Inspired by positive changes at New York City Ballet in 2017, we began to ask ourselves why other companies in America still present outdated representations of Asians in the Nutcracker and other ballet performances. We recognize that this conversation has been happening across the country every December, in communities large and small, from dance studios to professional companies - and want to consolidate the conversation. We also recognize the work happening in other performing arts disciplines, especially the great and productive conversations happening in opera and theatre, and wanted our ballet community to engage in the same self-reflection.
In the same way that Blackface is limiting and degrading to African Americans, continuing to present an 19th century view of Asians does not allow for character nuance for Asian American dancers today. If all audiences see is the bobbing and shuffling coolie from a bygone era as the only representation of Asians on stage, what message does that send to our Asian students who dream of dancing the Swan Queen? What does that say to the Asian audience members who want to see themselves on stage, only to finds themselves as the butt of the joke? What does that say to the Board member, who writes checks and involves their friends, only to see a one-dimensional representation of their heritage?
In the spirit of making the ballet more inclusive, we invite you to join us by signing our pledge and committing to speak up against Yellowface on our stages, and working to create more positive and nuanced representations of Asians in ballet.
It’s time for us to replace caricature with character; it's time for Yellowface in ballet to take a Final Bow! Sign the pledge now!