The Rockettes Look Mostly White. So What?

In a classic cheap shot, race-baiting, virtue-signaling feature that is now standard fare in the mainstream news media, the New York Times implied that the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes are racist. The article, headlined in the print edition “Where All Your Christmases Are White.” included a cutline, “At the Rockettes holiday show I saw, there were more camels onstage than black women.” That made me read the article. I wasn’t aware that the EEOC had a camel/black woman percentage requirement. You learn something every day.

After pointing a bony finger and whispering “racist,” the author does note that while only one of the 40 dancers in the performance she saw appeared to be black, this was something of a deceptive proportion. “Among the 80 dancers who make up the Rockettes corps, 10 percent are women of color, a spokeswoman for the company told me; you are only seeing half the cast during any given show because there are so many performances to fill — on weekends, up to six a day,” Ginia Bellafante writes. Ah. So if she saw the other troupe of 40, there would have been seven black dancers. (OK,  “dancers of color,” whatever THAT means.) Not only would seven have outnumbered the camels,  it would make a percentage of  17.5.  12.3% of the population is black. Tell me what the point of this feature is again, New York Times?

Ginia also hints that the problem may be that the kickline looks too white. ” [A]ny variance in skin tone is obscured by lighting and makeup that have the effect of creating a stultifying homogeneity, which is the point and amounts, ultimately, to an eerie celebration of whiteness,” she writes. You know, I’ve seen the Rockettes many times, not that I don’t find kick-lines boring or have a single vivid memory of a performance. I never sat there, watching these impossibly tall, long-legged women kick over their heads, and spent my time counting how many of the looked white, or thought of the performance as having anything to do with race at all. Doing so would be like watching an exciting NBA game, where about 75% of the players are black, and think of it as  “an eerie celebration of blackness.” As they say, Ginia, if the only one hearing the dog-whistle is you, you’re the dog.

Never mind, though. Despite the fact that she has no case, Ginia persists. She finds something sinister in the fact that the idea behind the Rockettes was to have “the most precise and uniform dance troupe in the world,” and to that end the organization “imposed height requirements for the women in the line, insisting, as well, that they have experience in three distinct dance styles: ballet, jazz and tap. These expectations have continued unabated.” The Horror. Having cast kicklines and precision choruses, I can attest that all professional dance and theater companies attempt to have uniform heights and body types in the line, because otherwise, it looks lousy. This isn’t nascent racism, it’s called competence. Do these requirements, and they are reasonable ones if exacting, tend to handicap aspiring black Rockettes? Sure: for one thing, 80% of black women in the US are obese, as opposed to about 60% of white women. Then there’s the fact, probably explained by genes and diet, that the average height of black women is 5’3, while the average height of white women is about three inches more. Finally, for socioeconomic and cultural reasons, a much higher percentage of white girls take ballet lessons. Ginia could have done a similar race-baiting hit job on any major ballet company in the country.

For emphasis, the article points out that the Rockettes founder, who was born in 1899, was racially biased, like approximately every white citizen born in 1899. What Gina didn’t reveal is the percentage of “dancers of color” that audition for the troupe, though that figure could have been easily obtained. She doesn’t, I suspect, because it would show no present day discrimination whatsoever. If a black dancer shows up with the skills, height and build to be a Rockette, I’d be shocked if the management doesn’t rush to employ her just to shut up people like Ginia Bellefante. It is true that the Rockettes didn’t have a single black member until 1987, with its director arguing before that skin-tone variations “spoiled the effect.” It is also true that this is 31 years later. Ginia missed her chance, but to be fair, she was only a baby then.

The management of Radio City Music Hall told the Times that that it was “building a strong and diverse dance education program to help grow an inclusive pipeline of future Rockettes.” That is just about all they can do to increase the chances of more “dancers of color” making the squad, unless they get mau-maued into lowering their standards so as to keep the “woke” audience members who care about EEOC counts more than entertainment quality happy.

Or they could use fewer camels…

25 thoughts on “The Rockettes Look Mostly White. So What?

  1. Shouldn’t they hire the best dancers they can for the remuneration offered? Not the least bit interested in their races or camel ratio.

    Used to love ‘In Living Color’ and the Fly Girls routines. Believe they were always a majority women of color group throughout that show’s run. Didn’t care about that either. No camels anywhere to my recollection.

    At some point you have to wonder how mentally ill and inappropriately racially focused these people are.

    Bring on the dancing camels!

  2. I count 2 black dancers in the 18 in your photo. That means that means just over 20% are black. That’s a bit above the national proportion, isn’t it?

    Here’s an idea that would make it really fair (though a lousy show). Follow the 25-year-old trend of the airlines, and make height, weight, attractiveness, even gender immaterial as qualifiers for the job of Rockette. Now that would be a kick-line I’d go to see!

    Sorry, theater is theater, dance is dance. Art is art. We should take all the art of the Old Masters out of museums because they painted white people? Now that would really enrich our culture. And by all means, let’s not watch a show, let’s count the number of minorities on stage instead. The Rockettes do not have to engage in non-traditional casting for PC purposes: they have one job to do and they do it.

    Don’t people have better ways to spend their time, vent their anger at the world? For God’s sake: get a life! And if you work for the NY Times find some real news to report.

    • I think that the proportion is closer to 10% than 20% in this photo. From the article, it sounds like close to 13% of the whole troupe are “non-white” –

  3. “Mau-maued?” Jack, Jack, Jack, when ARE you going to learn.

    By the way, a retired rockette lived in the first floor of my and my wife’s triple decker in Saugus, Mass. She wasn’t particularly tall. Five three or five five, as I recall. Definitely shorter than my five seven wife. Which I found surprising. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the height and uniformity is achieved with shoes and costuming and make-up and lighting. Who knows what magic can be done in theaters.

    Were there any article in the NYT about the cast of “Hamilton” not being sufficiently white or about it’s book being insufficiently Jewish in terms of its composers?

  4. This is about one thing only: the NYT writer wants attention. (Explain to me why anyone trusts or reads the NYT again?)

    I would not line my bird cage with the NYT: it is not fit for a parrot to shit upon.

  5. And I bet the camel did not even have to audition but have to work every show where’s PETA! For God’s sake there is real problems out there and this person writes about this?

  6. Some favorites:

    “Dead Puppies” (are no fun)
    “They’re coming to take me away”
    “Cause I’M a Blond”
    “Wet Dream”
    “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”
    “Beep Beep”
    “Star Trekkin” (Boldly going forward ’cause we can’t find reverse!)
    “Ti Kwan Leep/Boot to the Head” (this one my kid’s favorite)
    “Fish Heads”

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