Tuesday Open Thread | Black Dancers Week : Janet Collins

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Who Was the 1st Black Prima Ballerina at the Met?
They Did It First: An extraordinarily gifted dancer, Janet Collins was a groundbreaking artist of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, who dazzled Broadway and made history on the Metropolitan Opera stage.

Posted: April 20 2015 3:00 AM

Who was the first black prima ballerina at the Met?

“It is opening night at the Metropolitan Opera—the gala performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. It is the first time in the history of the venerable opera house that it has a black artist on its roster. Let me tell you, my friend, I am just as surprised as anyone else.” It was 1951, and Janet Collins, the author of these words, was that black artist, to this day the first and only full-time African-American prima ballerina ever hired by the Met. Her talent always set her apart in the world of ballet. So did her skin color.

Born in New Orleans in 1917, Collins relocated with her family to Los Angeles in 1921, her parents assuming that the West would afford African Americans opportunities that the Deep South could not. But discrimination wasn’t regional, and ballet, even for beginners, was a whites-only endeavor, with dance schools denying admission to students of color. At 15, Collins received good news that soured quickly: She was accepted into the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, on one devastating condition: that she paint and powder her black skin white. She refused. “I thought talent mattered, not color,” she recalled.

A trained painter, Collins was a Works Progress Administration artist during the 1930s. Yet she continued to dance, an arresting figure on the Los Angeles stage and screen throughout the ’40s. “Her grace matchless,” wrote a critic, she approached any style—modern, vaudeville, Latin—with mastery.

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She danced in the companies of the white innovator Lester Horton and the groundbreaking African-American choreographer Katherine Dunham, known for her African, Caribbean and classical pastiches. Collins’ own work, for which she created the choreography and costumes, incorporated influences from sources as diverse as Creole rhythms, Negro spirituals and Mozart.

In 1949 the 32-year-old Collins headed east to New York. She was a sensation with white critics, winning the Donaldson Award (essentially the forerunner to the Tonys) for Best Dancer for her first starring role on Broadway, in Cole Porter’s 1950 musical Out of This World. Black critics were equally taken with her, and the Committee for the Negro in the Arts honored her “for outstanding contributions as an artist to the cultural life of the United States and to the struggles of the Negro people and their artists for full equality and freedom.”

For a time it seemed that Collins’ struggle had abated. A New York critic wrote: “She could, and probably would, stop a Broadway show in its tracks.” She certainly stopped Zachary Solov, the Metropolitan Opera’s choreographer, in his. Following Collins’ historic hiring in 1951, she had a three-year run at the Met, Aida followed by Carmen and La Gioconda in 1952 and Samson and Delilah in 1953.


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The Met was good to her. Her dressing room was on the same floor as the other stars’—a show of equality not typical of the time. But tours were plagued by racism, and sometimes she stayed behind entirely. In the South, dining and lodging facilities were segregated, and Collins’ parts went to understudies because black and white performers couldn’t share a stage. Explaining in later years that she was “not spiritually fulfilled on the stage,” Collins resigned in 1954. (In 1963 Dunham followed in the footsteps of her former dancer, becoming the first African American to choreograph at the Met, with a new version of Aida.)

After her retirement, Collins made significant contributions to deaf education, pioneering methods of teaching dance to deaf students in the Bronx. She continued to choreograph and tour on her own until the early ’70s, ultimately abandoning the stage for painting. She died in 2003.

Janet Collins recognized the uniqueness of her role in 20th-century dance history. In ballet, she said, “There were no African-American dancers when I was growing up.” With few exceptions, the same is true today. Indeed, the image of the ballerina has changed little since Collins transcended the Met’s color line.

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ca. 1950 --- Janet Collins, dancer, in arabesque from a production of Cole Porter's musical . --- Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS

ca. 1950 — Janet Collins, dancer, in arabesque from a production of Cole Porter’s musical . — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS

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Netflix has for streaming: Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story, a mostly animated documentary about the life of Janet Collins.

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64 Responses to Tuesday Open Thread | Black Dancers Week : Janet Collins

  1. rikyrah says:

    Less than 24 hours after Ahmed Mohamed met President Obama, his family decided it’s time to leave America for good.

    The 14-year-old Texas boy who was arrested for bringing to school a homemade clock that authorities said resembled a bomb will soon be living in Qatar.

