At Petipa in late 19th century “The Sleeping Beauty”,

                 At the end of the last century,
ballet hit its death point.. Five of its greatest choreographers (Balanchine,
Antony Tudor, Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and Jerome Robbins) had died
and no successors of their status were in view. 21st-century ballets have
entered international repertory and ballet regained most of its health back.
From the great roles in romantic ballets initiated by “La Sylphide” (1836), to
“Giselle” (1841) to the classical creations of Marius Petipa in late 19th
century “The Sleeping Beauty”, feminine beauty was the climate in which the man
looked, traveled, and found love. Those ballets are classic examples of the male
gaze. In the 20th century, Balanchine created what many consider to be the most
beautiful female role in the repertoire. However, to a large extent, they were
also variations of the 19th century theme, based on the combination of the
power and beauty of women and the ability of man to worship and serve. The
world of Balanchine is penetrated with modern consciousness, where his women do
not always live for love, and their fates are rarely limited by the men they
rely on. The individual freedom in conflict with the sexual intimacy is the
central theme of Balanchine’s pas de deux, which is often dramatized from a
woman’s point of view; for it is the man who sees and follows and it is the
woman who acts and guides. In many of his ballets men tend to be cavaliers and
partners, while his women, wives, and trapped by their society. For Balanchine
the men is the artist, the woman is his muse, and the roles may not change or
be reversed.  He proclaimed “Ballet is
Woman, is a purely female thing; it is a woman -a
garden of beautiful flowers, and the man is the gardener.” Women are symbols of
ballet, performing demanding steps created by men. The initial tendency in this
statement is to link women to the natural world and men with the forces of
civilization and cultural progress.  In
most major dance companies, when it comes to choreography ballet remains
overwhelmingly a man’s world, and this view is often crafted by men. Women are
underrepresented in many positions of power in the arts, whether as director,
orchestra conductors, opera composers, but the lack of female choreographers at
major companies is stunning, given the importance of women in the ballet, and
the way pioneering female choreographers helped shape ballet during the 20th
century. The large part of the ballet dates from imperial Russia or France from
the 19th century, but it just does not explain the lack of works of female
choreographers in large companies. In recent years, there has been an explosion
of a new choreographers – but for large companies, most of them are men. Choreographic
works by women are far less represented by those developed by men. In a recent
accounting of choreographic works by major American ballet companies showed
that only 25 ballets out of 290, where choreographed by women, and performed in
2012. This image clearly states that ballet is manipulated by men; directors
are not choosing women choreographers as a part of their program.

 “In classical dance, female choreographers are
rare indeed,” states Luke Jennings (2013).

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The only choreographic
works with a worldwide recognitions are those of Twyla Tharp who began her
choreographic carrier in the 60’s, and to present the work of a choreographer
like Twyla Tharp is not seen as taking a risk, as she is one of the most widely
performed female choreographers, who has had success in many genres — modern
dance and dance for Broadway, films, and ballet, beginning with her 1973
crossover work “Deuce Coupe.” In 1988, toward the end of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s
term as artistic director of American Ballet Theater, he appointed Ms. Tharp
the company’s artistic associate and resident choreographer, and even
though this position did not last, her relationship with the company continued
and has given premieres of more than a dozen of her works.

opportunities for new male choreographers are much different, Alexi Ratmansky,
Christopher Wheeldon, Justin Peck and other men have established careers in the
post-Balanchine era. The reason for this may reside in the fact that men within
the dance company have more free time to creatively develop, explore and
experiment with choreography, and because the competition is not as intense as
it is for the women. Among more established directors, Peter Martins at NYCB
can simply insert himself into the role of choreographer, who has produced many
works for NYCB even though many of his works are not widely commissioned by
other companies. The companies are not taking a risk on anything, they are not
investing time or giving a chance to someone who is in the corps de ballet,
letting them work with students to develop their choreographic skills. If they would give the attention to
women as they give to men, it will change the course and absence of women
choreographers, today.




In the chart above we see
the commissions for the year 2014, but in 2015-16 New York City Ballet
performed 58, including seven world premieres and not one was by a woman and
the same goes for Royal Ballet in London, where they haven’t commissioned a new
work by a woman for the main stage. In Moscow, the Bolshoi danced more than two
dozen ballets this season, but only one was by a woman, and only partially:
“Short Time Together,” by the team Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon, and American Ballet Theater presented just one ballet by a woman
“The Brahms-Hayden Variations “by Twayla Twarp.


