Cultural appropriation. Discuss.

Pink Cats

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I don't think a lot of the examples being given are cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.
Most of the examples given seem to me to be either interpterion's of other cultures dances or the use of other cultures music but there does not seem to be any claiming of the other cultures dances or music, in fact most do give credit to the origin. Now some of the interpterion are so bad that they can be consider racist, intentional or otherwise.
 

screech

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There's cultural appropriation and there's being respectful of a culture. It would be easy, for example, to say that as non-Indians, Davis/White were showing cultural appropriation by dressing in the clothing and performing movements from that culture. However, they were respectful, in doing proper research, having appropriate persons involved in the process, and not making a mockery of it all.

While not cultural appropriation, one thing that I know raised some eyebrows is Jason Brown's costume for his Schindler's List program, which appeared to have fire/flames on the shirt. While he is Jewish, having flames on his shirt while skating to music from that movie, knowing what happened to millions of Jews... Not cultural appropriation, but probably not the best decision.
 

MsZem

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While not cultural appropriation, one thing that I know raised some eyebrows is Jason Brown's costume for his Schindler's List program, which appeared to have fire/flames on the shirt. While he is Jewish, having flames on his shirt while skating to music from that movie, knowing what happened to millions of Jews... Not cultural appropriation, but probably not the best decision.
I wrote last season that his costume reminded me of a yahrzeit candle; it also echoes imagery of survivors as brands from the fire (Zechariah 3:2, among other Biblical references). Very appropriate, and probably intentional.

Jason seems like a thoughtful guy, and definitely connected to his Jewish heritage.
 

her grace

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The Schindler’s List program was problematic. For one thing, I think it was the first one, the movie came out the year before. For another, Witt was East German and they had not really acknowledged or repented of the Holocaust. The girl in the red coat was indeed Jewish and used by Spielberg as a symbol of lost and tortured innocence, a dicey role for a grown-up, sexy German woman to play. I wasn’t outraged but I did think hmmm, better choices were available.

I also have some reservations with German skaters skating to Schindler's List, though I do think Witt's interpretation was respectful. I also don't think her curvy figure should disqualify her from portraying a child. Lipnitskaya's interpretation isn't "better" because she was a malnourished teenager portraying a child. That comes too close to the madonna/whore complex to me.

The program that did offend me was the Japanese man that skated to Pearl Harbour.
 

PRlady

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I also have some reservations with German skaters skating to Schindler's List, though I do think Witt's interpretation was respectful. I also don't think her curvy figure should disqualify her from portraying a child. Lipnitskaya's interpretation isn't "better" because she was a malnourished teenager portraying a child. That comes too close to the madonna/whore complex to me.

The program that did offend me was the Japanese man that skated to Pearl Harbour.
Lip’s program suited her solemn persona. Looking young didn’t hurt. Witt must have been 10 years older when she skated her program. It doesn’t have a moral aspect but it does affect the suitability of the “role.”
 

delayedaxel

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There's cultural appropriation and there's being respectful of a culture.

I understand the term „cultural appropriation“ as taking away something from a different culture that is not rightfully yours. Say, in colonial history, many African countries were robbed of their artwork which was then displayed in European museums. To fight cultural appropriation, robbed pieces of art have to be given back to their rightful owners (or their heirs).

Yet, I really have a hard time understanding the term „cultural appropriation“ being used when it comes to blending artstyles, quoting artists or re-interpretating songs or plays.

If a white musician like Elvis takes a song created by a black musician - say „Blue suede shoes“ - and interpretates it in his way, I cannot see why using the word „cultural appropriation“ would make any sense, since, regardless of the fact whether you like Elivs‘ version or not, the original version is still there, has not been „destroyed“ has not been „taken away“ and can still be enjoyed.
 
