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dirac

"Where are the Women in Ballet?"

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dirac   

Where are the women in ballet running things, that is.

It’s not just in the U.S. that men lead and choreograph the ballet troupes. “The world class companies, for the most part, are run by men,” said Lynn Garafola, a writer, scholar and founder of the Columbia University seminar Studies in Dance. And why are women leaders gone? “The more professional a company becomes, in my observation, the more likely women are going to disappear from the leadership positions, and they’re going to be replaced by men. I think this is very typical of organizations when they get larger, when they get more important.”

A re-posting of the Luke Jennings article to which the NPR piece refers.

It's 14 years since a woman was commissioned to create a main-stage ballet at the Royal Opera House. If this were true of women playwrights at the National Theatre, or female artists at the Tate, there would be outrage. But at the flagship institution of British dance, the omission has escaped public notice. As it did last summer when the Royal Ballet and the National Gallery launched a collaboration named Metamorphosis: Titian 2012. Of the 15 artists and choreographers involved, none was a woman. An ironic decision, given that the subject was the goddess Diana, the personification of feminine power.

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Helene   

From the Basco article (emphasis mine):

Williams was just one of the determined women, all ballet school directors, who started companies with the Ford grant. “At that point these really good ballet schools were all run by women,” Nissinen continued, referring to Barbara Weisberger in Philadelphia, Mary Day in Washington, D.C. and Nina Popova in Houston. “Women who then naturally became the directors of the companies in the pioneering era. Right now it happens actually that lots of these companies are run by men.”

"t happens"? :wallbash::wallbash:

Must be random.

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dirac   

Also: "Right now, Nissinen says, he has more interest from the men." Well, yes. The question is what underlying factors may be involved in the disparity of (displayed) interest. I realize he's got a lot of things on his mind, but the degree of incuriousness is striking.

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sandik   

I'm sure this is related to the "where are the women choreographers in ballet" question that surfaces from time to time. I'm reminded of a post-show Q/A session for Pacific Northwest Ballet's young choreographers program -- all the dancemakers for that year were men, and when someone asked why there were no women, one of the reasons was that the company had just finished a run of Swan Lake, where every woman in the house was in rehearsal all the time. It takes time to make a dance, and if you're already in the studio working for someone else, you'll have trouble getting there for your own work.

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dirac   
It takes time to make a dance, and if you're already in the studio working for someone else, you'll have trouble getting there for your own work.

True. That's one of the points made in the NPR piece - women in ballet companies face more intense competition and have a higher workload than the men, and thus have less time to experiment with making dances or indeed do much of anything else.

Another quote:

“Really? Have you noticed?” Tharp said. “And how many famous painters, philosophers, musicians, some writers — it’s not a woman’s prerogative to be an artist. We all know women have a high hill to climb whatever they do, and the world of arts is very chauvinistic, and one knows that going in.”

Depressing to hear this sort of thing from Tharp, although not entirely surprising. Nobody's saying it's anyone's "prerogative" to be an artist (and I presume she didn't mean to suggest that dancers aren't artists). It is a very tough road for men and women alike, only for women it tends to be just that much harder.

Yes, indeed, there are "some writers." The reason for that is writing is something you can do at home, and thus a more ready avenue of expression for women, whose opportunities to travel and work outside the home have traditionally been limited.

Finally - Tharp came up through modern dance. I wonder if it's possible that if Tharp had been a ballet student and only a ballet student, she might never have become a choreographer.

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sandik   

Honestly, I think Twyla Tharp would have forged a distinctive path wherever she began -- she's just that kind of human. But the point she makes, as well as the one you make, are both full of truth. It's a hard, hard, hard life, working in the arts, but when it comes to the top positions in large institutions, where the leader needs to deal with both art and money, it's more likely you'll find a man in that place.

And yes, writing -- the occupation where you first think you can do it at home in your spare time. Until it starts to organize your life for you!

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Natalia   

All the more respect for what DeValois, Rambert, Alonso, Dai Ailan and a handful of others were able to achieve. Also Rubinstein, Nijinska, Harkness and DeMille, even though the companies that they founded (or in which they first worked) no longer exist. Hats off to the pioneers!

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sandik   

All the more respect for what DeValois, Rambert, Alonso, Dai Ailan and a handful of others were able to achieve. Also Rubinstein, Nijinska, Harkness and DeMille, even though the companies that they founded (or in which they first worked) no longer exist. Hats off to the pioneers!

Indeed!

And I'd like to add all the (mostly) women who were a part of the various diasporas, from the Ballet Russe onwards, who settled into smaller communities and started schools that became performing ensembles, sharing what they knew of their heritage.

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dirac   

Honestly, I think Twyla Tharp would have forged a distinctive path wherever she began

No doubt. But not necessarily as an internationally renowned choreographer, stager, and leader of a company.

