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Donald’s mailbag

Two items related to the recent appearance of the Dance Theatre of Harlem:

OFFENSIVE COMMENT?

Sharon, a reader from Clovis, was troubled by one of Diane Mosier’s quotations in my 7 story about the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s performance at the Saroyan Theatre. In talking about the multicultural aspect of the company’s appeal, I included a comment from Mosier (the artistic director of the Lively Arts Foundation, which brought the company to town) in which she talked about the ethnic bond that exists between black audience members and the performers. Mosier said: “Any time you went to a Dance Theatre of Harlem performance, you could see the pride in the faces of the black people who attended.”

Sharon said in a phone-mail message:

I hope if you go further with this that someone interview an African-American person and have them quote themselves. I’m trying not to let [the comment] be racist … It just sounded so white. I guess Diane Mosier isn’t getting the NAACP White Person of the Year award. Probably not. I appreciate her passion for bringing [the company] here, but maybe they ought to have somebody else do the quotes.

My response:

I think this is a case where I could have written the explanatory material around the quote more smoothly. I don’t think Mosier’s comment was offensive. She was saying that the DTOH has always been strongly identified — and positively so — with the black community. Is it legitimate for a non-black person to comment on this bond? I’d say yes. But the quotation does sound a little brittle. I could have added more context. One other thing I’d point out: the majority of the quotations in the story come from company director Keith Saunders, who is black.

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WHY NO PRINT REVIEW?

In a comment on my weekend picks post, Anne Betancourt writes:

Friday night’s performance of the Dance Theater of Harlem was excellent. The audience was enthusiastic, the technique of the dancers was superb and the choreography and costumes was innovative and exciting. Why isn’t there a review of it in the paper?

Where is the review of last week’s opera by the Fresno Grand Opera. The voices of the three main leads were among the best Fresno has heard and nothing was in a paper about their performances.

Having to use this computer/blog is a drag!

My response:

Sorry you missed a print review for DTOH, but as we all know, we’re living in a rapidly changing media world. (It’ll still be possible to get by without a computer for a few years yet, but it will get harder as more of everything migrates online.) Another limitation is staffing. The Bee has a smaller staff than a year ago. I simply can’t get coverage of every entertainment event into the paper or posted online for next-day coverage. I can’t work seven days a week. The good thing is that the blog gives me the flexibility for after-the-fact coverage and I’m not restrained by lack of space or impossible deadlines. Regarding the opera, which opened on a Friday: That’s one of the cases where I made sure we had deadline coverage for Saturday — partly because the opera is simply a major event, and partly because another performance was scheduled on Sunday. In fact, the first part of my opera review was reprinted on Page A2 of Sunday’s Bee.

Responses to "Donald’s mailbag"

559rell says:

“But the quotation does sound a little brittle.”

I agree. When I read that quotation a while back, I didn’t particularly like it, and that was when I didn’t know it was said by a white person.

Really, it’s a bad quote in that it reads like an outsider who’s proud of a people being proud of their people. In a way, it’s condescending, even if a black person had said it.

It was nothing I could get too upset about… I mean, it’s easy to know what Mosier meant, but there was definitely a more appropriate way to say it.

Anyway, it was a great performance. For my first time seeing them, it was a good show to see. Although, I’d much rather see a formal, non-interactive performance the next time as the interactive segments sort of distracted from the art.

Stephen says:

“I’m not trying to let the comment be racist, it just sounded so white.”

How racist a comment is THAT?!?

:::sigh:::

Are we seriously becoming a society where a white person can’t say ANYthing about black people or vice versa?

Sharon, nobody who makes a comment like that means EVERY black person or is making an in-depth social commentary, just like I’m certain you didn’t mean EVERY white person when you made your statement.

I’m willing to let your statement slide if you let Diane’s slide.

I also am not a fan of “but my friends are black!” as a response, but I can say that Diane and Frank Mosier have done as much for the diversity of our community through dance as anyone else here. And obviously, when they bring in Gregory Hines, they are appealing to tap dance and film fans. When they bring Savion Glover, they’re more focused on harder-core tap fans.

And when they bring the Dance Theatre of HARLEM, an all-black company, they’re thrilled to bring in entertainment for ballet fans, dance fans, and black people who don’t get nearly enough views of highest-end dancers and role models for the black community.

‘she sure sounded white.’

I guess now so did I.

559rell says:

Oh, and to Donald’s defense:

I don’t think it was necessary to explain or give any sort of contextual clarity within the story. I think it was a great article and you did no wrong as the quote was a pertinent piece of information from the interview.

In no way does it seem that you framed the words in a bad light or left anything out. It just sounds/reads kinda “funny” when someone comments on how nice it is to see a positive interaction between a certain people.

“The white fans in Harlem were so proud to see the white basketball player become starting point guard on the varsity team.”

It may very well be true, but it doesn’t need to be said that way, if even said at all. If it rubs anybody the wrong way, even just a bit, that’s the feeling Ms. Betancourt was talking about (although I don’t totally agree with her word choice either).

But still, it’s no big deal. You would certainly have the right to say it, just as Ms. Mosier commented on her experience.

I sincerely thank her for making it possible for me to see the show this month… in Fresno!