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MacMadame

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I understand the term „cultural appropriation“ as taking away something from a different culture that is not rightfully yours. Say, in colonial history, many African countries were robbed of their artwork which was then displayed in European museums. To fight cultural appropriation, robbed pieces of art have to be given back to their rightful owners (or their heirs).
That's not how that term is used. This is the dictionary definition:

cul·tur·al ap·pro·pri·a·tion
Learn to pronounce

noun
  1. the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.
    "his dreadlocks were widely criticized as another example of cultural appropriation"
 

jenny12

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If a white musician like Elvis takes a song created by a black musician - say „Blue suede shoes“ - and interpretates it in his way, I cannot see why using the word „cultural appropriation“ would make any sense, since, regardless of the fact whether you like Elivs‘ version or not, the original version is still there, has not been „destroyed“ has not been „taken away“ and can still be enjoyed.

I think some people might view Elvis similarly to what you mentioned about African art. The Black Artists that did the music Elvis did prior to him didn’t get the same recognition or credit and him doing their style did nothing to shine a light on those artist he took from until many years later. Contrast that to someone like Eminem who whether you like him or not always mentioned Dr Dre and the Black artists who began hip hop and didn’t make himself look like he was doing anything that he invented himself.

In terms of skating, it’s tricky. I don’t think ice dance will do another ethnic dance short dance any time soon. In general, if you are going to perform in a style in a culture outside of your own, I think it might be acceptable if you show knowledge and respect for that culture and avoid making the presentation stereotypical.
 

sadya

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I saw a documentary on YouTube or perhaps an essay from a YouTuber, can't remember exactly, but they had a topic on Elvis Presley and black music. The companies spreading music made him famous with music from black people who often didn't receive the same recognition nor the same publicity as Elvis Presley. From what I understand, he did mention the original artists sometimes. I like some of his music, but as I'm not a huge fan I don't know much about him.

This article goes more into this topic and features quotes from black artists from that time as well:
Yesterday evening, I watched Witt skating to Schindler's List. I watched the entire routine from start to finish for the first time. It was respectful imho. There was a real story, told with care and respect. She wasn't portraying the little girl. In an interview she explained that she wanted to give the little girl a happy ending: this time the little girl does grow up to become a woman. Watching Witt skate, I forgot I saw a German skating. Instead I saw the little girl survive and grow up. (It even made me emotional on a personal level too. I don't want to talk about that too much, but people who have lost someone at a young age can understand the emotion of those young people not dying, but ageing together with us. So that personal part added additional meaning).

Hear Witt explain her program:

It feels like she is acknowledging what her people did in the past and how wrong it was. Watching her solemn and emotional performance didn't feel wrong at all.
 

Ananas Astra

The Queen of Mean
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This is an interesting piece that explores how The Nutcracker—often seen as a classic Russian ballet—is actually a pastiche of music and dance concepts drawn from (or inspired by) other cultures:

A couple of years ago, the Berlin ballet had reconstructed the original Nutcracker version from 1892 with original stage designs, costumes etc. which cost a lot of money and was a huge success.

Last year, the performances were cancelled because the woke new management of that theatre considered the audience to be "not yet ready" for such "racism" as depicted in their (traditional) version and that they'd need to revise it to make it less "offensive".
I bought the DVD of that version and there is nothing "offensive" in it. Just a pretty generic "Nutcracker" with gorgeous designs and interesting costumes. I have yet to meet a Chinese or Middle-Eastern person who would be offended by the "Nutcracker".

There was a huge shitstorm aimed at that theatre and their management because people just wanted to see this Christmas ballet and then were confronted with this bs. Moreover, the management went overboard by claiming the audience "would not understand what was happening on stage" and thus framing them as stupid. That arrogance disguised as political correctness is mind-blowing.
 

Cachoo

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It is strange to speak about a musical selection that has been so popular among figure skaters suddenly off limits now. I'm glad most don't agree with the opinion and I love this number from C/P. This has been a thoughtful and fruitful discussion. Going forward, if you were a skater who wanted to skate to music from another culture how would you approach this? I think there is a lot of unexplored interesting music from Africa. Is it off limits?
 

sadya

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Thinking about the well received programs, I'd certainly ask people from that culture for help with this. If the original artists are acknowledged and the program is done with care and respect, I'd say it wouldn't be off limits.
 