    “After careful consideration of all the generous offers received, we would like to announce that we have accepted a kind offer from Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) for Ahmed to join the prestigious QF Young Innovators Program, which reflects the organization’s on-going dedication to empowering young people and fostering a culture of innovation and creativity,” the family said in a press release Tuesday.

    He was among 300 visitors to “Astronomy Night,” a celebration of science and learning. Bill Nye the Science Guy was there, along with a number of standout students who have been recognized for scientific achievements throughout the country. Though some of those students received shoutouts during President Obama’s comments, there was no mention of Ahmed in the audience. That didn’t stop reporters from shouting to him from behind the rope lines: “Ahmed! How are you feeling?”

    Perhaps that’s the question that has been left out of the viral hubbub: what has this been like for Ahmed? To go from a run-of-the-mill 14-year-old to an international symbol for stereotyping in America?

    In a phone interview on Tuesday, Ahmed’s 19-year-old sister Eyman said he’s under a pressure they never imagined. It can be a good pressure: “It’s like now he’s motivated to work harder than every before,” she said. “Because people are going to be waiting to see what happened to that 14 year old kid.”

    And a bad one: “It’s been really hard. Everything happens for a reason, but there’s so much stuff being said that isn’t true…”

    Eyman was referring to a number of conspiracy theories that appeared on the Internet about his arrest. Most attest that the incident was a pre-planned plot to get attention. Some of that skepticism stems from claims against Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan, who has run for president of Sudan and was present during a high-profile Quaran burning in Florida. Bond, the family friend, said the conspiracies are why Ahmed doesn’t want to go to school in America.

    “Everybody’s vilifying him, and he’s not a villain. He’s a 14 year old boy,” Bond said. “The whole world was concerned about this, and it’s impossible that anyone could have expected this international reaction.”

    Bond said the family is planning to move next week so Ahmed can begin school at the Qatar Foundation, where he will receive a full scholarship. His parents and two sisters will relocate too. The press release announcing the move may be the last we hear from the family for a while.

    It included one statement from Ahmed:

    “I loved the city of Doha because it’s so modern. I saw so many amazing schools there, many of them campuses of famous American universities. The teachers were great. I think I will learn a lot and have fun too.”

    Ahmed’s sister Eyman said the Middle East won’t feel too different from the U.S., except that the family will be surrounded by Muslims like themselves.

    “Qatar is in the Arab world, but it also feels like Texas. It’s like Texas in Qatar.”


  2. rikyrah says:

    PragmaticObotsUnite @PragObots
    Only in the U.S. media is a foreign white family better than the American Black First Family. https://twitter.com/gabbilevy/status/656296517242892289

  3. rikyrah says:

    PragmaticObotsUnite @PragObots
    #BlackLivesMatter Activists Call Out DNC, Demand #BlackLivesMatter-Focused Debate http://www.mediaite.com/online/blacklivesmatter-activists-call-out-dnc-demand-blacklivesmatter-focused-debate/
    #BlackLivesMatter Activists Call Out DNC, Demand #BlackLivesMatter-Focused Debate
    The official website for the #BlackLivesMatter movement today features a petition demanding that the Democratic National Committee organize another debate to focus on the issues they care about.

    Mediaite @Mediaite

  4. Oh Lord, It’s so clear. I’m going to have to block some people on Twitter. I’m not going to put up with the stress. I need them to stay the hell away from me.

  5. rikyrah says:

    Tom Hilton‏@TVHilton

    BREAKING: Leaked memo shows Jeb!’s campaign advisors warned him in May, “Trump determined to strike in GOP primaries.”

  6. rikyrah says:


    Rep. Trey Gowdy, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, is financially connected to a Super PAC that ran an ad on the Benghazi attack that has been condemned by the family of slain ambassador Chris Stevens.

    The Washington Post uncovered the ties between Rep. Gowdy and Stop Hillary PAC:

    On Friday, Gowdy’s campaign returned three donations after The Washington Post inquired about links to a political action committee that aired a controversial ad about the Benghazi attacks during last week’s Democratic presidential debate.

    The PAC’s treasurer, Dan Backer, previously served as treasurer of a now-defunct fundraising committee affiliated with Gowdy. He is the treasurer of three other PACs — the Conservative Action Fund, the Special Operations Speaks PAC and the Tea Party Leadership Fund — that each donated $2,000 to Gowdy’s campaign on the same day in May.

