Author: Phil Chan
Who would have guessed that one short conversation with New York City Ballet Artistic Director Peter Martins would change the course of how we approach America’s favorite holiday ballet, and serve as a catalyst for changing how we talk about race in America? Phil Chan, arts advocate and co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, chronicles his journey navigating conversations around race, representation, and inclusion arising from issues in presenting one short dance — the Chinese variation from The Nutcracker.
Armed with new vocabulary, he recounts his process and pitfalls in advising Salt Lake City’s Ballet West on the presentation of a lost Balanchine work from 1925, Le Chant du Rossignol. Chan encounters orientalism, cultural appropriation, and yellowface, and witnesses firsthand the continuing evolution of an Old World aristocratic dance form in a New World democratic environment.
As a storyteller, Chan presents a mix of dance and Chinese American history, personal anecdotes, and best practices for any professional arts organization to use for navigating issues around race, while outlining an essential path American ballet must take in order for our beloved art form to stay alive for a growingly diverse 21st century audience.