By Phil Chan
MAKE-UP AND CASTING
In 2019, do we really need makeup that exaggerates Asian racial features for audiences to get that this dance is "Chinese"? An easy option to avoid caricature is to keep makeup designs clean and simple, bringing out colors from the costume and accentuating the natural features of the dancer regardless of their race.
It seems reasonable to assert that an audience in 2019 doesn't need painted elongated eyes or a Fu Manchu mustache to get that this divertissement is "Chinese."
If you want to lean into Chinese culture, consider borrowing a design from Peking Opera, a rich theatrical tradition in China where different colors in the masks represent different character traits. Ballet West's current version of the divertissement features a Peking Opera-inspired warrior battling a playful Chinese dragon.
Directors should also not feed the pressure to cast Asian (or Asian-passing) dancers in the "Chinese" divertissement just because they are Asian. Regardless of race, cast the dancer who performs the choreography the best, and most embodies the spirit of the dance. Sometimes that will be an Asian dancer, and that's okay too!