It is after dinner-time on a Tuesday night. In TV terms, one day after Anthony Bourdain and one day before Top Chef DC. In other words, a TV wasteland, except for the Rachel Zoe Project which I happen to like. What? Don’t hate. Rachel’s doing her thang. She has a vision. She’s in it. And there is something soothing to living vicariously through someone whose biggest question is Gucci or Dolce?
But Rachel’s not on til 10. I am scrolling through the channels when my boyfriend suggests we watch ATL on BET. He is surprised that I’ve never seen it. It’s a teenage-romance/roller skating film featuring rap stars and their requisite big-bootied, lollipop-sucking, weave-wearin’ girlfriends. No, harumph, I haven’t seen it.
I supposed if he can suffer through Rachel Zoe, I can watch ATL. Besides, he insists. My boyfriend is first generation French-American. He is white, as opposed to, say, Algerian. Just a straight up Frenchie. From the coastal region to the west.
“How you spell dat, baby?”
He talk French too. Real pretty. Oui, oui, oui, oui, oui.
But he grew up in Queens. NY, that is. And, god bless him, my white Frenchie boyfriend loves Black people. He is not one of those white people who pretends to be black. He just loves colored.
I’m just playin’ y’all. Havin’ a little fun. Actually, he just generally loves people. He will chat up anyone who gives him the time of day. When passing strangers on the street, he will be the first to say “Hello,” “Good morning,” “Have a nice day!” and genuinely mean it. When we first met, I suspected he liked me, but then became confused when I realized he smiled at everyone that way. But, naahhh, he liked me after all. Yup.
Anyway, I find myself wonderin’ how many white people are watching BET right now. I rarely watch it for the same reason I rarely watch So You Think You Can Dance. It’s too close to home and too far away at the same time.
He is not under any delusions about BET really representing anything other than stereotypes. However, I must admit, sometimes those stereotypes are damn funny, like the way the word “ambulance” is pronounced: am-ba-lance. When you got a bunch of black folk at a skatin’ rink, you know somebody gettin’ shot. Gotta call da ambalance.
Perhaps I been drinkin’ too much Old E, but I find myself imagining Mr. Balanchine watching BET. Trust, if he was still around, he’d be tunin’ in to dance crews battling On Demand and Stomp the Yard. And if he didn’t have a hand in choreographing the group skating sequences on ATL, best believe he’d be stealin’ from it. New York City Ballet dancers be roller skatin’ on pointe next season.
I do think that Mr. B liked colored too. When I danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem, a letter between Balanchine and Kirstein was circulated to the company in which Balanchine stated that he wanted an equal number of white and black dancers. He saw something in black dance and music that he wanted to bring to ballet. Call it “the jazz.”
Obviously, it never happened. But aside from that letter, I intuitively felt Balanchine’s funky bent when I was dancing his choreography. There is a kind of attitude, rhythm and swagger that resonated with me that had nothing to do with what I got from SAB. I am speaking primarily of the so-called black and white ballets.
At Dance Theatre of Harlem, ballets such as Agon and The Four Tempraments had a kind of attack that I never saw in other ballet companies. There was a heaviness to the movement that they didn’t get, or rather, interpreted differently.
My intent in writing this is to not put one group above another. There are dancers that I love from NYCB and elsewhere. True artists. But I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Balanchine’s original vision could be brought to life. How that would evolve the art form…and humanity.
I have a dream…