dirac

"Where are the Women in Ballet?"

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Three of the younger hotshot male choreographers answers to the "woman question:"

 

Most of the major choreographers in classical dance are men. Why is that?

PECK There needs to be more encouragement and support for women — at an impressionable age — to explore that choreographic side of their brains.

WHEELDON There is such an obvious imbalance. I’m not sure why it exists and persists. In my experience, directors today are seeking diversity and would love to present the work of female ballet choreographers, so I don’t think overt misogyny is at work.

RATMANSKY I don’t see it as a problem. Besides Crystal Pite, Jessica Lang and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa are among the very best now. And Graham and Nijinska are still performed. I’m sure that if new, interesting talent arrives and is a woman, she will have equal opportunities.

Peck's reply is the best of a rather disappointing lot,  probably not coincidental that he's the youngest of the three. I'd be interested to know what he means by an "impressionable age." Wheeldon just seems to want the question to go away and Ratmansky....wow. Maybe it's not such a bad thing that he isn't running a company.

 

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Posted (edited)

Even Peck's answer is nerdish and the image uninviting.

 

I think a good way to nurture talent would be in ballet classes after learning a sequence of steps to ask each student to show how she would solve the problem the choreographer has presented - to improvise a solution or a variation. To do that regularly so the student has a feeling of authorship and inventing things. Kind of how you might do in a middle or high school poetry class.

Edited by Quiggin

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dirac, I'm so glad you posted this as I just finished reading that article in the Times.

 

I was pretty dismayed by Ratmansky's answer that he doesn't see a problem. Those three female choreographers he sites may have the same talent that he, Wheeldon and Peck have, but he misses the point. Their work is not performed as frequently in as many (major) companies and given the same level of critical attention as the three men's. I think a lot of folks would agree that you cannot be considered a "major choreographer" without similar opportunities and exposure as these men. Also, Ratmansky's argument that Graham and Nijinka are still performed are both irrelevant and hollow examples. Graham is not a ballet choreographer and this is a discussion explicitly about classical ballet. And (seriously?), Nijinska is rarely performed nowadays. And, saying "she will have equal opportunities" after a female's talent is discovered or "arrives" demonstrates the problem! How can you "arrive" if you're not given a chance (or enough chances) to showcase and develop your work? How do you deem someone to have talent if they've never been given the chance to create something and eventually on a big stage? Was Peck considered to have "arrived" when his very first ballet was commissioned? (Having talent and great potential is not the same thing as having "arrived".) 

 

And, Wheeldon doesn't know why there is a problem? Really?

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9 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

dirac, I'm so glad you posted this as I just finished reading that article in the Times.

 

I was pretty dismayed by Ratmansky's answer that he doesn't see a problem. Those three female choreographers he sites may have the same talent that he, Wheeldon and Peck have, but he misses the point. Their work is not performed as frequently in as many (major) companies and given the same level of critical attention as the three men's. I think a lot of folks would agree that you cannot be considered a "major choreographer" without similar opportunities and exposure as these men. Also, Ratmansky's argument that Graham and Nijinka are still performed are both irrelevant and hollow examples. Graham is not a ballet choreographer and this is a discussion explicitly about classical ballet. And (seriously?), Nijinska is rarely performed nowadays. And, saying "she will have equal opportunities" after a female's talent is discovered or "arrives" demonstrates the problem! How can you "arrive" if you're not given a chance (or enough chances) to showcase and develop your work? How do you deem someone to have talent if they've never been given the chance to create something and eventually on a big stage? Was Peck considered to have "arrived" when his very first ballet was commissioned? (Having talent and great potential is not the same thing as having "arrived".) 

 

And, Wheeldon doesn't know why there is a problem? Really?

I have to say I found Ratmansky's response the worst, but he was also the only one who thought to even mention any female choreographers and give them any press. Is it tokenism? Probably.

 

I'm hoping at least a bit of the callousness of the phrasing "I don't see it as a problem" has to do with speaking English as a second language, no matter how fluently.

