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Home/Rod Dreher/Hateful Whitey Binds Her Feet

Hateful Whitey Binds Her Feet

Princeton University Ballet in performance (via PUB)

A source at Princeton University passed to me two documents sent out by the president of Princeton University Ballet (the student-run recreational ballet club), regarding the club’s diversity, equity, and inclusivity initiatives. I quote them both below, in full. The first was written by the club leaders, who in it affirm that “we are all entering this space with a mindset that what we see as perfect is a white standard” and “we aim to decolonize our practice of ballet, even as ballet remains an imperialist, colonialist, and white supremacist art form.” (Gosh, better not tell these woke dingbats about Alicia Alonso, the Cuban prima ballerina, founder of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and ardent Castroite.)

The second document is about “Action Plan Guidelines”. I am told that it was not written by the students, but by Princeton alumni who led the “EDI Circuit.” The document was given to all the clubs that participated. The source says, “I don’t think it was mandatory for all the performing arts groups. Still, it was organized by the University’s offices, namely the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Lewis Center for the Arts.”

The text of the documents is below. Understand that Princeton is one of the top universities not only in this country, but in the world. This is how the American elites are being indoctrinated to think about art, race, their country, and themselves. This is not a passing phase. These people will move into the directorship of institutions that will have a major effect on life in this country. They hate ballet. They hate art. They hate beauty. They hate their predecessors in the dance tradition. They hate freedom of thought. They hate white people (including, below, themselves). They hate America, and they hate the West. Above all, they hate. 

And their class runs the country, and likely will for decades to come. Think about that. And look, if you are a Princeton alumni, ask yourself why you give a single farthing to support this Woke Seminary & Klaus Schwab Finishing School.

Here is the first document. All emphases are in the original.

Ballet is rooted in white supremacy and perfectionism. We are all entering this space with a mindset that what we see as perfect is a white standard. Unlearning that will be difficult but rewarding. Before we begin detailing our action plan, we want to acknowledge that our leadership and those who composed this plan are all white.

Firstly we would like to add land acknowledgement to our shows, in addition to historical context in our programs. We rarely shed light on the problematic history of our art form, and want to bring it to the forefront of our performances.

We aim to decolonize our practice of ballet, even as ballet remains an imperialist, colonialist, and white supremacist art form. We realize our distinct freedoms as a college run dance group, which is that we do not report back to any sort of board or funding programs that would restrict our choices. In selecting new members and cultivating our style, we want to centralize artistry instead of technique, in the hopes of maintaining our core purpose as a ballet company but doing away with some of the stringent and exclusive standards that pervade the art form. As this is particularly important during auditions, we will be prefacing audition discussions with a frank recognition and repudiation of our own biases.

Another actionable item is that we want to explicitly prohibit the use of choreography/ story lines of historically problematic works. Ballet is usually seen as an art form rooted in tradition, but we do not need to uphold the problematic work of historically renowned choreographers. Another change we would like to make is for our shows to have less content. In our recent show we prioritized quantity and length over artistry and collaboration. Instead of having 10 pieces with 5 dancers in each, we want to start experimenting with longer pieces and have more collaboration between choreographer and dancer. We want to give ourselves a time frame, but know what we create is right. Having more dancers in the room promotes company comradery and spirit.

In a similar vein, we want to switch our relationship with guest choreographers. Sometimes working with guest choreographers can cause stress and anxiety for the company, because it was so similar to past ballet experiences. Because of this we want to put down some guidelines for when the guests interact with us. We want to restrict the guest from doing their own casting, and have the artistic team choose. We want the guest to be able to teach a ballet class, but not give too many personal corrections, which tend to promote favoritism. In addition we want to diversify the type of choreographers we bring in, white males are given the opportunity to choreograph constantly, and we realize PUB can offer that opportunity to other types of choreographers.

