nacho Duato, Johannes Öhman and Sasha Waltz has worn out three directors in six years.

And now “Racism”: It’s about whitewashing, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter; American activist terms that can rarely be applied one-to-one to European conditions.

There is no culture of conformity in Berlin

And regardless of what is true of Lopes Gomes’ allegations – nothing has been learned yet, no information may be given in personnel matters, Öhman is said to have taken on the case – one can say with certainty that there is by no means a culture of conformity in Berlin.

German companies have long been sufficiently diverse. Simply because hardly any German dancers want to do this backbreaking job for a starvation wage. The Berlin State Ballet has a prima ballerino and a Prima ballerina from Cuba as well as one from Mexico. A Japanese woman previously held this post. People from 30 nations dance in the troupe.

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Pointe dancing is hard work

Ballet today has a real problem with its repertoire: the popular commercial hams – like literature, opera and the visual arts – tell their stories from the perspectives of their time.

While in Berlin in 1995 the reconstruction of Aubers “Fairy lake” Nobody was upset because it featured an anti-Semitic Jewish caricature in a pantomime role, today every beggar with make-up and wrongly worn saree in “La Bayadère”, which can only be taken seriously as an Indian comic fairy tale from 1877, is on the post-colonial test stand.

The Paris Anti-Racism Manifesto

Of course you have to address that, but change and falsify it? It is part of the history of the always synchronous art of ballet. It is all too easy to grumble: the Paris Ballet de l’Opéra, the oldest classical company, has five dancers Antirassism-Manifesto released. At least they were sure of the headlines. Just like the dancer in Berlin now.

The allegations need to be clarified. If necessary, the training leader must be held accountable. But that didn’t work out at the State Ballet School, which is also listed. For this the two leaders were dismissed in a dubious manner. At the Berlin State Ballet, which was groaning in agony, they have long gone by themselves.


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