    The paper also found that Stop Hillary PAC spent $10,000 on automated phone calls defending and promoting Gowdy.

    In the ad, Stop Hillary PAC showed images of the four Americans killed in the assault – Ambassador Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith – and accuses Sec. Clinton of having a role in not preventing the attack, and somehow covering up in the aftermath of the assault.

    Ambassador Stevens’ mother Mary Commanday blasted the ad, telling the Washington Post, “I think it’s a terrible idea and if I could sue him I would.” Glen Doherty’s mother, Barbara, also hated the attack ad: “It’s horrifying. I am so upset they’d have my son talking from the grave, saying don’t vote for this person. He wasn’t political. He would never have done something like this.”

  7. rikyrah says:

    from POU:


    I think the reason why Hillary and her people are having such a visceral effect on some (especially Black women) is because we have had to deal with girls/women like that our entire lives…at school, on the job, sometimes even in the neighborhood. They sweet talk and bat their eyelashes to get what they want, but if that doesn’t work then they stamp, pout, cry, and engage in passive-aggressive manipulation and bullying. In most cases we just suck it up and deal with it because we don’t have a choice, but this is not one of those times. So much of the push back is coming from a place where we’re saying I have to deal with your types every day using sweetness and sugar to screw me over, but guess what? Not you and not today!

    It’s Becky/Miss Ann/Miss Millie politicking at its worst and folks ain’t having it in 2015/16.

  8. rikyrah says:

    UH HUH

    UH HUH


    Virginia: Glen Allen HS apologizing after racist song plays at football game
    Oct 20, 2015 9:08 AM EDT

    HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Henrico County Public schools administrators are now investigating after a racially explicit song was played at the homecoming football game on Friday against Richmond’s John Marshall High School, which is predominantly African American.

    It happened as Glen Allen and John Marshal’s varsity football teams were warming up for homecoming. It’s implied the song was talking about the African American community. The lyric captured on video says, “I hate f*cking n****rs / n****rs suck d*ck,” one lyric says. “Look at n****rs trying to raise money / But they can’t ’cause they spend all their money / They’re n****rs and they’re so f*cking n****rs / I hate them.”

    The racially explicit song is a parody of the cartoon DuckTales’ theme song. The song aired on a comedy talk radio show, The Red Bar Radio Show, and was posted to YouTube.

    Lucas Harris, a former John Marshall football player who is now in college, started recording. “At first, I was wondering if I hear that right,” he said. “We were all very offended, all very surprised.” Harris said John Marshall coaches reacted quickly to calm players. “Really, that just ignited us,” Harris said. “Gave us motivation to go out there and win, and we played our best game of the year. We really came


  9. rikyrah says:

    from POU:

    Pretty much.

    On the whole I am REALLY getting sick of this we have to circle the wagons around Hillary bullshit. It is unrelenting.

    If this was April/May and she was rolling through all the primaries then yeah, there’s a valid argument to be had. But the voting hasn’t even started yet and the bullying, browbeating, and emotional blackmail are in full force. Somebody on twitter nailed it last night when they said this is like a form of voter suppression.

    I’ve been holding my tongue on social media about this for the most part, but I’ve had it. Folks will be getting cussed out with the quickness if they come at me with it.

  10. rikyrah says:


    Mario Yoshi

    To hell with the Dem establishment. Fuck them all.

    Let’s just look past that terrible policing [3-strike] bill signed into law, but lets jump on Obama for killing terrorists in third world countries & preventing 9/11 level attacks…

    Lets just look past Clinton’s anti-gay policies, but lets discredit Obama for overturning those polices & showing support for the Gay community unlike anyone before him & widening the Dem base for years to come….

    Let’s just past Bill’s terrible trade policy [NAFTA] that benefited no one, but lets vilify Obama’s improvements of the policy & ignore the impact it would have on areas across the country that depend on strong trade policies & that includes urban communities……

    Let’s look past Bill’s inability to keep his pants on leading a country, but lets keep a tab on Obama smoking & golfing habits, his Blackness, his wife’s attire, body shape, religion, parenting skills, etc. while dismissing all that his administration has accomplished during tough odds…..

    Let’s just “fall in line” like happy negroes since holding the Clintons accountable on anything isn’t cool & apparently as Black people we somehow “owe” them something that ironically none of their supporters can articulate what exactly that is.
    Once again, fuck them all.

