• http://itsbo.blogspot.com/ Bo

    The dynamic you describe seems very similar to the dynamics found in orchestras back before blind auditions were institutionalized in the 60s and 70s. Prior to the introduction of blind auditions (screens are used to mask the identity of the musician) most orchestras were heavily male. Within 2-3 seasons of blind auditions most symphonies and orchestras were 50-50 male and female.

    Now…if we could figure out a way to institute blind auditions in the dance world.

  • Obi

    I was reading of an interview with one English Ballerina, Darcey Bussell, who at 5’10” had difficulties finding a dance partner who could lift her. It seems to be the case with women I have known who also became too tall to dance.

    I know of at least one company that performs Swan Lake with an all male dancers.

    Might be an answer, but it might take a while before you get a good coterie of Asian Swans.

  • ancient one

    Ballet San Jose has many Asian dancers, both male and female,(http://www.balletsanjose.org/dancers/group.htm), and I am glad that my daughter got to see them in the Nutcracker. Run by Dennis Nahat (he was in the Turning Point movie, btw), this company apparently doesn’t have lame excuses like Asian dancers are too short.

  • http://www.Popcast88.com Xxxtine

    When I first read this post, I was like, “Huh, there aren’t ANY Asian ballerinas in Principal roles?” Particularly because I recall countless press releases from the National Ballet of Canada announcing new additions to their principal roster which INCLUDED and even outright publicized ballerinas of Asian descent.

    From what I understand, Stephanie Kim was a principal dancer in Southern California’s Youth Ballet Co., before she went to Korea to become a popstar in CSJH The Grace. (The reason why she left the ballet world was because she liked food too much and wanted to be able to eat what she wanted, whenever she wanted.)

    Just checking the National Ballet of Canada’s website, there are currently 2 principals of Asian decent, one has been principal since 1994, the other since 2001. There is even a male ballet dancer of Asian descent among the first soloists – rowr.

  • RayU


    Okay, not traditional ‘Western’ style ballet, but still… mighty impressive.

  • http://juvin.com Julie

    I saw ABT perform Sleeping Beauty in Los Angeles last year, and one of the fairies was definitely Asian. She did a standout job, and the audience loved her. I don’t have my program in front of me but I’m guessing on the ABT website she’s listed among the corps de ballet, which is surprising since a fairy is a very important role. That tells me if we can’t be principals at least we’re still getting the good roles. I guess it’s a start?

  • http://jenchang.blogspot.com Jen

    thanks everyone for your comments!

    Bo: Unfortunately, since ballet dancers are much based on how they look and are fully displayed on stage (as opposed to being in an orchestra pit or at the very least, wearing tuxes/dress clothing that’s more “covered” than ballerina tutus) “blinded” auditions are not a luxury dancers will have during their auditions. Great idea though :)

    Obi and Ancient One: I know the Ballet San jose is definitely up and coming! They got amazing reviews for their latest production of Swan Lake a week or so ago. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is really popular (with the male swans), but frankly, I saw the DVD and when you get past the novelty of the male swans, I thought the choreography was a bit boring. And with Darcey Bussell…who says the prince has to be taller than the girl? I think it’s a bit insulting to assume that audiences want dancers to look a certain way… http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/arts/dance/14larocco.html explores the height of tthe male dancers…interesting article. I think if the dancing is good, audiences are pretty open to how people “look” (height-wise, ethnicity-wise), more than ballet directors may expect.

    Xxxtine: National Ballet of Canada is definitely coming to SF in a few months! I can’t wait to see them. I was speaking to Asian principal dancers never being in the two NYC ballet companies, ABT & NYCB…really sad, as they are HUGE ballet institutions in American dance history. Boston Ballet has a few Asian principals too…but again, in my mind, the top three ballet companies in the U.S. (totally subjective, of course) are ABT, NYCB, and SF Ballet. Only SF Ballet has Asian principal dancers (woohoo!)

    Julie: I saw ABT’s Sleeping Beauty 3-4 times…You probably saw Yuriko Kajiya as the Canary Fairy (was she in yellow?) She was just recently promoted to soloist. I have my fingers crossed for Stella Abrera, a well established soloist at ABT…I think she has the best shot at being the first Asian American principal at ABT…who knows, though, she’s been a soloist forever. It’s a long shot but worth hoping for.

  • http://www.8asians.com John

    Well, if there is a lack of Asian-American female ballet dancers, I can’t even imagine how many Asian-American male ballet dancers there are… I could see Asian-American parents allowing their daughters to pursue dancing, but not their sons…

  • http://saturdaymatinee.wordpress.com jolene

    John, there are certainly Asian male dancers, but since height and the “princely” look are often prized in the Western style of ballet, I think it’s difficult. Hansuke Yamamoto is an example of an SF Ballet soloist (not a principal, but close). Alex Wong of the Miami City Ballet is another impressive example. Not many come to mind though.

