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"Where are the Women in Ballet?"


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3 minutes ago, jkr3855 said:

Posting his response to a particular question as though it were in response to an entirely different one is journalistic fraud, not an editorial decision. If you think the NYT did this, you might contact them. I think it's totally implausible, frankly. I'm not sure how that responds to my question, "do you really think this happened"

I'm also not sure it's helpful or to the point to find barely possible ways to excuse Ratmansky

I misspoke:  I was responding to your comment, "there's no way to misinterpret that," when he's saying that was the opposite of what he said/texted.  Either he was quoted accurately -- exactly or substantially -- in response to that exact question, and is lying about it now, or not.  

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? When did he say he was misquoted? ("opposite of what he texted" can only mean misquoted) I must have missed that.


I agree the NYT might have paraphrased his text response rather than quoting him directly.
But given the slight inaccuracies in English I would think it's a direct quote.
If the article doesn't accurately represent his texted response, he's had plenty of time to post his actual response, or even amend it on further reflection, if he so chooses.

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11 minutes ago, Helene said:

 when he's saying that was the opposite of what he said/texted.

Oh are you referring to:

"if my words were unclear I am glad to elaborate. just don't like reading comments that turn what I meant upside down "

I don't think he's saying he was misquoted or that the NYT published the "upside down (read opposite)"  of what he meant. He's referencing "comments" here, not the article, so he's alleging that some commenters, somewhere, are misinterpreting his remarks.

Edited by jkr3855
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To be fair, I think Ratmansky meant to be genuinely complimentary about the female choreographers he cites and comments elsewhere suggests that female dancers have found him supportive to work with.  The problem is that He doesn't seem to comprehend the notion of systemic unconscious discrimination.  I think that may be why he is a bit bewildered by the negative reactions and thinks that he must have been misunderstood.  

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33 minutes ago, Helene said:

I misunderstood him:  I thought the answers themselves are what he was disputing when he talked about texting between rehearsals.


It looks like he's learning the hard way not to respond on demand.

Lol ok now I don't know what the heck he was responding to, as it's true he may have been referring to the comments from writers at the Times after the fact...Idk but regardless, his petulant tone is really doing him no favors.


Guys, this wasn't a trick question, all you had to do was say, Yes, it's a problem. No I don't know how to solve it, it's quite an intractable problem that doesn't just exist in ballet.

I don't like this attitude that seems to say "men just can't say anything right"! or "whatever we say we're screwed, so we better not say anything to upset the ladies"! The fact that it put them all immediately on the defensive is part of the problem. They seem to think if they acknowledge the sexism that's prevalent in the industry, it invalidates their own success. So they pretend it doesn't exist

I normally avoid instagram (like the plague) but I went to Peck's instagram to see if he had any kind of response to this, as he's normally pretty diplomatic on instagram, and he's (obliquely) posted an account of the obstacles and difficulties he's faced to become a choreographer. 

no one is questioning that he's worked hard and that he's faced difficulties and that he has a kind of talent that history will ultimately be the judge of. Not the point in this particular discussion. I think this defensive attitude prevents them all from seeing that women will still have to work 10x harder to get the recognition they themselves get.

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I've been shaking my head so much after reading that article that I'm still dizzy.  Or, as my grandmother would have said, "Oy, yoy, yoy, yoy, yoy."


But I do agree with the comment that it's not Peck's or Ratmansky's or Wheeldon's -- since he decided to quit his own company -- question to answer as much as it's the ADs who are hiring and encouraging choreographers and the programs that are developing choreographers.

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I absolutely agree Helene.  Luke Jennings wrote a piece back in 2013 about the Royal Ballet's development projects for choreographic talent and how they have shamefully neglected Cathy Marston and Vanessa Fenton (an ex-company dancer who showed considerable promise in studio works).  Both dancers had interesting things to say about how the company structure and management approach works against "pushy women".  And yet we get endless Wheeldon (two full lengths in the next season) and inexplicable third, fourth and fifth helpings of Scarlett.

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I interpreted Peck as meaning that if girls could conceive of themselves as choreographers from a young age, they would practice choreography, and that there would be more female choreographers.


My first thought was that it is ironic that from the earliest age, girls have an overwhelming number of female examples and role models as dance makers, because their primarily female teachers are constantly making dances for their recitals and shows, yet this doesn't translate into turning girls into choreographers.  Then I wondered if that they associate dance-making with teaching, as opposed to dancing, and that this becomes a negative.

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As a rule of thumb, it is when money and prestige becomes significant (in this case commissions for major companies as opposed to small projects and teacher recitals) that men begin to outnumber women in any given field.  It would be very very interesting to see a list of the top 25 choreographers ranked according to the amount of commission earned from ballet companies globally over the past decade.  I am certain there would be no women in the top 10 and I also suspect that the list could be entirely male.  Sadly there is very little transparency on such matters which itself helps perpetuate the status quo.

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If that were case, I'd expect there to be a lot of girls choreographing young, but then not getting commissions as they grew older.  I've never seen evidence that this is true, or that after moving from the junior corps years when time is scarce, that they've gone back to it.


I would think that Twyla Tharp would be in a list of Top 10 by commission.  The Top 10 list would almost certainly consist of freelancers, since house choreographer ADs like Martins and Tomasson generally don't receive them, and their work isn't often done outside their home companies.  Similarly resident choreographers who haven't branched out that much, at least in the beginning.  

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You may be right about Tharp but if you look at her website, most commissions in the past decade have been for her own company or for non-ballet companies.  There is one work for each of PNB, Atlanta Ballet and Kansas City Ballet.  The Royal has commissioned a one-act for next season but it will be their first this century.