VGThuy

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Right. Anecdotal evidence can only take you so far. That theatre was probably being less arrogant and more worried about the future of the theatre. Maybe they’re a bit early but it’s good to be proactive. They’re lucky more Asians don’t watch ballet, which (in the US) is still considered sort of a more upper-middle class and up sort of activity with a mostly white audience generally-speaking.

Many productions have cut the “Arabian” and “Chinese” dances and have done so since like the 1970s at least.
 

kwanfan1818

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Or, after several rounds of changing the costumes and removing the finger-pointing from the choreography --I'm pretty sure it was Peter Martins who did the latter at New York City Ballet -- Pacific Northwest Ballet turned the character into the Green Tea Cricket, a symbol of good luck:

https://www.knkx.org/arts-culture/2...st-ballets-the-nutcracker-has-a-new-character

Martins made a comment -- unfortunately, I can't find the link -- that you start with the list of nine offensive things and tick them off one-by-one.

Of course, everything that changes in a Balanchine ballet has to be approved by the Trust.
 
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Ananas Astra

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Right. Anecdotal evidence can only take you so far. That theatre was probably being less arrogant and more worried about the future of the theatre. Maybe they’re a bit early but it’s good to be proactive. They’re lucky more Asians don’t watch ballet, which (in the US) is still considered sort of a more upper-middle class and up sort of activity with a mostly white audience generally-speaking.

Many productions have cut the “Arabian” and “Chinese” dances and have done so since like the 1970s at least.
I am not a fan of artistic censorship. Remember Germany in the 30s and what was censored back then because it was "not appropriate"? Remember what it led to?
I highly doubt that Petipa, Tchaikovsky and the other people involved in the creation of "The Nutcracker" had the ultimate goal of making it a racist piece of shit. I have also yet to hear of somebody who entered a theatre to watch "The Nutcracker" and return from the performance as a full-blown racist and Nazi because Chinese and Middle-Eastern people were depicted on stage.
It's art ffs and there is such a thing as "artistic freedom".

If you are already having problems with the "Nutcracker" which is a classic in culture and has brought so much joy to generations of people, how about rewriting 90% of literature and altering 90% of all the theatre classics because somebody could always be offended and accuse you of "cultural appropriation" or "racism".

A couple of years ago we were riding the metro here in Hamburg and we overheard some woke students have a conversation about sign language.
Girl: "I actually know sign language, but I always hesitate to do it in public because that would be cultural appropriation."
Dude...what?!
 

Ananas Astra

The Queen of Mean
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Or, after several rounds of changing the costumes and removing the finger-pointing from the choreography --I'm pretty sure it was Peter Martins who did the latter at New York City Ballet -- Pacific Northwest Ballet turned the character into the Green Tea Cricket, a symbol of good luck:

https://www.knkx.org/arts-culture/2...st-ballets-the-nutcracker-has-a-new-character

Martins made a comment -- unfortunately, I can't find the link -- that you start with the list of nine offensive things and tick them off one-by-one.

Of course, everything that changes in a Balanchine ballet has to be approved by the Trust.
The Mariinsky "Nutcracker"-version by acclaimed and controversial Russian artist Mikhail Chemiakin has also changed the Arabian dance into a serpent's dance and it has become a highlight of the entire oeuvre without taking away anything of its character.
The cricket version goes into the same direction.

BTW I can really recommend the Chemiakin version of the "Nutcracker". It's very close to the original Hoffmann story and has a mindblowingly beautiful stage and costume design. The interpretation is also quite dark, as the original story actually is.
It's on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oA_KFouhgdI
It's my all-time favorite staging of this ballet.
 