 

I'm interested to see how (if?) Bouder responds. I imagine she won't be thrilled with any of these responses.

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Ugh.  Just ugh.

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Posted (edited)

In a manner of speaking, these quotes do a rather fine job of answering the question of why there aren't more prominent women ballet choreographers :dry: .

 

Edited by Drew

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They sure do.

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9 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

dirac, I'm so glad you posted this as I just finished reading that article in the Times.

 

I was pretty dismayed by Ratmansky's answer that he doesn't see a problem. Those three female choreographers he sites may have the same talent that he, Wheeldon and Peck have, but he misses the point. Their work is not performed as frequently in as many (major) companies and given the same level of critical attention as the three men's. I think a lot of folks would agree that you cannot be considered a "major choreographer" without similar opportunities and exposure as these men. Also, Ratmansky's argument that Graham and Nijinka are still performed are both irrelevant and hollow examples. Graham is not a ballet choreographer and this is a discussion explicitly about classical ballet. And (seriously?), Nijinska is rarely performed nowadays. And, saying "she will have equal opportunities" after a female's talent is discovered or "arrives" demonstrates the problem! How can you "arrive" if you're not given a chance (or enough chances) to showcase and develop your work? How do you deem someone to have talent if they've never been given the chance to create something and eventually on a big stage? Was Peck considered to have "arrived" when his very first ballet was commissioned? (Having talent and great potential is not the same thing as having "arrived".) 

 

And, Wheeldon doesn't know why there is a problem? Really?

Thank you on Nijinska! I hope that Isadora Weiss (Baltic) does not become any of these named women.  I didn't expect to see a misogynistic work from a woman.  REALLY misogynistic.   I am learning much from you tonight!

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An 80+ woman I know who had rocks thrown through her windows when she fought for the ERA told me once, "Nobody gives you power. You have to take it!" This was a short 80 year old who walked up to politicians and gave them what for in Tampa and people ran from her. I was shocked when she told me her height because she struck me as 6 feet tall so powerful was she! She was also always dressed to the nines and had the Scarlett O'Hara Southern drawl.

 

I am not saying women should have to just jump up and grab power (people should respect women and sit down and listen even if the woman is not aggressive), but I agree with her. Nobody in a position of power simply hands it over. You must be aggressive and take it. Most people in positions of power view someone else gaining power as taking some of their power away (whether that is a correct assessment or not...power can be shared). Men are always going to try to maintain their "majority" of power, in my opinion. Always. They are never going to simply hand it over, and I am rejoicing in how women seem to be the majority who are leading many marches and events around the country. That is how it is done. You just do it and take it and keep on and become relentless.

 

That wise 80 something told me also that she was shocked at how when she taught at a community college without a PhD during a meeting she could tell all these men with PhDs to get to that side of the room and these others go to this side of the room, etc. She said you just walk into a room, use an authoritative voice and take charge and people tend to go along, but you have to be willing to be called names and be seen as aggressive and get rocks thrown through your window. Should it be this way? No. Is it this way? Yes.

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Did the politicians and the men in the room control her career/livelihood?

 

She was clearly ready to put her safety on the line, which was what available to threaten.

 

Do you think that women choreographers should have to jeopardize their careers actively to pursue choreography?  

 

Speaking about choreographers in institutions, do you think that all women choreographers must be assertive pioneers and extraordinarily talented and driven, when their make counterparts are given multiple opportunities to hone their craft, even when their output is, at best, workmanlike?  Especially when some have become AD's and house choreographers with little administrative experience, but were Principal Dancers, and there are almost no women in that position.

 

Their clueless colleagues are the least of their problems.

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I don't think any of that (don't think things should be that way), and thought I made that clear. I think women are screwed in every profession, and unfortunately have to have a 20 page resume full of qualifications and still lose the position against a totally unqualified male with zero experience. That has been proven to the world. 

 

Unfortunately women have to be 100 times better than a man just to get a chance. That's the unfortunate reality. 