Compare that to the multiple full-lengths plus other stuff that Ratmansky and Wheeldon get year after year all around the world. I think if we look at this in terms of monetary investment by classical ballet companies rather than general critical/artistic profile (where I absolutely agree Tharp would be in most people's top 10) the men would do even better than first appears.  


The in-house director/choreographer point is interesting since, even though they may not get paid per commission, if they are staging their own works they are effectively taking stage time and commission fees from outside choreographers.  Plus of course they get to decide who any outside commissions go to.   I cannot think of a single female AD (in a primarily classical company) who is also the main/one of the main choreographers for her company.  Can anyone else?

Edited by variated
clarification I'm talking about classical ballet companies
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Victoria Morgan at Cincinnati Ballet. 


Tharp has done three new works for PNB between 2008 and 2013: Opus 111, Afternoon Ball, and Waiting at the Station.  She did a one year artistic residency in Seattle.


Her availability is limited when she's working on her own projects, like Broadway work that subsidizes other work.


However, the chances that she would have gotten ballet commissions at ABT or NYCB had she not had success as a modern choreographer with her own company I think are slim to none.

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Ashley Bouder is starting to choreograph and is very invested in promoting female choreographers.

It is an issue that she has been speaking about a lot lately, and the Ashley Bouder project recently did a triple bill titled “At This Dance, Women Take the Lead.” (which Macauley rather panned in terms of the choreography which he found trite):





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9 hours ago, Helene said:

I interpreted Peck as meaning that if girls could conceive of themselves as choreographers from a young age, they would practice choreography, and that there would be more female choreographers....


TBF, regarding Peck's answer he at least tried to answer the question, it was just a trifle patronizing. But I thought his answer alluded to something which I agree is part of the problem, that women are primed to see themselves as the inspiration for the choreography, rather than the impetus. And, in terms of examples for them to emulate, in the past when they have been the muse, rather than the choreographer, there is ample precedent that this can skyrocket their career, while trying to be the choreographer will likely end in frustration and a dead end.


[It's a problem not just in ballet: women who choose to be the object, rather than the subject. I'm no expert in semiotics or whatever :) of art history, but I think very recently there's a school of thought that proposes that the object, or the woman who is being objectified by the camera, is able to wield her power from behind the camera, equal to the person taking the picture. (As I say I'm definitely no expert but I think this argument is similar to the one that says a woman is most powerful when she is using her sexuality as a tool to get men to do what she wants). From what I can gather this argument doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, to me at any rate.]

Peck's answer didn't acknowledge that there are plenty of women who do not see themselves as muses, or who have already "trained" that side of their brain (lol), and they still struggle with the systemic bias of the profession, or unconscious bias from men who are selecting choreographers for a prestigious commission.

It's not that Peck is supposed to singlehandedly solve the problem and create world peace, it's just that as an artist, he should be aware of what is happening around him--I do think one main responsibility of any artist is to observe, accurately.

TLDR his answer was not as awful as it might have been it just left out some rather important points

Edited by jkr3855
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But I do agree with the comment that it's not Peck's or Ratmansky's or Wheeldon's -- since he decided to quit his own company -- question to answer as much as it's the ADs who are hiring and encouraging choreographers and the programs that are developing choreographers.


It's a fair point, but Wheeldon and Ratmansky have both been ADs, and Peck may be one some day. If they haven’t begun to think about this yet, now would be a pretty good time to start.

Thank you for the links, aurora. As Macaulay notes, Whelan has not chosen to work with any female choreographers in her post-ballet career as of this date. She was asked about this in an interview some time ago and her response was rather neutral. At present there's no reason to believe she's particularly invested in the question one way or another.

I remember Maria Kowroski once saying that "Blossom Got Kissed" was a breakthrough for her, an opportunity to explore different sides of herself as a dancer. 

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If you go to the Cincinnati Ballet YouTube channel, you can see excepts of some of Morgan's choreography.  The latest one I know about is her "Nutcracker."




Wheeldon was an AD for a few minutes and seems to have run as far away from it as possible.  Not that I'd expect him to have been supportive of female choreographers had he stayed on.  Did he even want other choreographers to work with his dancers?  (That was always Olivier Wevers' goal with Whim W'him, an early advocate of his fellow Belgian choreographer Lopez Ochoa.)


Ratmansky was AD for half a decade at one of the most regressive, hierarchical arts institutions on the planet, and he's got scars to show from the battles he chose to fight, ie., removing Grigorovich ballets from the central place and casting/promoting a new generation and breaking hierarchy, much like Millepied tried at POB.  I'm sure Ratmansky could be an AD again at the drop of a hat if that were his goal, but he's got such a better deal where he is now, a residency -- with health insurance! -- at a top company with its resources at his command and the dancers he wants, freelance opportunities all over the world, and a zeitgeist that supports his efforts to reconstruct Petipa ballets.  The small incremental gain in being in Peter Martins', Kevin McKenzie's, or Nikolaj Hubbe's position wouldn't offset the loss of what he'd have to give up -- he said "no" to a similar position at NYCB when Martins wanted to restrict his outside work -- and the administrative functions/fundraising he'd have to do.

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I would definitely include America's Adrienne Dellas among the great female choreographers. Ms Dellas was the first A.D. of South Korea's Universal Ballet in the 1980s, where she created several gorgeous works in the grand Petipa style, including a CINDERELLA and ballet on a Korean theme, SHIM CHUNG (which DVD is a gem of my collection). Ms Dellas is the current head of Washington DC's Kirov Academy of Ballet, for which she's  choreographed many beautiful miniatures, especially for the youngest students. She's right here in our backyard...yet not always remembered. :)


Other excellent female CLASSICAL ballet choreographers of the 20th-C with filmed work...but not enough!...include Andree Howard, Nina Anisimova and  Ruthanna Boris (her CAKEWALK being a particular guilty pleasure).

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