    • roderick2012 says:

      This phuckery occurred a few miles north of where l live and I still believe that Cory never got out of his vehicle and this numbnuts walked up to Cory’s vehicle and shot Cory while he was still sitting in his vehicle.

      These fools held a press conference on Tuesday and the only thing they said was that Corey purchased a gun three days before the shooting. All they were doing was setting up the narrative that Cory pulled a gun on the officer which doesn’t make sense since he had already called for a tow truck.

      I guess they believe the general public is as dumb as they are and can’t see through their attempt to weave together a false narrative to save their fellow officer.

      Even at three in the morning even Stevie Wonder can tell the difference between a car and a tow truck and why the hell would Corey leave the safety of his vehicle and ‘confront’ a stranger–basically they are turning Corey into a robber/THUG!!!

      The damn liars didn’t notify Cory’s family until over twelve hours after the shooting and the family doesn’t know where Cory’s body or vehicle are.

      They are too busy taking Cory’s vehicle apart because his blood is inside it.

      Don’t be surprised if Cory’s body is ‘accidentally’ cremated.

  11. rikyrah says:

    DALAYYYY @TheToast2015
    The loudest black people telling other black people to buck up at whites never buck up @ whites when it’s their turn. It’s always YASS MASSA

  12. Hey Chicas! I am ticked this morning at Jim Clyburn telling a sitting VP to wait until he’s needed. How dare him! This makes me sick. Like Hillary owns the black vote? Democrats are their own worse damn enemy.

    Key Democrat’s Advice For Biden: Don’t Run


    • rikyrah says:

      THEY NEED to go somewhere and sit down.

      How come she gotta have a coronation?

    • Liza says:

      The Democrats know that Biden will take voters away from Hillary more so than Sanders who owns the white “progressive” voters. Biden would make the race competitive and that’s the last thing that the Democrats want. They want Hillary unblemished up until the nomination as though the past is just forgotten because they believe that none of us have brains. Or the thinkers among us are few, not enough to make a difference.

      I hate this election.

  13. rikyrah says:

    Ryan’s confidants tell CBS News he will not horse trade with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 40 or so deeply conservative members who have been demanding changes to House rules and other very specific promises from candidates for Speaker in exchange for their support. Ryan’s confidants say he is not going to negotiate for a job he never sought, and that he has a record of conservative leadership that should be clear to every member of the GOP conference.

    They say Ryan hasn’t ruled out meeting with the House Freedom Caucus if asked, but “he’s not going to go to the Freedom Caucus and say, ‘I’ll do this and this’…otherwise you’ve sold yourself to them from the very beginning, and set yourself up for failure” said someone with knowledge of his deliberations.’ “He still really, really does not want to do this. He has his dream job. If he’s Speaker, his whole career path changes. He’s not going to make concessions to get a job he didn’t want in the first place.”

    Either members believe in his conservative leadership, or they don’t – and if Ryan concludes that he’s unlikely to get a near-unanimous vote of support from republicans, his allies say he is happy to stay exactly where he is as the chair of the House Ways and Means committee.


  14. rikyrah says:

    By/ Rebecca Shabad/ CBS News/ October 15, 2015, 6:00 AM

    What conservatives want from the next speaker of the House

    Key conservatives in the House are warning potential candidates for speaker not to expect their support unless they commit to giving them more power in the legislative process.

    Members of the House Freedom Caucus — many of whom were elected to Congress during the 2010 Tea Party wave — want to decentralize power in the GOP leadership circle so that conservatives have a better shot at influencing policy and process.

    They only make up roughly 40 Republicans out of the lower chamber’s 247, but they have the power to throw up more roadblocks if they don’t coalesce around the next leading candidate for speaker.

    While they haven’t issued an official ultimatum as a group, a number of conservatives say they want the next speaker to protect members from being punished if they disobey leadership and allow a more open process for bringing bills and amendments to the floor.


  15. rikyrah says:

    tee hee hee


    The Establishment Thinks the Unthinkable: Trump Could Win the Nomination

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425750/gop-establishment-thinks-trump-could-win

    • Liza says:

      I was thinking about this yesterday after looking at the latest polls. Trump is holding the lead for much longer than I expected. I believed this circus act would run it’s course, but no matter what he does or says he stays on top. This has lasted so long that Trump himself probably believes he is the likely candidate regardless of what his intentions were at the outset, and I don’t know what those were, but I suspect he could win this. Primaries are not really that far off.