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21 hours ago, Helene said:

 

21 hours ago, Helene said:

 

 

21 hours ago, Helene said:

 

Speaking about choreographers in institutions, . . . when their make counterparts are given multiple opportunities to hone their craft, even when their output is, at best, workmanlike?

This is something I've been thinking about. Even when promising female choreographers are given opportunities, are they given additional opportunities once they suffer their first dud or flop? I think of Melissa Barak who had a flop at City Ballet and then had to scratch and claw for opportunities. Meanwhile, Wheeldon and Ratmansky and Peck and Millepied and Liang can churn out a lot of mediocre or worse stuff and actually get more opportunities.

 

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1 hour ago, miliosr said:

 

This is something I've been thinking about. Even when promising female choreographers are given opportunities, are they given additional opportunities once they suffer their first dud or flop? I think of Melissa Barak who had a flop at City Ballet and then had to scratch and claw for opportunities. Meanwhile, Wheeldon and Ratmansky and Peck and Millepied and Liang can churn out a lot of mediocre or worse stuff and actually get more opportunities.

 

Even Balanchine had some clunkers - PAMGG, e.g. (I actually wish we could see it - can't find any trace on YouTube or elsewhere.)

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55 minutes ago, California said:

Even Balanchine had some clunkers - PAMGG, e.g. (I actually wish we could see it - can't find any trace on YouTube or elsewhere.)

Yes but what I'm getting at is whether female ballet choreographers receive less leeway than their male counterparts after a flop or even mediocre work. Let me put it another way: Name me one Benjamin Millepied ballet that has found a secure place in the international repertory. And yet he keeps receiving commissions.

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Posted (edited)

Millepied is also a celebrity with a famous partner, so the bar is different there, but you're right about Wheeldon and Liang (and Scarlett). Ratmansky usually puts on a good show, at least in San Francisco. 

 

Part of the problem is that most of the Artistic Directors of companies are men*, except for Miami. And the companies tend to follow each other in programming (as we discussed in the Atlanta thread) and power sharing.

 

There's also the ready narrative of the young male dancer of the company coming up through the ranks and creating brilliant new works to help ballet survive. The narrative has to be switched to something like women are now doing the most interesting work. It happened in the art world where 30 to 50% of the artists in group shows are women (though men still get better prices). In the 50's Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell and Grace Hartigan had independent means and grew up with some privilege (MItchell was the daughter of a Chicago doctor and a poet) which helped them navigate the art world. Also I think they were no-nonsense types among a bunch of self-romanticing men.

 

1970s downtown scene was better  – Lucinda Childs, Tricia Brown, Elizabeth Streb, Viola Farber were setting dances – was it that everyone was so poor and living in semi communal situations? 

 

* and former danseur nobles

 

Edited by Quiggin

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Posted (edited)

The situation in modern dance has always been very different than the situation in ballet. Women were founders and inheritors in modern dance. I think that when it comes to this particular issue, ballet has a very different record and different problems. I am tempted to quote Christopher Wheeldon's formulation -- there is 'no overt misogyny' -- which, if true, raises all kinds of questions about just what kinds of misogyny there are. (God knows ballet historians could say a lot about the way woman ballet dancers have been viewed in the -- let's call it distant -- past.)

 

But women have played important institutional roles in ballet. Decisive even...especially when ballet institutions had to be invented/founded (De Valois, Chase, Rambert, Franca etc.) -- if you will, when ballet itself was a more 'downtown' affair. But even then, the major creative figures that emerged under their leadership were mostly men. (I am not forgetting that De Valois was herself a choreographer.) 

 

Mysteriously (cough) once companies become big, wealthy, institutions, we find more men at the helm even as directors. But not men exclusively, and it does seem as if women directors in more recent decades have not addressed this issue either, which probably speaks to how systemic the issues are -- and how entrenched certain traditions. 

 

But I do think the issue is finding choreographers from within the world of classical ballet--its traditions and techniques--as opposed to crossover modern dance choreographers. One reason there is so much justified excitement about Wheeldon and Ratmansky is that they have that deep knowledge of ballet from the inside as well as their uniques talents. And Peck at least promises to be another major force of that kind. 

