All-female response to all-male ballet interview

Responses to a New York Times panel of male choreographers, by Cleo Person '16 and Taylor Massa '20

In “A Conversation With 3 Choreographers Who Reinvigorated Ballet,” The New York Times interviewed Justin Peck, Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon. One question at issue was: “Most of the major choreographers in classical dance are men. Why is that?” Two Juilliard dancers respond to their responses.

In “A Conversation With 3 Choreographers Who Reinvigorated Ballet,” The New York Times interviewed Justin Peck, Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon. One question at issue was: “Most of the major choreographers in classical dance are men. Why is that?” Peck said women needed to be encouraged to “explore that choreographic side of their brains” at a younger age. Wheeldon, while noting the “obvious imbalance,” said directors “would love to” hire female choreographers and added, “I don’t think overt misogyny is at work.” Ratmansky had perhaps the most interesting response: “I don’t see it as a problem. Besides Crystal Pite, Jessica Lang and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa are among the very best now. And Graham and Nijinska are still performed. I’m sure that if new, interesting talent arrives and is a woman, she will have equal opportunities.” Below, two Juilliard dancers respond.

Taylor Massa ’20:
One of the major problems here is that the question was posed to three male choreographers. If a real, genuine answer was desired, the question should have been asked of female choreographers such as Crystal Pite, Jessica Lang, etc. From a woman’s perspective, they would have explained how difficult it is to be taken seriously as a higher ranking female in the dance world no matter the quality of your work. The majority of artistic directors are male and they are the ones who choose the choreographers they want their companies to work with. Men respect men more than men respect women and that is shown by this obvious imbalance within the industry.

Cleo Person ’16:
I think Taylor brought up a great valid point that when this question is posed to three male choreographers we don’t get a very full perspective. I think it’s important to note the the question was posed specifically about the world of “classical dance.” I believe it’s an important distinction to make, instead of trying to generalize about the dance field as a whole, because there are such different traditions that still hold sway in a powerful way in the ballet world. These structures seem more or less built into the art form itself, as gender roles often play a big part in the narratives of many the classic choreographies of the last couple centuries, and even more so in the company structures. Classical dance companies also seem to be more tied to their traditional economic support structures and patrons, which makes the small individual company structures many female choreographers in more contemporary domains have populated in the last few decades more challenging for the classical world to adopt. Classical companies still largely exist in the format of repertory companies with male artistic directors who commission choreographers, and within this dynamic, they do seem, for the most part, still less likely to commission women.


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