Ananas Astra

The Queen of Mean
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It's not censorship for a company to decide what it will or will not perform. It's their right to decide they didn't want to put on this version of the Nutcracker. Or any version.
Of course, but in the case of the Berlin State Ballet the main argument for cancelling the 1,5 million reconstructed "Nutcracker" was that the "audience was not ready for what was happening on stage" which is absolutely stupid IMHO.
They could've handed out playbills with annotations in case anybody would be offended by what they did. But they decided to cancel the whole thing altogether and then came up with this bs.
 

sadya

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There is a difference between deeming something not appropriate because you have racist ideology and hate people with certain backgrounds, versus not enjoying art that offends and hurts people.

I'm sure the (original) creators of The Nutcracker had no evil intentions, times were different then, but when we find out that some of our actions hurt and offend people, shouldn't we learn and change? Sometimes we might not realize that something is offensive, surely we can try to do better when we find out that something is actually hurting people?

A Nazi forbidding work from Jewish authors and artists can't be the same as someone deciding to stop using something offensive like blackface or yellowface?
 

Ananas Astra

The Queen of Mean
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There is a difference between deeming something not appropriate because you have racist ideology and hate people with certain backgrounds, versus not enjoying art that offends and hurts people.

I'm sure the (original) creators of The Nutcracker had no evil intentions, times were different then, but when we find out that some of our actions hurt and offend people, shouldn't we learn and change? Sometimes we might not realize that something is offensive, surely we can try to do better when we find out that something is actually hurting people?

A Nazi forbidding work from Jewish authors and artists can't be the same as someone deciding to stop using something offensive like blackface or yellowface?
The "Nutcracker" versions I grew up with and love have nothing such as yellowface or blackface. The Berlin version used to have kids with blackface, but changed it very quickly after it premiered back in 2013 or so. IMHO they were stupid to do it in the first place at all.
But cancelling the whole thing only because there are Chinese and Oriental dances which could be offensive? Come on.
I have seen the version and it was nothing but beautiful.

But back to figure skating: Do you also find it offensive if a European skater skates to Oriental music which does happen quite frequently?
 
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MacMadame

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Of course, but in the case of the Berlin State Ballet the main argument for cancelling the 1,5 million reconstructed "Nutcracker" was that the "audience was not ready for what was happening on stage" which is absolutely stupid IMHO.
Yes but stupidity isn't censorship

They could've handed out playbills with annotations in case anybody would be offended by what they did. But they decided to cancel the whole thing altogether and then came up with this bs.
Except I googled the incident and did not find your version of events to be 100% accurate. The company has been putting this version of the ballet on for years and decided to give it a second look after they were sued for racial discrimination by one of the dancers and also had gotten complaints over the years that the Chinese and Arabian dances were caricatures that promoted harmful stereotypes.

It seems to me that the lawsuit caused them to start taking those complaints seriously and to take a second look at what they were putting out there and not liking what they saw.
 

Ananas Astra

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Yes but stupidity isn't censorship


Except I googled the incident and did not find your version of events to be 100% accurate. The company has been putting this version of the ballet on for years and decided to give it a second look after they were sued for racial discrimination by one of the dancers and also had gotten complaints over the years that the Chinese and Arabian dances were caricatures that promoted harmful stereotypes.

It seems to me that the lawsuit caused them to start taking those complaints seriously and to take a second look at what they were putting out there and not liking what they saw.
I am aware of the racial discrimination stuff.

But this had nothing to do with the "Nutcracker".
I am just wondering how many people complained about the Chinese and Oriental dances in the "Nutcracker" all over the world and how that has been handled.
Berlin is very special, even in Doucheland.

I repeat: The version the Berlin State Ballet performed was pretty generic and if they had to cancel their version because of "cultural appropriation", every other theatre has to do it as well.
And I don't want to live in a world where there won't be a classical and traditional "Nutcracker" anymore.
 

Japanfan

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IIRC a major issue with D/S was that they did not consult with any Indigenous people about their dance. Unlike the three Canadian teams who all did flamenco, and went to Spain to train with masters.