      • rikyrah says:

        No, Liza, they are not that far off. I don’t count out the GOP Establishment, simply because they always win. But, everyday that Trump is in is a good thing for Democrats.

  16. rikyrah says:

    Latest polls cause GOP establishment to think the unthinkable
    10/20/15 08:00 AM
    By Steve Benen
    For three months, we’ve all heard all kinds of assumptions about Donald Trump’s Republican presidential campaign. He’d peaked. His act had worn thin. His lead was simply unsustainable.

    THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, 10/19/15, 10:43 PM ET
    Donald Trump solidifies Republican primary lead in latest polls

    And yet, the latest polling continues to speak for itself. Consider the results of the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, released last night.

    1. Donald Trump: 25% (up four points from September)
    2. Ben Carson: 22% (up two points)
    3. Marco Rubio: 13% (up two points)
    4. Ted Cruz: 9% (up four points)
    5. Jeb Bush: 8% (up one point)
    6. Carly Fiorina: 7% (down four points)

    The remaining candidates are at 3% or lower, including Chris Christie, who has seen his support steadily drop in recent months, falling to just 1% in this poll. Trump’s 25% showing, meanwhile, represents the strongest support any GOP candidate has in any NBC/WSJ poll this year.

    A new CNN poll offers similar results:

    1. Donald Trump: 27% (up three points from September)
    2. Ben Carson: 22% (up eight points)
    3. Jeb Bush: 8% (down one point)
    3. Marco Rubio: 8% (down three points)


  17. rikyrah says:

    lest I remind you…he’s called ‘ the Smart One’.


    Jeb Bush: Bill Clinton Made ‘Mistake’ In Approach To Osama Bin Laden

    Published OCTOBER 20, 2015, 7:17 AM EDT

    After repeatedly defending his brother, President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) took an opportunity on Monday night to criticize how former President Bill Clinton addressed Osama bin Laden and the threat posed by al Qaeda.

    On Fox News Monday night, Sean Hannity played an audio clip for Bush in which Clinton discussed that the U.S. could not take bin Laden when he was released by the Sudanese government in 1996 because bin Laden had not committed a crime against America, although he had made his intentions known.

    Hannity said that the Sudanese “offered Bin Laden on a silver platter.” As the Washington Post noted, the commission formed to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks could not confirm that the Sudanese offered bin Laden to the U.S. government.


  18. rikyrah says:

    Wilmore: If We Blame Obama For Benghazi, We Have To Blame Bush For 9/11 (VIDEO)
    Published OCTOBER 20, 2015, 7:49 AM EDT

    Following the dueling jabs between Republican presidential candidates about who was really to blame for 9/11, Larry Wilmore said on Monday’s episode of “The Nightly Show” that it’s time we start examining our presidential system of blame.

    “What he did afterward is the only thing that matters. Afghanistan, Iraq, PATRIOT Act, Gitmo, waterboarding,” Wilmore said. “Bush basically created the first five seasons of ’24’!”


  19. rikyrah says:

    States that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are now paying the price, literally.

    A new Kaiser Family Foundation report released last week suggests that the Republican-controlled non-expansion states are seeing their share of Medicaid costs rise more sharply than expansion states.

    The trend undercuts a popular argument against the Medicaid expansion in states where Republican leaders continue to resist opting into the program, under which the federal government pays 100 percent of costs through 2016 and at least 90 percent share after.

    “We did see a higher growth rate of what states spent of their own dollars on Medicaid in the in non-expansion states than we did in the expansion states” said Laura Snyder, a senior policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report found that total spending in expansion states grew by 17.7 percent, but the state spending only grew by 3.4 percent. Meanwhile, state spending on Medicaid in non-expansion states increased by 6.9 percent as total spending rose by 6.1 percent.


  20. rikyrah says:

    I still don’t think he’ll win, but I want him to stick around for as long as possible in the GOP field.


    Donald Trump solidifies Republican primary lead in latest polls
    Rachel Maddow looks back at how frequently the lead in the 2012 Republican primary changed hands, but notes that the 2016 race is following a different course and Donald Trump’s lead has been so consistent that political observers are beginning to believe.


  21. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone :)

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