Personally, I like receiving flowers and being escorted offstage. I like dancing in pointe shoes and being lifted and supported. Yet that doesn’t mean a man shouldn’t be able to have those things too. It seems that whenever a man is escorted offstage or receives flowers—other than at retirement or a single rose from the ballerina—it’s only done for a humorous reaction, to make fun of him for being like a woman.
The problem with these traditions is that they highlight more serious gender inequality. It’s as if the image of a man leading a woman into the wings is a metaphor for how the dance world is run. A male director leading the careers of dancers. A male choreographer laying down the pathway of steps to perform.
Of course, there are women who have broken through this mold. But there it is in the phrase: “broken through.” A simple place at the table would be sufficient. Instead, it’s like women are crashing the dinner party.
In order to move forward socially, and, yes, artfully, we must be willing to break from tradition and make room for all types. That doesn’t mean that the traditional male and female roles cannot exist. As long as performances of Petipa’s Swan Lake keep selling out, it is guaranteed that they will exist.
Bouder, leader of The Ashley Bouder Project, is constantly doing more to reinforce and stand by her statements from both this OpEd and her social media accounts. Recently, however, Bouder faced retaliation from her ex-male director, Peter Martins. This time, instead of laying down the pathway of steps to perform, Martins took away all steps, more specifically, an opening night, first-cast performance of the Sleeping Beauty, from Bouder. According to the New York Times, Martins continues to maintain the authority to change casts and whatever else he wants in his version of the production for New York City Ballet, despite no longer serving as Artistic Director for the company after severe allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct. Jonathan Stafford, the interim Artistic Director, had no authority to prevent this last-minute change to his first cast.
Bouder has chosen to fearlessly speak out, revealing the disturbing truth of a reality she and her peers face. Dance Data Project stands with Bouder as she remains steadfast and strong – “‘I feel like he is punishing me, even though he is not my boss anymore,” Ms. Bouder said. “And by talking about it I can be punished even further. But that’s a risk I have to take.'” Her honesty is the advocacy this community needs to fight the policies and leadership that do not promote equity and fairness in classical dance.
Read the New York Times article on Martins’ continued control here.
Read the New York Times article featuring Ms. Bouder’s project and advocacy here.
Read Bouder’s OpEd for Dance Magazine here.
Visit www.theashleybouderproject.com to see first-hand the dancer/leader’s advocacy.