Then there was the hair-pulling part, which was beyond offensive.
 

kwanfan1818

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The major problem with the dance was that it wasn't meant to represent any real folk dance, but was some made up primitive caveman crap that Linichuk came up with. The story evolved a couple of times before they retroactively settled on something, because without something, they would have been in violation of the theme.
 

overedge

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I think some people might view Elvis similarly to what you mentioned about African art. The Black Artists that did the music Elvis did prior to him didn’t get the same recognition or credit and him doing their style did nothing to shine a light on those artist he took from until many years later. Contrast that to someone like Eminem who whether you like him or not always mentioned Dr Dre and the Black artists who began hip hop and didn’t make himself look like he was doing anything that he invented himself.

However, when Elvis was a teenager, he regularly went to live music shows in "Black" theatres in Memphis ("Black" as in Black neighbourhoods or primarily serving Black audiences), and was often one of the very few White people in the audience. He also got a lot of his outfits from Black tailors and Black shops. He definitely respected that music and that's why he chose to play it, because he loved it. Obviously his experience as a poor White Southerner wasn't the same as the experience of the Black musicians whose music he liked, but I don't think I would call what he did "cultural appropriation". Yes, he brought that music to White audiences, and the originators didn't get the recognition or royalties they deserve - although to be fair that happened to many musicians in that era, and not just Black ones. But what Elvis did was very different from what someone like, say, Pat Boone did.
 
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sadya

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547
The "Nutcracker" versions I grew up with and love have nothing such as yellowface or blackface. The Berlin version used to have kids with blackface, but changed it very quickly after it premiered back in 2013 or so. IMHO they were stupid to do it in the first place at all.
But cancelling the whole thing only because there are Chinese and Oriental dances which could be offensive? Come on.
I have seen the version and it was nothing but beautiful.

But back to figure skating: Do you also find it offensive if a European skater skates to Oriental music which does happen quite frequently?

It is a pity that they cancelled the entire thing and unnecessary. Perhaps they feared anger from people if something might be misunderstood while not meant to insult. Nowadays with social media especially, even if undeserved, these things catch on quickly. Who knows?
*Edit: just read the post by MacMadame and that explains a lot.

Skaters choosing oriental music doesn't bother me. Perhaps it's easier as many people adore the southasian clothes and jewels and that is all you will see (so no blackface or yellowface like insults). I haven't been offended by any skater yet. What I do notice is that in many cases most of the moves don't fit that specific music or culture, often skaters use movements that seem "oriental" to them, but when well timed to the music it often does work.

I loved the LP of Kwan to Taj Mahal (1997), but of course not all movements were specifically southasian either. A few were even used in her LP the previous year as well in a completely different themed program (Salome). Yet, this program caught the attention of my parents who were angry why I was watching this "naked" sport again and asked why was it sport when these were "just naked people dancing around and at least gymnasts who were just as naked were doing fascinating difficult things" etc I just listened without saying much back, hoping they'd at least let me finish watching the competition! :wall:

And then Kwan came on the ice, in her sari costume and my parents shut up. "An Indian girl is skating? One of our own? How beautiful the sari looks," my Mum said. They actually watched her in silence. And then they noticed the jumps and spins etc. They never became fans, but they did bother me less about watching skating thanks to that one Taj Mahal LP of Kwan. I still rewatch that program sometimes. In that program it doesn't matter to me that not the entire choreography is southasian. What Kwan did bring to the ice, was elegance and beauty and whatever she did, was well timed to the music and that helped making it all work.

I remember the 2016 Bollywood SP by Voloshar and Trankov. That didn't offend me either. I think in Ice Dance you probably have much more chance of offending people than in Pairs and Singles skating, as in Pairs and Singles there is less time for choreographic parts due the throws, lifts, jumps, etc. I mentioned earlier that Davis/White had a great OD at the Olympics on Bollywood music. They asked the right people for help, gave their program a lot of thought. More than a decade later, to me that is still the best southasian themed program of any skating discipline.
 
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