  • http://www.gracethespot.com Grace Chu

    I could see Asian-American parents allowing their daughters to pursue dancing

    …as long as they promise to take pre-med courses on the side and take the MCATS as a back-up. :)

  • http://www.fjballet.com Jason Akira Jhung

    I believe the first, Male, Asian-American Principal Ballet Dancer was my father, Finis Jhung. He was a Principal with the Harkness Company. He also danced for the Joffrey Company and San Francisco Ballet. Not sure how to check the validity of this, but I believe it is true. Props to my Dad!

  • http://jenchang.blogspot.com Jen

    Finis Jhung is a true ballet hero, he has continued to inspire dancers today, with his unique approach to teaching.

    thanks for visiting!

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  • cannonball mtn

    I have long wanted to see a black woman lead in Giselle. I think it would be most timely in 2008.

  • http://jenchang.blogspot.com Jen

    that would be amazing, cannonball…my vote would be for aesha ash, such a beautiful dancer.

  • http://oberon481.typepad.com/oberons_grove/ Philip

    If you are looking for a tall Asian male dancer, look at William Lin-Yee who has just joined Pacific Northwest Ballet. William danced with New York City Ballet before heading West to join Peter Boal’s PNB.

  • http://jenchang.blogspot.com Jen

    hey philip! nice to see you here :) i remember seeing william lin-yee in the background of abt productions as an abt student, as well as in nycb. definitely a person to watch, glad to see him on this coast.

  • blah

    pllease, NYCB and ABT are completely racist. the only reason that ABT promoted misty and yuriko is becuase of the NYTimes article about them being racist. but NYCB has no need to do anything about it because peter martins is completely racist and doesn’t care. i firmly believe that if there was a tall blonde blue eyed girl who was pretty good, he would choose he over an amazing\l;y talented asian girl who had a great body and everything. that’s just the way the ballet world is, especially at SAB/NYCB. so don’t hope for much. my advice is that life goes on and you have to such get over it and not become bitter. enjoy life and dancing for as long as you can.

  • bolshoiboy

    aesha is gorgeous but i think she retired because she wasnt going anywhere in dance…

  • bolshoiboy

    becuz of her color

  • bolshoiboy

    i always thought there were SOOO many asian dancers… OMG! abt has like 30… asians are known with russians as perfect becuz of their natural thinness and quiet strength… miyako yoshida and tetsuya kamakawa and SOO many more… umm hee seo i think her name is is a rising corps dancer… who else? so many though… now nycb is pretty racist… i dont like it. there is NO excuse for nycb.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/KILLERB0OTSMAN Matty

    While not strictly ballet I recently saw SF’s Wicked at the Orpheum Theater and besides loving it to death; I cheered for Nessarose (Wicked Witch of the East) who is played by DeeDee Magno Hall. While she didn’t dance much she did have a nice voice.


  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/XY26X5BDRKI6CDKMT7REPCL6KY KarenN

    I know this is an old thread, but something that sparked my attention, so I felt I needed to chime in.

    As a former (Asian) professional ballet dancer (trained at SFB School, Boston Ballet and danced with Oregon Ballet Theater), I can attest to many amazing Asian dancer role models and friends who have risen to the top of the ballet community:

    Romi Beppu is an incredible dancer, formerly Principal w/Boston Ballet, now Ballet West (roles such as Odette/Odile) http://www.balletwest.org/AboutUs/Artists/RomiBeppu

    PNB currently has a Principal with asian descent:
    http://www.pnb.org/Artists/Principals/KaoriNakamura.aspx – PNB

    Nao Kusuzaki @ Houston Ballet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7WpcPkAbAk

    Another current Boston Ballet Principal: http://www.bostonballet.org/Company_Dancers/Dancers/Misa_Kuranaga.html
    SFB: http://www.sfballet.org/about/company/dancers/view.asp?id=12340265

    Agreed; ABT and NYCB have never been culturally diverse, especially at the Principal/Soloist level. But the center of the dance world has shifted and no longer are ABT & NYCB the apex of the dance community… there is a growing number of smaller dance companies (fed with talent from all the aforementioned large-scale ballet companies) with amazing (and diverse) dancers and very creative work & repertoire.

    Oregon Ballet Theater (Vanessa Thiessen (Filipino-American) dancing Juliet… breathtaking), Trey McIntyre Project, http://treymcintyre.com/TMP/WhoWeAre_Dancers.html… not to mention Boston Ballet, PNB (Pacific Northwest Ballet) and Houston all offer diverse dance talent that matches (or exceeds that of the ABT-NYCB flavor). Not sure things will ever change at the ABT/NYCB institutions,…. but thank goodness for all the other companies that embrace and encourage diverse rosters!

    I am very happy that you got to witness (and enjoy) the talent of Yuan Yuan Tan; I guess we have been fortunate in many places other than NYC to have inspriing Asian dancers to grace the stages in lead roles for quite a number of years now.

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