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Arts in the News: Ballet World’s Bullying Problem, World’s Longest Piano and more.

The Ballet World’s Bullying Problem

The forthcoming memoir of ballet phenom David Hallberg has helped to put the bullying problem in the ballet world back at center stage. In “A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back,” the American Ballet Theatre principal dancer describes the double-edged sword of ballet: his joy at discovering it and the misery of being bullied for it. Called names and bullied relentlessly by boys at school, Hallberg eventually found refuge at a performing arts high school, where his love of dance was normal. The statistics on boys, ballet, and bullying are staggering: dance sociologist Doug Risner found that 93 percent of boys in ballet reported being teased and name-called, 68 percent reported verbal and physical harassment, and 11 percent were the victims of physical harm–all because they were simply boys who did ballet. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Risner explained that the numbers in the ballet world dwarf those in the general population: “If this were not the arts, it would be considered a child health crisis.” Filmmaker Scott Gormley was inspired by watching his own son suffer such bullying, and subsequently created a full-length documentary film, “Danseur,” to highlight the experiences of bullying in the ballet world. Many point to internalized homophobia and a commitment to rigid gender norms in the ballet world–despite the fact that approximately half of men in ballet identify as gay or bisexual. For more on this troubling epidemic and the different ways experts recommend students, teachers, and others in the ballet world can help, read on <HERE>.

A Look at One of the World’s Longest Pianos

Most piano students learn to play on a keyboard, an upright, or a standard piano. But the piano world includes instruments of a much greater size–including the 5.7 meters long piano (one of the world’s longest) that recently found a home in the deep south of New Zealand. Built by Adriann Mann when he was a high school student, the “Alexander piano” had to be moved by the fire brigade to its new home. Mann, now 28 and working as a full-time piano builder, reports that the instrument sounds very different from normal pianos, with a deeper bass and depth resulting from its extraordinary length: “It was a gigantic experiment. If you think of a typical concert piano, of course, they sound amazing. But with this piano, there is an extra level of depth and resonance again because the piano wires are more than 20 feet long,” he explains. The piano has been played by some of New Zealand’s best concert pianists and was once even installed in the Otago Museum foyer in the hope Elton John would play it when he gave a concert in Dunedin. Mann reports that visiting pianists are often surprised at the piano’s capacity to handle subtler passages and softer notes. The Alexander piano will now remain permanently in Mann’s workshop, where he hopes curious pianists from around the world will visit and play it. If you’re ever in New Zealand, consider dropping by– Mann reports: “I haven’t had a negative reaction yet.”

Pianist Dies Doing What He Loves

Celebrated Russian-Jewish pianist Mikhail Klein recently collapsed and died on stage while performing his own composition in his hometown of Irkutsk. Klein, who was 72 at the time, reportedly died of heart failure at the food of a grand piano of the Irkutsk Philharmonic Orchestra before a crowd of hundreds. He was playing “This is all Russia,” a jazz composition he wrote that features fragments from several famous Russian songs. In 1987, Klein was awarded the prestigious title of “Honored Artist of Russia” and was known for his reditions and interpretations of works by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, and Brahms, among other great composers. He was also a prolific jazz composer and enthusiast. He had been a member of the Irkutsk Philharmonic for 45 years and had what his obituary called a “fanatic devotion to the arts.” The man certainly died doing what he loved!

Looted Antiquity to Return to Lebanon

A 2,300-year-old marble sculpture of a bull’s head is set to be returned to the Republic of Lebanon following the dropping of a federal lawsuit. In the lawsuit, collectors Lynda and William Beierwaltes argued they bought the artifact in good faith for more than $1 million in 1996. The couple’s lawyer reported: “After having been presented with incontrovertible evidence that the bull’s head was stolen from Lebanon, the Beierwaltes believed it was in everyone’s best interest to withdraw their claim to the bull’s head and allow its repatriation to Lebanon.” Prosecutors are reportedly also not pursuing the return to Lebanon of a second work, a marble toso of a calf bearer, also owned by the Beierwalteses. In a recent statement, the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. argued: “The art world must acknowledge that stolen antiquities are not simply collectible commercial property, but evidence of cultural crimes committed around the world.” The investigation into the bull’s head and calf bearer pieces continue, though no criminal charges are being filed. Hopeful, y galleries, auction houses, museums, and collectors continue to diligently investigate the origins of artwork and ensure that pieces like these end up where they belong.

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