‘Nutcracker’ Dancers Spark Outrage After ‘Racist’ Dance Airs on TV

‘Nutcracker’ Dancers Spark Outrage After ‘Racist’ Dance Airs on TV
Bryan Ke
November 19, 2018
KSL-TV, an NBC-affiliated news network in Utah, is under fire for airing a segment with dancers from Odyssey Dance Theater attempting to look Chinese by “improvising” an insensitive gesture.
The incident happened on the morning of November 14 when the dancers appeared on KSL to tease an upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker.”
In the short clip, a group of Caucasian women dressed in Chinese silk dresses and Asian bamboo cone hats walked as they held their hands together in front of them while bobbing their heads side to side.
Some of them can be seen wearing makeup to make them look more Asian, as noted by Adweek’s TV Spy.
After seeing the insensitive gesture on TV, viewers immediately took to Twitter to express their disappointment with KSL and the dancers of Odyssey Dance Theater.
KSL issued an apology statement on Twitter: “This is from a series of reports KSL did profiling Odyssey Dance Theater’s Nutcracker performance. The women in costume are members of the theater’s cast. In showcasing their upcoming show, we certainly did not intend to offend and sincerely regret any hurt this segment caused.”
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Many were not pleased by the TV network’s apology:
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Michael Kwan, president of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, condemned the dancers’ gesture on the TV tease.
It’s offensive, because it perpetuates a false and hurtful stereotype of Asians, not just Chinese, but really all Asians,” Kwan said in a statement reported by ABC4. “I’ve been to China. I’ve grown up being Chinese, and I’ve never seen any Asian act that way and yet, and that’s how we seem to be portrayed.”
In a response, Odyssey Dance House co-founder and artistic director Derrel Yeager issued a statement to ABC4, saying: “In an effort to create an on camera experience for the KSL audience, Odyssey Dance Theatre’s dancers did a 5 second improvised tease on Wednesday morning with women in costume showcasing a Chinese number in their upcoming holiday production, ReduxNut-Cracker at Kingsbury Hall. This short segment is not part of the actual choreographed production, and we sincerely regret any hurt this segment caused and did not intend to offend.”
We are sorry that there were those that were offended — it certainly was not our intent,” Yeager said in another statement to The Salt Lake Tribune.
He continued to explain that the dancers “were not intentionally mocking the Asian culture but [were caught] somewhat off guard and left exposed in an improvisational moment. What appeared on the screen can certainly be thought of as inappropriate — but there was no malice or racial overtone intended. We apologize for that.”
It is still unclear if Odyssey is willing to make changes to their show which will run at the Odyssey Dance Theater from December 12-22.
The Chinese Dance itself – The Nutcracker has been performed since 1892 – and the variation segments of the ballet are intended to be celebrations and introductions to various amazing cultures from around the world,” Yeager said, according to AsAm News. “The Spanish, Arabian, Chinese and Russians dances are iconic. In our version we chose to represent the Asian culture as strong women who have martial arts abilities with a hip hop flair. NO ONE is making fun of Chinese in this dance! We are celebrating those things from the Asian culture that have been a part of their legacy for millennia.”
“The calls for taking the Chinese Dance out of the Nutcracker strikes at the very heart of the inclusive intent of the entire piece. If we remove the Chinese Dance – then we must also remove the Russian – the Arabian – the Spanish also – and then there is no longer a Nutcracker. To remove the Chinese Dance is to eliminate a huge and deserving culture from this production. We see our version in its full context as uplifting, empowering and clever. Certainly NOT the racist and bigoted piece it has been characterized as.”
Featured Image via YouTube / tuffmac
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