 

 

Edited by Drew

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About PAMTTG, I'd be tempted to say, well, he was considered a genius by then, but contrary to some belief, we didn't invent "What have you done for me lately?"

 

After many of his ballets, he was talked about as being washed up, out of ideas, dated, etc.  Jerome Robbins was new and fresh, and he was supposed to be the new savior.  Which isn't quite how it played out.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

About PAMTTG, I'd be tempted to say, well, he was considered a genius by then, but contrary to some belief, we didn't invent "What have you done for me lately?"

 

After many of his ballets, he was talked about as being washed up, out of ideas, dated, etc.  Jerome Robbins was new and fresh, and he was supposed to be the new savior.  Which isn't quite how it played out.

So true Helene and then came the Stravinsky festival!

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Thanks for the comments, all.

Quote


Mysteriously (cough) once companies become big, wealthy, institutions, we find more men at the helm even as directors. But not men exclusively, and it does seem as if women directors in more recent decades have not addressed this issue either, which probably speaks to how systemic the issues are -- and how entrenched certain traditions. 

 

 

Yes. For real change to come about, companies, whether led by men or women, will likely have to go beyond just hiring (some) of the women who manage to make their way to the pool of employables. It's disturbing that these guys are supposed to represent the vibrant present and future of the art form, which in a sense they do, and plainly nothing of the sort has even crossed their minds.  Maybe Birdsall is right and the ladies are going to have to start a little rock throwing to get the point across.

 

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Posted (edited)

On 4/22/2017 at 7:30 PM, dirac said:

Maybe Birdsall is right and the ladies are going to have to start a little rock throwing to get the point across.

 

 

I saw this on the street today and I think it's perfect for this discussion:

 

well behaved.png

Edited by Helene
(add graphic)

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On 4/20/2017 at 1:27 PM, ABT Fan said:

And, Wheeldon doesn't know why there is a problem? Really?

 

The fish doesn't know it swims in water, and that water is wet.

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On 4/22/2017 at 11:36 AM, Drew said:

The situation in modern dance has always been very different than the situation in ballet. Women were founders and inheritors in modern dance. I think that when it comes to this particular issue, ballet has a very different record and different problems.

 

 

There is also a much more highly developed choreographic tradition in modern dance -- most students are required to make work during their training, and for many years it was assumed that at some point all dancers would make dances.  They might not be very good, but they would all have that experience, and those with some kind of skill or gift would keep after it.

 

Ballet training rarely includes this expectation, and even when dancers are training in a college program that includes ballet, their composition classes don't generally encourage them to work in a ballet idiom.  Barbara Weisberger's Carlisle Project was an attempt to bridge this gap -- giving ballet dancers an opportunity to take a clearly thought-out composition class (and to encourage modern choreographers to work in ballet as well).  A few works of distinction came out of it, but apparently not enough to justify it continuing.

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On 4/21/2017 at 11:37 AM, Birdsall said:

Unfortunately women have to be 100 times better than a man just to get a chance. That's the unfortunate reality. 

 

It may be the situation on the ground, but it's not one of the laws of thermodynamics. 

 

The situation is entirely amenable to a modicum of vision amplified by a lot of check-writing. 

 

 

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5 hours ago, sandik said:

Ballet training rarely includes this expectation, and even when dancers are training in a college program that includes ballet, their composition classes don't generally encourage them to work in a ballet idiom.  Barbara Weisberger's Carlisle Project was an attempt to bridge this gap -- giving ballet dancers an opportunity to take a clearly thought-out composition class (and to encourage modern choreographers to work in ballet as well).  A few works of distinction came out of it, but apparently not enough to justify it continuing.

 

"But first, a school." 

 

I dunno. Millepied's been a choreographer for about as long as the Carlisle Project was in existence, and has probably run through about as much money all told. Has he generated even a few works of distinction? Three decades of lavishly funded Martins has given us what, maybe three works of distinction? And one of those is a production of Sleeping Beauty. 

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