Bringing Down The Curtain On Yellowface : 1A It wouldn't be Christmas without "The Nutcracker." But would it be "The Nutcracker" without yellowface?

Some ballet companies have made changes to the ballet in recent years, updating the choreography, costuming and makeup to eliminate Asian stereotypes or caricatures. How should we present classic ballets and musicals with offensive or racist caricatures to today's diverse audiences?

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Bringing Down The Curtain On Yellowface

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Bringing Down The Curtain On Yellowface

1A

Bringing Down The Curtain On Yellowface

Bringing Down The Curtain On Yellowface

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San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Nutcracker. Erik Tomasson hide caption

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Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Nutcracker.

Erik Tomasson

It wouldn't be Christmas without "The Nutcracker." But would it be "The Nutcracker" without this? It's a scene from the ballet called the Tea Dance, where dancers play Chinese characters, make jerky, exoticized movements and wear exaggerated, racialized costumes.

Jennifer Fisher wrote in The L.A. Times:

Ballet people will argue that all of these elements in "The Nutcracker" are just tradition, that no insult is intended. But in 2018, no one should be able to plead ignorance of stereotyping's dangers. During my "Nutcracker" research in dozens of backstage conversations, I ran into effervescent young ballet girls, most of them white, who dutifully told me that the Chinese Dance helped them "learn about other cultures." What I saw them learning was how to flatten anyone of Asian descent into a cartoon.

Some ballet companies — like Ballet West, based out of Salt Lake City — have been making changes in recent years. They've updated the choreography, costuming and makeup to eliminate Asian stereotypes or caricatures that some call "yellowface." It's part of a broader effort to re-examine how people of color are portrayed in the performing arts.

How should we present classic ballets and musicals with offensive or racist caricatures to today's diverse audiences?