After days spent rallying against "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer's flippant comments about boys doing ballet, the dance world triumphed on Monday. Not only did Spencer issue a lengthy on-air apology, complete with an interview with Robbie Fairchild, Travis Wall and Fabrice Calmels, but over 300 dancers gathered outside of the "GMA" studios for an impromptu ballet class.
The dance field seemed geared to press forward with positivity; a change.org petition urging "GMA" to cover the benefits of ballet for young men has gathered over 40,000 signatures, and many are examining the ways in which the #boysdancetoo movement can be made more inclusive. This made it all the more disheartening to open Instagram this morning and see that Fox News commentators Raymond Arroyo and Laura Ingraham took the bullying a step further last night, mocking Spencer's apology on a program called "The Ingraham Angle."
The segment starts with a "GMA" clip from Spencer's apology to Fairchild, Wall and Calmels. Arroyo jumps in, saying,
Can you believe this? This is what politicians do when they offend an ethnic group.
Arroyo and Ingraham both go on to say that they briefly took ballet; Ingraham says she took one class and got kicked out. Arroyo adds,
People harass you if you walk around in tights, they're going to harass you. It's not exactly, you know, an exemplar of a male...This ended, by the way, with 300 dancers, mostly boys, doing a class in Times Square.
Here, the show plays a clip from Alex Wong's Instagram account of the class doing port de bras. Ingraham interjects, saying,
They look like tai chi people.
I hope she offends a mechanic next, so the boys know how to change the oil in a car.
Ingraham says that they have to move on, spurring Arroyo to turn to her in a bow with his hands in a prayer position, saying "Apologies" (an exact imitation of Calmel's movement from the initial clip). Ingraham, of course, laughs.
Spencer's initial comments struck such a deep nerve in people because they boiled down to bullying. Ingraham and Arroyo's response goes far beyond that.
First of all, Arroyo seems to condone harassment of male dancers. (Note his use of words; harass is far harsher than bully.) And while Spencer used innuendo to hint at the fact that ballet is not masculine, Arroyo says it straight out, that it's not an "exemplar of a male."
The commentators also detour into racism. In comparing Spencer's apology to a politician apologizing to an ethnic group, Arroyo is saying that he finds that practice laughable as well. But the most blatant example is Ingraham's comment that the ballet class looks like "tai chi people." While a comparison between ballet port de bras and tai chi could be an interesting topic for another time, with her phrasing, Ingraham manages to belittle Chinese culture, the ancient movement form of tai chi, ballet and the celebrated male dancers leading the class, all in one fell swoop.
While it's hard not to be wildly angry that this sort of hateful, ignorant rhetoric is appearing on national television, Fairchild's Instagram caption from earlier today is a reminder that the attention this story is getting is ultimately a win for ballet. "We riled those folks up @foxnews pretty good," he wrote. Fairchild later removed the post, writing in his Instagram story that it "felt gross and dirty after all the beauty and love from earlier this week" to repost the video clip. "Life's too short to bother with people who think apologies, forgiveness, and ballet are stupid," he writes, "Onward and upward."
And it's true; since last week, millions of people have taken to social media in response, and dozens of media outlets have provided coverage. (Even a Fox Business story says that despite the controversy, ballet has led to lucrative careers for several male dancers, going on to list Baryshnikov, Nureyev and Benjamin Millepied, a paltry attempt to delegitimize the issues at hand.) Dance Magazine's initial story on the controversy has quickly risen to our most read story of all time.
This issue is catapulting a conversation about ballet onto a national platform. We have faith that the dance world will continue to respond gracefully, and that this is only the start of much more discourse to come.