By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with reaction from the dance company.)
KSL TV in Salt Lake City has apologized to its viewers after many reacted with outrage to a tease showing a group of White dancers dressed in silk dresses and conical hats and making what one columnist called “exagerated gestures” to appear to be Chinese. The Odyssey Dance Company, which appeared on the segment, stands by what it did.
Viewers vented on Twitter about the segment.
I am so embarrassed to be from Utah watching this. Rather than just reply, I really think you need to address this on your own Twitter and on air. Are you guys really this ignorant, @KSLcom ???
— Lisa H (@midori711c) November 15, 2018
— Xocoyoti (@ChavezGeist) November 16, 2018
@KSLcom Can I please implore you to do better. Maybe in addition to the apology you could do a short share on your social media Thank you and now let’s educate and spread holiday cheer that is inclusive. #rogueballerina https://t.co/K5Yf5nAulR
— Georgina Pazcoguin (@GPazcoguin) November 16, 2018
KSL, which is run by the Mormon Church, apologized for its segment.
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.
— KSL (@KSLcom) November 15, 2018
The Odyssey Dance Company told AsAmNews they were only given five second warning of the tease.
“They were not intentionally mocking the Asian culture – but somewhat caught off guard and left exposed in an improvisational moment,” said Derryl Yeager, founder and artistic director. “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.”
According to Odyssey, representatives of the Asian American community in Utah have request a meeting with Odyssey.
“We are in the process of confirming. We are interested and anxious to her the knowledge of those involved on misinformed cultureal stereotypes and to adapt our works to accommodate current sensibilities.”
Here is a brief clip posted by a rival station in Salt Lake City of the actual incident on KSL.
A promotional video on You Tube of the Redux Nut-Cracker, includes the scene that sparked the controversy on KSL, and remains on Odyssey’s website.
Some were not impressed with KSL’s apology.
I’m a little surprised that the apology didn’t go something like “oh me soso sorly, oh me so horny, me love you long time.” Frankly apologies means nothing without change. #givemeabreak #culturalappropriation #WhitePeople
— Thomas (@TomSQUARE_) November 16, 2018
why do people always act like they didn’t know their racist caricature was offensive? don’t care if it was for the nutcracker, this is ignorant as hell. cultural awareness is more important than sticking to outdated costumes and choreography
— i invented grapes (@Flapjackhero) November 15, 2018
Yeah this is a little late..
— MellyMed? (@mel_med_larson) November 16, 2018
While Odyssey says it has agreed to meet with members of the Asian American community , it remains unclear if its willing to make changes to their show.
“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,” said Yeager. “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.”
The Odyssey Dance Theater’s Redux Nut-Cracker runs December 12- 22.
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RE: TV Station Apologizes for Yellowface Dancers: What are they teaching these people in school? The negative of black face and yellow face is all over the internet. What is wrong with people? Why?? *face palm.
RE: TV Stations Apologizes for Yellowface Dancers. Dance Company Won’t Make Changes: I’m going to partially defend them by saying this. They have no idea what they are doing. This orientalist dance has probably been passed down by generations of teachers. It’s not based on any country any more than a dance based on the Arabian nights has anything to do with Baghdad or Iraq. Also you can’t afford a set of dancers for one short number you have to use the regular dancers, and what sort of ballet dancers are you going to find in Utah?
The coolie hat in the world of the Nutcracker is not a surprise. It’s the dream of a girl in 19th century Russia of her dolls. On the other hand there are plenty of examples of a more realistic and culturally accurate dance on YouTube . These dancers keep leaving me flyers when I go to the mall. Time to update .