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21st century women as dancemaker/leadersan endangered species?


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#16 bart

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 12:56 PM

Thanks, ray, for reviving this topic. I was rather surprised, when reading the NY Times piece, to come upon the following:

Several elite female leaders, like Monica Mason, who directs the Royal Ballet in Britain, and the star ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, who runs the State Ballet of Georgia, called it “more natural” for men to lead.

Men are “more assertive and more competitive,” Ms. Mason said, adding, “Its more natural to them, and women very often view themselves in an assisting situation.” Ms. Mason, like Ms. Ananiashvili (handpicked by Georgias president), said she never saw herself in a leadership role, even though the Royal was founded by a woman.

"Natural"? What is going, when something like this is said by two of the women who actually have gone the furthest in expanding their dancing careers into poewrful leadership positions?

#17 Ray

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 01:50 PM

Thanks, ray, for reviving this topic. I was rather surprised, when reading the NY Times piece, to come upon the following:

Several elite female leaders, like Monica Mason, who directs the Royal Ballet in Britain, and the star ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, who runs the State Ballet of Georgia, called it “more natural” for men to lead.

Men are “more assertive and more competitive,” Ms. Mason said, adding, “Its more natural to them, and women very often view themselves in an assisting situation.” Ms. Mason, like Ms. Ananiashvili (handpicked by Georgias president), said she never saw herself in a leadership role, even though the Royal was founded by a woman.

"Natural"? What is going on, when something like this is said by two of the women who actually have gone the furthest in expanding their dancing careers into poewrful leadership positions?


Well, perhpas these women are old enough to have been shaped by an era that, in Cargill's words, was part of "a much more male-dominated culture." [Not sure about this; Ananiashvili was born in '63--perhaps a cultural thing?] I can remember dealing with more than a few female dancers (and male too, to be sure) who really genuflected to a man in a position of power--very irritating during union negotiations!--no matter how idiotic and boorish he might have been. Perhaps it should not be surprising that ballet, with its traditional onstage roles for men and women, breeds a culture that believes in them offstage as well.

#18 dirac

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 10:32 AM

"Natural"? What is going, when something like this is said by two of the women who actually have gone the furthest in expanding their dancing careers into poewrful leadership positions?


It is easy to count, but obviously blaming the culture is a-historical, since the mid-20th century, when there were a number of female directors, was much a much more male-dominated culture.


I doubt if Ananiashvili and Mason meant that this is the natural and immutable order of things, although you could certainly read it that way. Things have changed a great deal since 1950, but certain attitudes and behaviors are still alive and well. In many ways it is still very much a mans world (and 4mrdncrs post was to the point in that respect). I don't think that 'blaming the culture,' as long as it's not done hamfistedly and without nuance, is out of line.

#19 bart

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 11:35 AM

Thanks, dirac, for reminding us of 4mrdncr's post on the previous page. In it, she says the following:

I have been dealing with this issue for nearly my entire life both in ballet and out. I, too, was struck by the lack of female AD's (NOT ED's) at the top companies, AND especially female choreographers for classical ballet--NOT contemporary/modern crossovers.

We have not really addressed that second point: the relative lack of female classical choreographers. (The lack is more noticeable if you leave out those women who have mounted their own versions of classics created originally by men.)

Given the long history of women's leadership in the creative side of modern and contemporary dance, I wonder why this is the case with classical ballet.

Is there something in classical ballet itself -- the training, the gender stereotyping in much of the 19th century ballets, differences between the way women and men jump, lift (or don't), use their feet, etc. -- which might explain this?

Or, if there are plenty of potential classical female choreographers, why have they not not given the opportunities offered to their male counterparts?

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 01:18 PM

The Evil Imp over at Article 19 wrote an editorial on this very subject: http://www.article19...t_sht_crazy.php

It's interesting that in ballet's early days there were big name female choreographers: Francoise Prevost and Marie Salle in the 18th century, Marie Taglioni and Lucile Grahn in the 19th, to name a few.

#21 bart

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 01:47 PM

Thanks, Alexandra, for that Link. And for the interesting information on women choreographers in the early days of classical ballet. Do any of their works survive today, even in part?

I wonder who Evil Imp can be.

#22 Alexandra

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 02:41 PM

I don't know who the Evil Imp is, but I'm a fan :smilie_mondieu: I love that site.

Re women choreographers. There isn't anything much left from the 18th century. Prevost's "Les Caracteres de la Danse" (a huge hit in its day, a solo where she took the parts of many contrasting characters, as Barayshnikov did in "Vestris") has been reconstructed. I don't think Taglioni's "Le Papillon" (choreographed for Emma Livry, who burned to death during a dress rehearsal) nor Grahn's ballets in Hungary have survived.

#23 Ray

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 01:07 PM

Here's another contribution to our conversation about women in leadership roles (actually we've been highlighting some British women, so this fits right in): a news story about Lynn Seymour from the Greek publication Kathimerini (June 8):

http://www.ekathimer...t.asp?aid=84294

From text (but the link has a hat):

Classical dancer Lynn Seymour served as artistic director at the Greek National Opera Ballet.
Lynn Seymour, the world-renowned Canadian classical dancer who served as artistic director at the Greek National Opera Ballet for the past year, has resigned from her post.