We hope to take steps to ensure that PUB membership, not just leadership, requires a commitment to EDI work. As such, we have decided that participation in service and outreach to local communities will become a requirement of every company member. We partner with an organization that members can sign up to volunteer with, but there are numerous other opportunities for dance service on campus. Even though we cannot change some of the biases and prejudices that exist in ballet off campus, we can dedicate ourselves to combating that exclusivity in our local communities and for the next generation.

PUB can sometimes feel a little removed from the ballet world at large. To stay up to date specifically on EDI work within the larger ballet community, we will be including links to articles, social media accounts, and other resources that we feel deserve amplification and attention as we work on ourselves internally.

We also want to hold ourselves accountable as leaders, and provide platforms for the company to advocate for themselves and for changes. Consensus building is much more difficult in a virtual space, but we will have a running anonymous google form that is linked in every company email we send and emphasize feedback as an essential part of our leadership and decision making strategy.

As a part of our onboarding process for new members and at the start of every semester, we will hold a mandatory EDI goal setting session, so that our action items remain present and relevant, and then we will follow up on those at the end of the semester.

We would also like to open a conversation about body image and take steps to heal and deconstruct the harmful and racialized ideas about body image that many of PUB’s members enter the company with just by virtue of being a ballet dancer. Historically, PUB has been neutral on this issue, and while body neutrality is something some may strive for individually, it is not realistic or helpful for a group of ballet dancers who have internalized damaging ideas about how they should eat and what they should look like. We are hoping to bring someone in from outside the company to train the officers or the company as a whole on how to talk about body image and how to create an environment where we feel comfortable talking about our struggles with body image while also helping to deconstruct our assumptions about it.

Finally, we’d like to hold monthly workshops for people who are not in PUB to enjoy ballet, because there are more ballet dancers on campus than there are in PUB and we don’t want exclusive membership to be one of the only avenues to participate in ballet at Princeton.

There follows a bullet-pointed summary the above. So, these white women believe that ballet is white supremacist, that technique is bigotry, that performing canonical works, or works by great choreographers, is problematic, and that thinking that ballet dancers shouldn’t be fat makes you History’s Greatest Monster. Say what you will about the Soviets, they never screwed with ballet. If your daughter or son has ballet talent, and a love for dance, better not send them to Princeton, or they will have it pressed out of them by these cultural revolutionaries.

Here is the second document from the arts commissariat:

 

EDI Circuit | Action Plan Student Performing Arts Group Questions

Your EDI Circuit Action Plan will serve as a clarifying series of steps and analyses that gives your student arts group a foundation for culture, identity, anti-racist strategy, and a greater accountability structure for EDI. The framing is presented as an extensive series of questions that we believe will best serve your student arts group as you consider your identity/brand, how you are in relationship with prospective members and Princeton at large, and what actionable policies and practices will lead to a reality of collective liberation in pursuit of your artistry. We want this action tool to be a living, breathing resource that can serve as your group’s true north to thinking about how you advocate for healthy culture, racial diversity, and lead critical conversations that help you remain accountable to your membership.

GROUNDING / LOCATING:

Critical Questions

1. What is your relationship to the land and water? Does your student group have a relationship with the history of the land and water on which it resides?

2. What is your group’s mission?

3. What purpose do you serve on campus?

4. What is your group’s ‘brand’?

5. What is your individual and group understanding of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)? Anti-racism?

6. Do you feel your group has established healthy practices to foster trust and psychological safety?

7. How would you describe inclusion?

8. On a scale from 1-5 how equitable is your group today? Anti-racist?

SECTION 1: Understanding a more equitable, antiracist landscape for Princeton’s arts community

Critical Questions

1. What resources are needed to understand EDI/Anti-racism for students/student groups?

2. How does your group structure and support this critical conversation as part of its own governance?

3. Has your group named commitments or actions that will foster greater EDI?

4. What is holding your group back from taking a more proactive approach to racial equity? (What is lost? What is gained?)

5. How do you intend to address these barriers with current and potential group members?

6. What types of coalition building are possible or needed between arts groups on campus?

7. How does competition affect the life of your student ground and the ecosystem of the arts on campus?

8. Do you have a land acknowledgement practice? How are you building your relationality with living Indigenous people? How are the dynamics of settler colonialism present in your group? How might you decolonize?

