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"Where are the Women in Ballet?"

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22 hours ago, jkr3855 said:

Macaulay never seems able to separate personalities from principles--he bases his judgments on personal affinity with a particular performer and then creates his argument on historical precedents and gut reactions. It might make him an interesting critic but a poor debater
 

 

I think this is true of the Times in general – personalities rather than issues. It's why we end up with the leaders we do. Macaulay in his 10 or so part series of tweets seems to be arguing as a lawyer in court, point by point, but completely not comprehending the overarching subject. Luke Jennings appears to give up midway.

 

Another reason why there are many more women choreographers downtown might be that a good portion of the downtown men were gay and were not afraid to share power. And the institutions there, the KItchen, PS 122, DTW, were established much later, in the 1950s and 1960s, not the 19th century. And as pointed out above, there were no money men.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Quiggin said:

Another reason why there are many more women choreographers downtown might be that a good portion of the downtown men were gay and were not afraid to share power. And the institutions there, the KItchen, PS 122, DTW, were established much later, in the 1950s and 1960s, not the 19th century. And as pointed out above, there were no money men.

 

 

I'm not convinced that one's sexual orientation has much to do with one's willingness to share power.

I'm more inclined to think that the presence of notable women choreographers in US modern and postmodern dance is a function of it's not being almost exclusively housed in established institutions the way ballet generally is. 

PS122 et al are venues, not companies; they function as presenters, but they're not the same kind of institution as NYCB, ABT, SFB, PNB, etc.

 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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I was thinking of the 70s and Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Rauchenberg, Paxton, Tricia Brown and what made that atmosphere unique. Another difference is that in ballet women are always partnered by men, and presented to the audience by men, while downtown the hierachies are often scrambled, there are all sorts of different combinations and odd numbers and asymmetries (though Ratmansky is doing some of this). 

 

But yes institutions and how they are structured – and when they're set up and the time and ethos they represent.

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So much good stuff here -- it's a topic we seem to come back to often, and with good reason.

 

One of the fundamental problems comes from our European roots -- with the development of pointe work, ballet was seen as an art form where women excelled on stage, but men created the work and institutions that they appeared in.  As technique became more gender specific, women tended to teach once they left the stage, but they rarely made performance-level work or ran the companies that presented them, especially as those institutions became embedded in governments. 

 

In the US, most of the early work done in ballet was part of a female-oriented, community-based cultural enrichment movement, and many of the sponsoring organizations were led by women.  The regional ballet movement of the mid-20th century was also female dominated for most of its early life, but as those organizations became more established, they also started to divide jobs, so that women were teachers and performers, and men were administrators and, often, directors.  The Atlanta Ballet is just one example of that process -- their early leadership was mostly female, but as they became more established, that shifted.

 

PNB is one of a number of companies that are overtly trying to develop young choreographers, and it's been noticed here that most of the works from their program have been by men -- when asked about it, several people have mentioned scheduling difficulties as a reason why women don't sign up for the program as often as men do.  A couple years ago, when the season finished with Swan Lake, a couple of young women who had made work previously said that they just didn't have the time that season -- they were in rehearsals during most of the available time. 

 

Add Toni Pimble to the list of female choreographers working today -- she's run Eugene Ballet and been their primary choreographer for many years.

 

 

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I'm not sure that they all three do agree. Could be true, but if so they expressed themselves very poorly.


Peck seems to think that women should be, shall we say, educated at an earlier age which will result in more female choreographers gaining important commissions, while Ratmansky doesn't think it's a problem. Two contrasting opinions right there. Wheeldon notes that there's an "imbalance" along gender lines, but shifts the responsibility away from directors, noting that they "love to present the work of female ballet choreographers."

 

Those are actually three somewhat disparate responses (I agree with dirac, Peck's is the most promising.)

If they do agree, it's not reflected in what made it into the article. Ratmansky still seems unable to acknowledge that there's a problem at all.