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abatt   

The last time Martins invited a woman to choreograph was, I believe, Melissa Barak. Her ballet, "Call Me Ben", was an artistic fiasco that did not even last for one season. (It was scheduled for something like 4 performances, but was replaced.) Hopefully that experience did not cause him to swear off inviting women choreographers.

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The last time Martins invited a woman to choreograph was, I believe, Melissa Barak. Her ballet, "Call Me Ben", was an artistic fiasco that did not even last for one season. (It was scheduled for something like 4 performances, but was replaced.) Hopefully that experience did not cause him to swear off inviting women choreographers.

I had the misfortune of picking the week of its premiere to visit NYC and saw it several times -- and several of the Friends rehearsals devoted to it! Yuk! But I have always wondered if Robert Fairchild's leading role with both speaking and dancing gave somebody the idea that he had potential for a Broadway show.

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Drew   

I remember Melissa Barak's first ballet for NYCB being rather well received. That's why she was invited back--and more than once. (If the last one she did was a disaster, well, then that's a shame. She is not the only choreographer to have one.)

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abatt   

Yes, Barak's first two works at NYCB were well received. They were not groundbreaking and were largely derivative, but they were pleasant. The third one, however, was so bad it was epic. She made the mistake of trying to delve into writing a script (together with that important screenwriter, soloist Ellen Bar) where the dancers had to deliver lines of dialogue. Nobody was minding the store at NYCB, and it was a signficiant embarrassment and a costly one (expensive scenery and expensive costumes). She was never invited back to NYCB to choreograph.

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sandik   

And that's too bad. Learning to make a dance is a difficult process on a good day, and like any learning, it's not continual improvement. People need to take risks and fail, if they're going to learn anything, but we've organized the ballet world so that there are very few places that have that resilience. Ballet companies make the strategic error of betting the farm on each of these experiments, and when they don't work, throwing everything away. We are, slowly, developing opportunities for young choreographers to practice skills in a less-fraught arena, but I wish this was getting done faster.

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Quiggin   

The New York State Theater must be an intimidating space to choreograph on - would Tricia Brown and Merce Cunningham been have able to hone their skills there in the old days?

But it is disturbing about the domination of white males - and seems with the exception of Peck to have resulted in less interesting ballets. The downtown art world, if you read Roberta Smith in the Times, has opened up considerably in the past ten years - women sometimes outnumber men in group shows. And it was heartening to read this by Shirley Apthorp about the Trondheim (Norway) Chamber Music Festival in this morning's Financial Times -

"Maja Ratkje is the third female composer-in-residence in a row at Trondheim (following Kaija Saariaho and Lera Auerbach), a fact to challenge Damian Thompsons offensive assertion in British magazine The Spectator recently that theres a good reason why there are no great female composers, a patently absurd statement. After Saariahos mysticism and Auerbachs precision, Ratkje brings a feral disregard for conventional form, combined with an extravagant imagination, linking it all to a fascination with the human voice and its communicative possibilities. Her works are dramatic, engaging and wildly diverse.

"Another woman, librettist Marianne Meløy, penned Kommentarfeltet for the festival. Together with composer Trygve Brøske she has created a chamber opera about comments sections on the internet. Healthy muffin recipes and exotic bragging meet vitriolic racism, misunderstandings and bad spelling to hilarious effect. Even if this is not the first opera to send up Instagram and Facebook, it must be the best. More, please!"

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Helene   

I missed the question asked Greta Hodgkinson, who is hosting the "Ask Greta" segment in the National Ballet of Canada's #WorldBalletDay presentation, but she answered that she is inspired by Tamara Rojo and Karen Kain, who she said are revitalizing ballet.

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dirac   

The last time Martins invited a woman to choreograph was, I believe, Melissa Barak. Her ballet, "Call Me Ben", was an artistic fiasco that did not even last for one season. (It was scheduled for something like 4 performances, but was replaced.) Hopefully that experience did not cause him to swear off inviting women choreographers.

I presume you didn’t mean that last sentence seriously?? I note that the turkeys presented to NYCB by visiting menfolk over the years (not to mention the Big Boss himself), have not deterred Martins from inviting men to make dances.

(Obviously he can’t swear off himself, although it’s a fun idea -- “Stop Me Before I Choreograph Again!”)

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Helene   

I presume you didn’t mean that last sentence seriously?? I note that the turkeys presented to NYCB by visiting menfolk over the years (not to mention the Big Boss himself), have not deterred Martins from inviting men to make dances.

Sadly, this could be an indication of the different standards for women and/or minorities.

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Helene   

The downside: the host for the Royal Ballet segment of World Ballet Day did a short interview with the five AD's of the big companies in Great Britain -- David Nixon of Northern Ballet, Christopher Hampson of Scottish Ballet, David Bintley of Royal Birmingham Ballet, Kevin O'Hare of Royal Ballet, and Tamara Rojo of English Nationals -- and he would not shut up about what Tamara Rojo was wearing. I suspect she was dressed to see the matinee performance of R&J, but the host wouldn't have wasted any time talking about what any of the male directors were wearing.

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