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"Where are the Women in Ballet?"


dirac

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4 hours ago, aurora said:

 

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.

 

However she got that gig, she did an excellent job.  The costumes go a long way towards contextualizing the dancers, which made the choreography much more distinct.

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21 hours ago, sandik said:

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.

Having a lot of women in administrative and teaching roles is nothing special. 

 

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16 hours ago, dirac said:

Having a lot of women in administrative and teaching roles is nothing special. 

 

While it's true that women still outnumber men in teaching roles, having women in upper level management is less common, especially with larger companies (with larger budgets)  I'm not holding PNB up as an ideal situation -- I'm just saying that there are more layers to the issue.

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Recalling the sheer numbers of women in the ballet world (where as dance students they surely still way outnumber men) and their prominence as teachers and coaches everywhere--and as administrators in a number of places--makes their very weak numbers among the ranks of leading choreographers working for major, world-class ballet companies and their weak numbers as choreographers at many other companies, all the more ... notable.  Especially since the example of modern dance makes clear enough what the ballet world might be losing. That ballet has its own exigencies, and for women dancers especially, is evident enough...but can't be the whole story.

 

I did find myself thinking about POB in this discussion--they have commissioned or presented any number of works from women choreographers in recent decades, but from women who emerged and flourished and founded their own companies outside the ballet world. (At the time I'm thinking of the company was led by Brigitte Lefèvre.)

Edited by Drew
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On ABT's instagram this morning, the #MeetABTMonday feature is on Gemma Bond. And, for the Fun Fact, it states: "Gemma is an emerging CHOREOGRAPHER!"

 

Emerging? It goes on to state that Bond has been choreographing for at least 9 years, the same year she joined ABT. To be fair to ABT, maybe they say "emerging" since Bond is not nationally known as a choreographer. Still, it seems condescending.

 

A few people have commented beneath it asking for her work to be shown at ABT. If I was on Instagram, I'd agree.

 

 

 

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Well, I generally call someone "emerging" if they are still establishing their style, or if they are still working primarily as a performer.  It can be a tricky label, though -- an emerging choreographer in a ballet context will generally have access to resources that a young contemporary choreographer would never get.  Someone with a few dances under their belt might look at PNB's Next Step program (where most of the choreographers have only made 2 or 3 works) and question the "emerging" label, since the total package reflects a level of support that, in the modern dance world, only comes with significant experience.

 

Bond's pocket resume above certainly reflects a significant amount of experience -- if she were working as a contemporary choreographer, she would likely be labeled differently, but she's being described here on a track that assumes her goal is a slot on ABT's main season.  And so, she emerges...

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Ratmansky doubles down (again) on Facebook.

 

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sorry, there is no such thing as equality in ballet: women dance on point, men lift and support women. women receive flowers, men escort women off stage. not the other way around (I know there are couple of exceptions). and I am very comfortable with that

 

Big of you, fella. I hope someone can persuade Ratmansky to listen to Leigh Witchel's sound advice.....

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Interesting definition of equality, or not-equality as the case may be. Well, at least he's not suggesting that there's some essential difference between men and women that renders one or the other inferior. I suppose one could argue that there are real biological differences that make it hard for women to lift men and for men to dance on point, but neither dancing on point nor supported pirouettes are essential to ballet. 

 

Flowers? Meh. It's nothing more than clinging to tradition. 

 

I will point out that men have been escorting women off of any number of stages, real and metaphorical, for lo these many centuries -- when they're not chasing them off, that is. :wink:

 

Personally, I'm sorry my schedule precludes my seeing this:

 

 

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"Equality" can mean "identical," as in "identical twins" or it can mean "comparable worth." I guess I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in his use of English, his second language. This debate about the meaning of "equality" has tripped up plenty of specialists in law and ethics.

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When I read Ratmansky's comments, I thought a little along Marina Harss' comment in the same thread:

 

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Just an aside: A woman dances a “male” variation in The Bright Stream as well–it is the exact same variation danced by a man in Act I. (And a man dances en pointe in Act II.) Both are most exciting. And men perform delicate, supposedly feminine steps in Serenade after Plato’s Symposium. Lots of his ballets have men supporting men. Once can agree or disagree about the words and how they are stated–and healthy debate is a wonderful thing–but a knowledge of the works adds some nuance to the discussion.

 

I think she's being very diplomatic with the last sentence – but she's right that what Ratmansky actually does on stage seems to contradict his fusty comments off. At least in Bolt and Shostakovich Triology there seem to be many odd coupled and odd numbered passages. A bit nutty that he has it both ways.