Recently there have been new ballets by choreographer such as Christopher
Wheeldon, Jorma Elo, Mr. Peter Martins, Mauro Bigonzetti, Alexei Ratmansky and
Justin Peck, a big diversity and all done by white males, and the critic’s
cannot complain about gender inequality in every review or feature. The
directors of the institutions who have the power to commission something new
and fresh are men, and they do not run enough research to find diverse
choreographers, male and female, they just go with the well-known male

Alexei Ratmansky is celebrated around the world for his
new ballet and reimagining of the old ones. Christopher Wheeldon has had
successes with top ballet companies and on Broadway, where he directed and
choreographed “American in Paris, “and  they
are all part of a new generation of very demanding group of choreographers that
includes Wayne McGregor, Benjamin Millepied, Justin Peck, Liam Scarlett and
others. Many have taken up residencies or other official positions with major
ballet companies. But while the Royal Ballet has presented works by a number of
female choreographers in recent years, they have tended to be done at its
smaller Linbury Studio Theater, not on the main stage. It’s been 18 years since a
woman was commissioned to create a main-stage ballet at the Royal Opera House,
and the privilege was given to the Crystal Pite, a piece called “Flight
Pattern” alongside Christopher Wheeldon, with his older work “After the rain”
and “Human Seasons” a new piece from David Dawson. When the Royal Ballet and
the National Gallery launched a collaboration named Metamorphosis: Titian 2012;
out of the 15 artists and choreographers involved, none of them was a woman,
and the irony is that the subject was the goddess Diana, the personification of
feminine power.

The lack of women having their work performed has become
a topic of conversation in London. Gender inequality in dance is nothing new,
and the issue still continues. In 1976, The Village Voice explored
discrimination in the dance world in an article “When a Woman Dances, Nobody
Cares” co-written by Wendy Perron and Stephanie Woodard where among other
things they discuss, they also come to a realization that “male choreographers
are getting grants way out of proportion to their numbers.” The Gender Project was formed in 1998, by choreographer
and teacher JoAnna Mendl Shaw and other New York dance figures to study this
issue, to look at New York and national statistics and compare male and female
representation, identify gender inequality in dance, explore the reasons behind
it and provide support for individuals and institution in their effort to
change the pattern. One finding was that even in modern dance which was
largely invented by pioneering female choreographers, men were more likely to
get their works performed than women. Overwhelming membership of women in
dance, especially ballet might be the problem for this issue. In ballet
schools, girls typically outnumber boys, who are sometimes persuaded to attend
with reduced or even free tuition.  Women play a crucial role in many
ballet companies and schools as teachers, ballet mistresses and répétiteurs,
passing the steps to new generations to come, and some of them are prominent
dance critics. The lack of men in the dance world
means less competition for openings for male dancers; women often take time off
mid-career to have children or care for aging parents; and a lifelong
socialization process teaches men to be aggressive self-promoters and women to
be self-sacrificing and apologetic  While changes in leadership and policymaking
are important to ensure gender equality and opportunities, there are also critical
changes to be made in society, but for this to work there has to be an equal
opportunity for development for women as well. This is not just a dance issue,
it is a world issue and women need to be included in conversations where key
decisions need to be done. It might sound a bit like a feminist view, but the
truth is, it is a feminist struggle related to social and political factors. Regardless
of sex the dance world needs representation and quality choreographic works,
and in the end the work must speak for itself and quality is the key.

Within the framework of modern
feminism, its radical variant clearly outlines the question of male control
over culture, religion, language and knowledge. The basis of social repression
against women does not lie in social organization or physical dominance but
this male control of rapid culture and knowledge, limiting the ways in which we
think. Language, philosophy, political theory and common knowledge is based on
a male paradigm that ignores or undermines women’s experience. From its
beginnings, radical feminism has ambition and challenges the world organized
according to male values-patriarchy. In each society there are two
cultures-visible, national male culture and female invisible culture and these
two cultures are formed on the basis of different experiences of men and women.
Even for radical feminists who regard gender as a social identity as a social
construction, the genesis of the overall cultural division lies precisely in
the sex of an individual understood as a biological factor. Gender determines
the social position, life experience, physical and mental transformation, the
interests and values of the individual. The gender distinction originally
defined according to the pro-active function of the individual as the first and
basic task of social organization and further used to structure every aspect of
human nature and life. The patriarch imposes the male values of domination,
force, and suppresses or ridicules the contribution of women’s values,
emotions, intuition, and building close human relationships. The goal of
radical libertarian feminists is the vision of building an androgen culture.
The goal of building a new androgenic culture is to transcend precisely the
constraints of the patriarchal cultural construction, to break the necessary
bond and prejudice between the biological sex and the social identity of the
gender, as well as to create conditions for combining male and female
characteristics that will reflect the most positive individual personality.