I'll give Wheeldon credit for acknowledging it's an "important topic" and that he "supports his female colleagues."
I can't really give too much credit to any of them taking for some heat, though, as 1) they're not taking that much heat (and the supportive comments on Ratmansky's page are exceptionally stupid. there's also a supportive comment from Wheeldon himself, so make of that what you will) and
2) This won't actually affect any of the three of them, in terms of reputation or profit margins. They may have a bad couple of days (probably less, hours), then they'll tell themselves they're martyrs at the hands of radical feminists, and this won't even come up in a google search for their names. It won't affect how much work they receive or how any ADs treat them or how any dancers interact with them. It won't reduce their annual salaries. I'll wager it won't even cost them a night's sleep. So call me coldhearted but I'm not crying for these three guys.
To be clear these three are obviously not personally responsible for a couple hundred years of inequality in the profession, and (obviously, again) I don't think any of them should be vilified in terms of their character, or blacklisted or harassed.  They can and should be criticized, as should anyone, for not understanding a basic reality of a profession they've spent their lives in. (ie, I certainly don't think it's just or fair to roast these guys at the stake for their words, but neither do I think they are in fact taking much heat)

Edited by jkr3855
clarification

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On 4/22/2017 at 10:20 AM, 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.)

I have a morbid curiosity to see this as well--I'm assuming it was never archived. There must be a bootleg copy somewhere. More constructively :  ) , it's useful to watch lesser works of a master and compare them with his greater works--kind of like erasing an artwork pencil stroke by pencil stroke to see how it was constructed

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7 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Eh. Men mansplaining. Did no one think to pick up the phone and call a woman choreographer or AD? 

If Ratmansky was asked the question by text after the interview, I wonder if someone on the editorial side asked for a follow-up question on a hot topic.

 

I'm sure it got them their clicks.

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Just now, Helene said:

If Ratmansky was asked the question by text after the interview, I wonder if someone on the editorial side asked for a follow-up question on a hot topic.

 

I'm sure it got them their clicks.

 

Oh, I think this thread is testament to that. :wink:

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7 hours ago, Quiggin said:

 

I think this is true of the Times in general – personalities rather than issues. It's why we end up with the leaders we do. Macaulay in his 10 or so part series of tweets seems to be arguing as a lawyer in court, point by point, but completely not comprehending the overarching subject. Luke Jennings appears to give up midway.

 

Another reason why there are many more women choreographers downtown might be that a good portion of the downtown men were gay and were not afraid to share power. And the institutions there, the KItchen, PS 122, DTW, were established much later, in the 1950s and 1960s, not the 19th century. And as pointed out above, there were no money men.

 

 

I just want to point out that Macaulay is a BIG

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41 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

Oh, I think this thread is testament to that. :wink:

 

...I dont know about that, most people will just read the quote which is all over twitter, and anywhere else one cares to look, and not go to the NYT article. (Also, that paper needs something more than 10 or 11 extra clicks on a ballet article to save it)

Wheeldon's and Pecks's Twitter and Instagram are probably getting a little extra traffic though that is a happy accident for them, probably not a deeply laid strategy for internet publicity
I'll look for Luke Jennings work after this, but if he wanted to adopt a pose to get more page clicks, he could have chosen a less byzantine route

Edited by jkr3855

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On 4/25/2017 at 1:22 PM, variated said:

[...] I think what is most depressing is the rush of well known names reassuring Ratmansky on his facebook page that what he said was perfectly fine.  They are all so stuck inside a conservative, conformist ballet world that they seem to think that the only possible motivation for criticism must be a personal attack so that there is no need for reflection on the status quo.  Once the waggons have been circled in this way, it is very difficult to see useful discussions happening that might actually facilitate change. 

 

 

The discussion on Ratmansky's FB page does kind of read like a gag from the "Colbert Report."

 

Looked up both Victoria Morgan and Adrienne Dellas on youtube--thank you Helene and Natalia. As best I could tell the Cincinnati Ballet youtube channel just has quick glimpses of Morgan's choreography rather than any extended sample, though it does have a little feature on her as "Ballerina Boss" in which she talks about being a woman in a leadership role at a ballet company. (She also seems to have done a rather scenically rich Camelot Ballet. This is the kind of story/spectacle with a familiar hook that some smaller/regional companies seem to depend on...certainly Atlanta Ballet has.) An entire pas de deux from Dellas' Shim Chung, the ballet mentioned by Natalia above, can also be found on youtube along with bits of her other work. Obviously both of these women are working on canvases very different from NYCB etc.

