I went to see a contemporary ballet program last night with a couple of colleagues. Some of us sit on a dance awards committee so it was a show that I normally would not have attended even though I enjoy ballet sometimes (my choreographic work is usually post-modern / contemporary which is very different than ballet).
Sitting on an awards committee has been an eye-opening experience, especially around cultural equity. Historically BIPOC dance companies receive much less funding than white-led companies and most dance criticism is rooted in white supremacist models where excellence frequently correlates with how financially successful an artist is.
The show last night was attended by a mostly white audience and though the dance company had achieved some equity around casting and artistic collaborators, it was a mostly white affair produced by a white-led company, which is common in the ballet field.
So, the challenge as a committee member striving for equity is significant. The Artistic Director presented a beautiful choreographic premier where the dancers were finely rehearsed, the costumes were striking and the lighting was superb. These are things that we have come to expect from ballet companies. Still, I probably won't nominate the work for an award because this year Ive also seen many beautiful works by BIPOC artists that did not have access to many of those resources and I want to see them recognized.
This is of course unfair to the choreographer I saw last night. They had worked just a hard as many of the BIPOC artists but they will continue to have access to many resources. I think what I have learned is that awards are intrinsically inequitable, on many different levels. I think it's time to find a better model.