In an area where the
proportion of women with men is nearly twenty to one, it seems that men are
more likely to achieve ideal success in the form of artistic leadership of a
high profile company. While this may be the case, it is important to recognize
that while men can be led by large modern companies, women have strong
positions in dance education and independent dance. The role of the art
director is crucial in order to run a successful dance company. The artistic
director’s responsibilities range from creative control over the selection of
the repertoire to employment practices and financial decisions, which are kept
in check by the administration and production staff that helps to balance the
creative choices with their economic consequences.

The dynamics between artistic directors and dancers
differs from company to company, but is often strongly hierarchical, and this
speaks of the level of inequality within the company’s structure, in which
dancers, and especially female dancers, are numerous enough to be seen as
interchangeable goods.

However, such a structural hierarchy is key to
maintaining successful dance companies; dancers learn to understand their
position in the hiking order from a very young age and to recognize the
significant level of competition that surrounds the professional position as a
dancer. It is also important to realize that, beyond determining the direction
of a season, artistic directors set the agenda for a dancing company in the
long run. Few female artistic directors and choreographers can result in a
dance sector that is less capable of meeting the needs of female dancers. It
can also contribute to a culture in which women are considered less valuable
contributors to the creative and choreographic process, or in which stories of
women are less likely to be interpreted through the dance medium. The artistic
director may be the most visible traditional leadership role in the dance
sector, but the choreographer is just as important for the process of creating
a dance (it’s not unusual for a person to hold both positions in a dance
company). There are no steps to put on stage without the choreographer. Traditionally,
the choreographer takes responsibility for the unique creative decisions in the
studio, to seeing a unpolished rehearsal product to a polished stage product. The
same view we see with artistic directors, we see a division of gender in
choreography, also. Women are trying to gain traditional leadership roles
within the dance sector, and when they succeed (often by setting up their own
choreographer’s own companies), they have often struggled to retain the
positions or funding necessary to maintain the companies. As we have seen,
there are exceptions to every rule and some important female success stories.
However, it seems that sexism is endemic in an art form that is so closely
related to femininity. Due to the contradictory aspects of women’s
participation in dance and their lack of representation in traditional power roles,
the discussion of women’s leadership in dance of the 20th century must extend
beyond the typical work roles that have financial, creative or intellectual
control, such as artistic director and choreographer. If we properly assess the
impact of women’s leadership in this industry, we must adapt the notion of
“leadership” to enclose roles in  performance, learning, mentoring, research and
advocacy of the art form, both in concert performance and in a largely
undocumented area of community practice. 
Dance leadership can include areas that are not recognized outside the
studio, and yet play vast roles in shaping the art form by influencing the
artistic and creative practice of individual women. These are the areas
dominated by women because they give out the roles of the choreographer and
artistic director to contribute to the dance sector. As we think about women’s
dance leadership in the 20th century, it’s clear that the dance story is
essentially one of female self-expression. Even when their participation in
traditional leadership roles within the sector is limited, women seek power
elsewhere, especially in the fields of research, advocacy, writing and
teaching.  The leadership of women in
dance has behind and in front scenes, one as in the creation of dancers and the
other one as performers in a row of spotlights, till this day. Women also guide
the training of dancers in every genre of dance and the development of the art
form, even though the dancers struggled to cope not only with gendered dancing
associations, but also with endless efforts to secure funds. From the point of
view of women’s leadership, it is clear that gender parity is not reduced or
even seriously considered in other areas of professional life, such as
business, politics and academia. It seems that the acceptance of women in art
form signals the collective turning of the blind to barriers to leadership. To
this day, female dancers are vigorously aware of their value compared to their
male counterparts; although it is not properly documented, there is a general
feeling that men, dancers, administrators, choreographers and directors will
always be highly appreciated and even praised for their participation in a
“female” art form. Men’s obstacles to leadership in dance are worth
discussing further; we can assume that any social uncertainty about the sexual
preference and preferences of dancing men is successfully counterbalanced by
their dominance in traditional leadership roles as well as the performance of
hetero-normative relationships on the stage.

And women have continued to make changes when it comes to
running companies: Aurélie Dupont was recently appointed to succeed
Mr. Millepied as the director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet; Ms. Rojo is
the artistic director at English National Ballet; Loudres Lopez is
the artistic director of Miami City Ballet; and Julie Kent was recently
named the artistic director of the Washington Ballet. Yet at many major
companies it is still rare to see works by women. The companies that present
more contemporary dance is a field where female choreographers are more
influential. The Paris Opera Ballet, which has made contemporary dance a staple
of its repertoire, included works this season by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker,
Pina Bausch and Maguyn Marin, while the English National Ballet for the first
time set a whole evening by female choreographers.

The dance
explosion is a logical form of expression following the cultural explosion in
literature and film. The public needs to identify itself. An artist has no
choice. Viewing dance as political and universal. Culture has to find a way to
cope with society, especially when society is in a state of change.