 

While I hope this is a moment that produces more opportunities for women choreographers whose training and chosen idiom is ballet, I do rather feel for them trying to establish themselves in the middle of a debate about "women" choreographers in ballet ....

Edited by Drew

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I salute Wheeldon for his intestinal fortitude as he “takes the heat.”

 

As for any short response being inherently flawed by reason of its brevity, here’s a short response, and it didn’t take me long:

 

“This is really more of a question for company ADs, but we all know that the ballet world has not always been open to giving women the same opportunities to choreograph that have been available to men. The reasons for this have something to do with bias and also structural issues within companies, which need to be addressed. In the meantime, companies should look for talented women and encourage them, and make sure that young female dancers understand that becoming a dancemaker is and should be an option for them if they want to try.”

 

Problem is, he hasn’t thought that much about it and that’s what got him into trouble in the first place. To that extent, the three of them do agree.

 

Quote

I'm not convinced that one's sexual orientation has much to do with one's willingness to share power.

 

Perhaps not, but there was a certain “band of outsiders” ethos and male sexual orientation did enter into that.

Quote


I do rather feel for them trying to establish themselves in the middle of a debate about "women" choreographers in ballet ....

 

 

One hopes there will come a time when parity makes it possible to speak of choreographers, full stop. (Of course, men are already choreographers by definition; nobody ever has to say “men choreographers.”)

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Gemma Bond (ABT corps) is also a Choreographer.

http://gemmabonddance.com/

 

She has not however seemingly received the commissions of some of her male peers thus far.

 

She is putting on 2 performances at the Joyce in July, which might be of interest to those following this topic.

 

Last night she took part in a show at the 92 street Y which I didn't know about unfortunately until after the fact, focusing (appropriately enough for this topic!) on female choreographers: http://m.92y.org/Event/129995

 

 

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On 27/04/2017 at 4:00 AM, Helene said:

If Ratmansky was asked the question by text after the interview, I wonder if someone on the editorial side asked for a follow-up question on a hot topic.

 

I'm sure it got them their clicks.

Alexei posted this on Facebook in response to this question:

 

 

Edited by Amy

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2 hours ago, Amy said:

Alexei posted this on Facebook in response to this question:

 

 

 

If you are interested, then above, in this thread, you can find some  discussion of this FB post and of responses people made to it on FB--though mostly interwoven with discussion of other matters.

Edited by Drew

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6 hours ago, aurora said:

Gemma Bond (ABT corps) is also a Choreographer.

http://gemmabonddance.com/

 

She has not however seemingly received the commissions of some of her male peers thus far.

 

She is putting on 2 performances at the Joyce in July, which might be of interest to those following this topic.


[....]

 

Atlanta Ballet recently commissioned a work from Bond: Denouement; it premiered earlier this year. I liked it--rather more than I liked several recent premiers at both ABT and NYCB. But I have to concede I saw it in a very different context than I saw those premiers so it's hard to compare. I say more about it on an Atlanta Ballet thread.

 

Re commissions: I do think one question to ask regarding the women choreographers who do manage to emerge in the classical ballet world is what opportunities have they gotten--and what opportunities been left out of--as compared with male compeers.  This has been touched on above...

 

One example that at the time really struck me: The Royal Ballet's Metamorphosis evening involved four choreographers but not a single woman. I sort of can guess how/why they ended up with the four choreographers they did, McGregor/Brandstrup/Wheeldon/Marriott. Still, however talented he may be, Marriott was/is not an internationally established figure, and, as far as I understand, Brandstrup is a contemporary dance figure and without a long, rich history with the Royal; that is, the company could have turned to women choreographers with somewhat comparable profiles.  But I can't know what really was behind all the choices and why they may have mattered to honoring Mason.  I'm not questioning the talent of the men involved ....

 

What really got my attention was that the three composers who were commissioned to write for the same Metamorphosis evening were also all men. And the set designers? Same.  So, for a big "creative" evening ... somehow, and let's suppose (to recall Wheeldon) with "no overt misogyny" involved, the creative team the company puts together musically, choreographically, scenically has scarcely any women involved in any component....I say "scarcely" because, when queried, the Royal pointed to the lighting designer for one of the ballets as an example of how a woman was important to the project. I don't doubt she was, but....

 

This is just one event, but for me became rather emblematic.