Commenting on her decision, Seymour noted that her "artistic objectives could not be reached under specific working conditions," while adding that changes she had proposed "could not be implemented in the near future."

The Greek National Opera Ballet, which has accepted Seymour's resignation, said that ties between the two sides remained amicable.


Edited by carbro, 13 August 2007 - 01:13 PM.
Edited the quoted article, which had been posted in full.


#24 chrisk217

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 10:23 AM

In the context of this discussion it should be clarified that Lynn Seymour's difficulties and resignation had nothing to do with her being a woman (according to all reports at least). Mr Stefanos Lazarides, the National Opera director who had invited Seymour to head the ballet, was let go by the Board just a few days after she resigned (this despite having just completed a commercially successful and critically acclaimed first year on the job).

Both had to go against a deeply rooted bureaucracy, interested in maintaining the status quo and vested rights. This unwillingness to adapt affected the ballet as well as the opera. To give just one small example: the dancers of the company were contracted to work for about 20 hours per week. One has only to watch them on stage to see how sorely they need more time in the studio. Seymour was pushing to increase rehearsal time and to add one more day of work per week. She was reportedly very frustrated by dancers working "with their eyes on the clock". Unfortunately she was not given the financial resources to implement this.

I'm grateful for Lynn Seymour's short time in Athens - a lot has changed for the better: For the first time there was live music at the National Opera Ballet (Alan Barker conducted the Solitaire performances I watched) Evelyn Hart, Truman Finney and Irek Mukhamedov were invited as teachers. At least some of the dancers appeared revitalized by the changes.

But at the same time the repertory became almost exclusively contemporary. This was a very unexpected disappointment. The only non-contemporary work was McMillan's Solitaire. Ashton's Les Rendezvous was also initially announced but the plans were scrapped after a while and instead we got a very flat Afternoon of a Faune by Yannis Mantafounis (he's a young Forsythe dancer who choreographed, very predictably, in late Forsythe style). [The turn to contemporary was not only unwelcome but also entirely unnecessary as Greece has a very lively contemporary scene with two major festivals (Athens & Kalamata) and more than 50 dance groups. Meanwhile, performances of neoclassical ballet (say Balanchine) come 2 or 3 years apart of each other. One would hope that the National Ballet would step in, fill the void and show diverse works from all eras instead of turning into yet another contemporary company]

#25 Ray

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 12:05 PM

In the context of this discussion it should be clarified that Lynn Seymour's difficulties and resignation had nothing to do with her being a woman (according to all reports at least). Mr Stefanos Lazarides, the National Opera director who had invited Seymour to head the ballet, was let go by the Board just a few days after she resigned (this despite having just completed a commercially successful and critically acclaimed first year on the job).
[. . .]


Thanks for all of this, Chris. I debated whether or not to put this post in this thread because, as you rightly point out, her resignation didn't directly involve her gender. It is, though, news of a ballerina who has gone onto the directing track (derailed temporarily), so I thought it was pertinent. (Should we instead create a space for Greek National Ballet in "European Ballet Companies, and put these posts in it?)

#26 bart

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 12:17 PM

(Should we instead create a space for Greek National Ballet in "European Ballet Companies, and put these posts in it?)

Or possibly in "Other European Companies," at least.

Seymour seems to have run afoul of a system that doesn't seem very compatible with high quality dance, especially classical ballet. Whatever aspirations the bureaucrats have for this company, the bar would seem to be rather low if they think it can be accomplished with only 20 hours of work a week. Depending on what develops, the topic might also be a candidate for the "Issues" forum.

#27 carbro

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Posted 19 August 2007 - 12:27 PM

While the problems encountered by Ms. Seymour are in no way related to her sex, they sound very much like those encountered by Violette Verdy when she was briefly AD of POB.

How strangely ironic, since both companies are in countries celebrated for great artistic legacies.

#28 bart

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Posted 30 August 2007 - 01:11 PM

In Europe, an AD has to deal with bureaucrats. Until fairly recently, these bureaucracies were overwhelmingly male dominated.

In the U.S., an AD has to deal with a board representing the financial elite of the community. Frequently, corporate wives and wealthy widows play big roles on the boards I am aware of.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that male AD's have an advantage in both situations. They can play both cards equally well, and no one seems to fault them for doing so: "one of the boys" and "courtly charmer."

#29 innopac

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 12:43 PM

Article: "Jessica Lang on the Woman Choreographer Shortage".

#30 missvjc420

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Posted 14 April 2010 - 09:09 AM

I would like to add Sarah Slipper to the list of women directors of companies. Her NWPDP (North West Pacific Dance Project), located here in Portland, started out as a summer project for young dancers just beginning their careers and has, with community support, become a more permanent presence in our city.


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