SECTION 2: Recruitment / Membership Critical Questions

1. Are you privileged or oppressed in the current recruitment model? Are you satisfied with it? Is it racist?

2. What is the value of racial diversity in your membership?

3. What does success look like?

4. Does recruitment end with membership?

5. Is there space for representation, impact, recognition, leadership for all members?

6. What made you join your student group?

7. What are auditionees/applicants attracted to about your student group (brand, mission, members, etc.?)

8. How does your group interpret and discuss reputation?

9. When you think about whom is represented in your student group…how can you shift the expectation from transactional to relationship building? Are you fostering relationships or filling audition slots?

10. How does competition drive your recruitment efforts specifically?

11. How do group casting and discussions influence your process? Are they equitable processes?

12. What actions or practice sustain a healthy and safe environment for members to be fulfilled within the group during their Princeton careers?

13. How would you rate the retention rate of student involvement from a member’s initiation to a member’s graduation?

SECTION 3: Leadership Critical Questions

1. How has your group’s leadership team been onboarded to the culture of your student group?

2. Where is your leadership in terms of EDI work and commitments?

3. How is leadership accountable to the group with respect to EDI, maintaining a welcoming culture, and ensuring that these values are passed down to future leadership?

4. Is there diversity in your leadership currently? Has there been a history of diverse leadership for your group?

5. How is leadership engaging in these critical conversations with other groups or entities at Princeton?

6. How is your leadership selected?

7. What type of structure or hierarchy has your group chosen to organize leadership and decision making (power)?

8. Are dissenting or conflicting opinions welcomed in your group? How are they addressed? How do you address conflict?

9. How would you describe the communication style of your group?

10. What does transparency mean to your group, and what place does it have in your practice / leadership?

SECTION 4: Artistry / Expression / Repertoire / Collaboration Critical Questions

1. What do you enjoy most about your art form?

2. From your perspective, is your art form inherently inclusive?

3. What does a new member need to audition/apply for your student group?

4. Does privilege/access to resources serve as a predictor in the audition/application process?

5. What role does “talent” play in your group? Does it create an environment that leaves room for “potential”?

6. How do you evaluate the artistry of your group? What are the group’s standards?

7. Is there room to innovate in your group artistically? If so, where? 8. What does your group do that is unique to the Princeton arts scene?

9. How does your group give back to the community?

10. What opportunities for learning or professional development are accessible to your group?

SECTION 5: Building the Anti-Racist Plan

Critical Questions

1. Given the above, what would it look like for your group to be explicitly anti-racist? What would it feel like? Consider all aspects of your student group operation and practice.

2. Consider the current landscape of your group as explored above: the physical and social location, artistic genre, recruitment practices, leadership, and relationship to EDI in your student group.

3. What steps need to be taken to build a bridge between (2) and (1)? Your Anti-Racist Plan should outline the steps needed to get from where your group is today, to becoming a group that is, in every aspect, explicitly anti-racist.

4. What is your accountability structure? It is important to be explicit about the “who” of any actionable steps you are taking as a student group.

5. What are the group’s values that you want to communicate to your stakeholders? How do your antiracist policies signal those values?

6. What is your review process and how will you share/publish this plan? Who will be your objective critics of this plan and how can it be updated? Your antiracist action plan is a living document.

No artist or performer who respects herself, her art, and liberty can possibly submit to the commissars’ questions, and live their creative lives under the yoke of the woke. In the near future, young American artists with talent are going to have to go abroad for training, to countries that have protected their cultural legacies by keeping wokeness out.

UPDATE: A friend texts to say she agrees that most of what the Princeton documents say is crazy, but she wants to add these two caveats:

I think it is pretty fair to say ballet is much more racist than many other art forms: the corps prizes uniformity so much that directors have said they don’t want to cast dark skinned dancers because they break up the uniformity of the line. And that really sucks and foreclosed the careers of a lot of dancers.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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