 

Very, very, very recently major companies have been trying to address this issue in a more deliberate way. For myself I would certainly like to see Bond given more opportunities. Also I'd be happy to see her with another commission at Atlanta Ballet.

Edited by Drew

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4 hours ago, Amy said:

Alexei posted this on Facebook in response to this question:

 

 

 I gather that Ratmansky is suggesting that if the NYT had asked the question as part of a forum devoted to the subject, he would have answered differently. On the other hand, we may actually have gotten more candid answers from them off-the-cuff, as it were.

 

Ratmansky's chief difficulty, however, is not that his words were unclear. Quite the contrary. :)

 

 

 

 

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I say "scarcely" because, when queried, the Royal pointed to the lighting designer for one of the ballets as an example of how a woman was important to the project. I don't doubt she was, but....

 

Also, theater lighting design is one place where women have found it (relatively) easy. Pointing to your lighting designer as an example of gender equity is not a powerful rebuttal.

 

We think of ballet as being dominated by women, but when it comes to putting a project like this together maybe a boys' club dynamic may be at work (?) Women are not part of certain circles, so they don't get thought of? Just tossing that out there.

 

 

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Hadn't really thought about including the rest of the creative team in this discussion (my bad) -- I have to log off and go do some stuff, but will take a fast look at PNB's season when I get back and do some numbers - perhaps some of you could look at your home company and do the same...

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Ok, went back and looked at Pacific Northwest Ballet this year.  We've had two works by female choreographers: Brief Fling by Tharp (a revival) and Her Door to the Sky by Jessica Lang (a premiere).  As far as the rest of the artistic team is concerned:

Benjamin Millepied's Three Movements had costumes by Isabella Boylston.  His Appasionata had scenic and light design by Lucy Carter

 

Both William Forsythe's New Suite and David Dawson's Empire Noir had Yumiko Takeshima listed as costume co-designer.

 

Bruce Wells' Hansel and Gretel has scenic design by Edith Whitsett and a special costume credit (Witch) by Victoria McFall

 

Both George Balanchine's Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and Christopher Wheeldon's Carousel have costumes by Holly Hynes

 

Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite has costumes by Irene Sharaff and lights by Jennifer Tipton

 

George Balanchine's La Source has costumes by Karinska

 

Jerome Robbins' Opus 19 has lights by Jennifer Tipton

 

Alexei Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition has costumes by Adeline Andre.

 

Out of 18 works, two were choreographed by women.  Eight had women designing (or co-designing) costumes. One had scenic design by a woman. Three had lighting design by a woman.

 

Their technical director is a man, and almost all the regular production crew are men.  Their stage manager is a woman, and the stage manager before her was also a woman.  The head of the costume shop is a woman, and almost all of the crew are women.  Their executive director is a woman, the heads of development, marketing and community education are women, the principal of the school and most of the faculty are women, the conductors are all men, the CFO is a man, and the IT manager is a man.

 

Some of this sounds pretty conventional (women sew and men build), but they do a pretty good job in several other departments.

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8 hours ago, sandik said:

Ok, went back and looked at Pacific Northwest Ballet this year.  We've had two works by female choreographers: Brief Fling by Tharp (a revival) and Her Door to the Sky by Jessica Lang (a premiere).  As far as the rest of the artistic team is concerned:

Benjamin Millepied's Three Movements had costumes by Isabella Boylston.  His Appasionata had scenic and light design by Lucy Carter

 

[SNIP for length]

Out of 18 works, two were choreographed by women.  Eight had women designing (or co-designing) costumes. One had scenic design by a woman. Three had lighting design by a woman.

 

Their technical director is a man, and almost all the regular production crew are men.  Their stage manager is a woman, and the stage manager before her was also a woman.  The head of the costume shop is a woman, and almost all of the crew are women.  Their executive director is a woman, the heads of development, marketing and community education are women, the principal of the school and most of the faculty are women, the conductors are all men, the CFO is a man, and the IT manager is a man.

 

Some of this sounds pretty conventional (women sew and men build), but they do a pretty good job in several other departments.

 

And of course the Millepied 3 Movements is even more conventional, in that it was him having his live-in gf at that time do the costumes.

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Yes, in the theater world women are the majority only among stage managers and costumes designers (and, oh yeah, the audience), so having women designing costumes is really very conventional.

 

 

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