 

 

Edited by Quiggin
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I've been mulling over Ratmansky's comment (and probably giving it more attention than it deserves) trying to figure out why it irks me. I think it boils down to this: he's reduced "equality" to mean nothing more than one gender appropriating the manners and technique that is currently the exclusive province of the other. In that bizarro-world version ballet, women lift men and men dance on pointe and get flowers. And yes, that version of ballet could easily turn out to be ludicrous, although I've got no issue with a stage manager galumphing out during the curtain call to hand the primo ballerino a big bouquet of roses, or even with said ballerino dancing on point. (I have seen David Hallberg on point, and I can tell you he looked glorious - and would have looked even more glorious if he hadn't been required to imitate a ballerina. But I digress ...) 

 

The problem with Ratmansky's statement is that it implies that there is no other avenue by which ballet might relax the strictures imposed by a heavily gendered vocabulary / technique that has evolved relatively recently and mostly as a result historical accident. (If I'm recalling ballet history correctly, some of the first porteurs were women dancing en travesti, no?) 

 

It's as if  ballet technique evolved to patrol the borders of gender — and a very heteronormative understanding of gender at that — which sharply limited the themes it could explore and the stories it could tell. One of the reasons I like the (all-male) second movement of Justin Peck's Rodeo so much is that 1) it lets the men absolutely luxuriate in exquisite port de bras and arabesques and 2) allows them to partner each other in ways that don't reference ballerina-danseur partnering — and through these materials presents us with affecting images of vulnerability, support, and tenderness that have nothing to do with boy-meets-girl (or even boy-meets-boy).

 

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1 hour ago, Balletwannabe said:

He is comfortable with the way things are...he didn't say he's against change.  I don't have a problem with his statements.  The way he likes ballet isn't wrong (in my opinion), it's just his view/preference.  I understand what everyone is saying...I just don't view it the same way.  

 

Well, he did start off with "Sorry, there is no such thing as equality in ballet" — which suggests that he thinks it's more than just his preference, but rather something akin to a law of nature. 

 

ETA: He's welcome to his preference of course; he's not welcome to declare that ballet is whatever he says it is, or isn't as the case may be. That's why we have Jennifer Homans. :wink:

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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1 hour ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

 

Well, he did start off with "Sorry, there is no such thing as equality in ballet" — which suggests that he thinks it's more than just his preference, but rather something akin to a law of nature. 

 

ETA: He's welcome to his preference of course; he's not welcome to declare that ballet is whatever he says it is, or isn't as the case may be. That's why we have Jennifer Homans. :wink:

I think he was talking about classical ballet which, although didn't start out the way it now, has been the same for quite some time now.  I read the whole conversation on his page.  Ashley Bouder's suggestion that the future of ballet could include dancers who are not trained on pointe, is an interesting one.  I don't think that's realistic at all.  Those dancers will always be viewed as modern/contemporary, in my opinion.  It's all just opinion really; I didn't read into his statement that it's what ballet can or can't be, simply what it is, and what he expects it to continue to be.  But I digress, only he knows what he actually meant.

Edited by Balletwannabe
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7 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Since danseurs don't dance on pointe I think we can safely say that ballet does not by definition require dancing on pointe.

But it requires women, in classical ballet, to dance on pointe.  If that changes, I doubt we'll refer to it as classical ballet. 

 

I think classical ballet will always exist in its current form, but that modern/contemporary ballet companies will emerge more and more.  But a company calling itself "classical" and hiring a dancer who can't dance on pointe?  I don't think that's realistic.  I think the demand for its current form will always be there, because it's so beautiful, and again, there's nothing "wrong" with the way it is.  It's art, it's subjective.

Edited by Balletwannabe
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3 hours ago, Balletwannabe said:

But it requires women, in classical ballet, to dance on pointe.  If that changes, I doubt we'll refer to it as classical ballet. 

Like when Lilac Fairy wore heels?  The children's roles in many Soviet and Russian ballets or the bugs in Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or Angels and Polichinelles in"Nutcracker" where the girls are in ballet slippers?

 

To refer to anything as classical ballet or not without looking at the content of the work is meaningless.  

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3 hours ago, Balletwannabe said:

But it requires women, in classical ballet, to dance on pointe.  If that changes, I doubt we'll refer to it as classical ballet. 

 

I think classical ballet will always exist in its current form, but that modern/contemporary ballet companies will emerge more and more.  But a company calling itself "classical" and hiring a dancer who can't dance on pointe?  I don't think that's realistic.  

 

True. Pointework is certainly part of the definition of classical ballet as it's understood today and it is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future, even though it is of course not the only thing that defines what makes a work or dancer classical. Certainly the wider public would recognize it as such.

 

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I think the demand for its current form will always be there, because it's so beautiful, and again, there's nothing "wrong" with the way it is.  It's art, it's subjective.

 

Yes, indeed.

 

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