Announcements about the Dance Data Project™ including new research, upcoming initiatives, additions to the team, and other exciting news.
Dance Data Project® released its sixth comprehensive report today, this time examining gender equity in spring/summer dance festival leadership and programming. For the first time in a DDP study, women make up a sizable majority in the category of artistic direction. As always, sources and limitations are cited at the end of the report.
Each semester, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL), at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, offers a Consulting Projects Course. This fall, DDP is one of the select organizations participating in this course in which students are presented with a company’s unique issue, problem, or decision that is critical to advancing that organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
As DDP grows, we need help meeting demands for more data and insight into the roles gender equity plays in the dance community. Furthermore, our team is committed to benefiting from academic insight and learning the latest methods in data analysis and academic research.
We are pleased to announce that second-year MBA student Patrick Crocker will be working on our project in the EGAL course. Patrick’s expertise comes from 10 years on active duty in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate and heavy exposure to dance from growing up backstage at his aunt’s dance studio performances, to working as an accompanist for dance classes at Texas Christian University, and to collaborating with the University of Richmond dance department during law school. Patrick will consider two topics of interest, examining either major ballet venues or company-affiliated ballet schools in the United States, defining the scope of their market and revealing the gender distribution in leadership and programming. This project is tailored to develop a usable product of interest to both the dance world and leaders in gender equity, as well as to the general public.
The DDP team would like to thank Larissa Roesch, who introduced our founder, Liza, to this project and Jennifer Wells, Program Director of EGAL for making the collaboration possible. We look forward to sharing the results of this collaboration with our community in the coming months!
Patrick is currently a full-time MBA student at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley (class of 2020). Prior to Berkeley, Patrick spent a decade in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate, mostly practicing in the criminal, operational, and intelligence law fields. He is originally from Texas and has been involved with dance off and on throughout his life, including working as an accompanist for the dace department at Texas Christian University during undergrad and writing/performing music for the dance department at the University of Richmond during law school. He is thrilled to be able to contribute to the amazing work DDP is doing to support equity initiatives in classical ballet.
Learn more about Berkeley Haas’ Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership here.
A Gender Gap In Ballet, Seriously?
By Kim Elsesser
12 September 2019
If there is one occupation in which it seems women should have an equal shot of making it to leadership roles, it is ballet. From a young age, far more girls than boys are interested in ballet, so much so that girls are estimated to outnumber boys 20-to-1 in ballet classes. Yet when it comes to leadership, there’s a shocking gender gap in favor of men.
The Data Dance Project (DDP), an organization dedicated to promoting equity in classical ballet, examined leadership and salary data for artistic directors at the top 50 ballet companies in the United States—and their findings are pretty shocking. Artistic directors are often former dancers, and they have the final say on artistic decisions like how a step may be performed or how a show will transition from one piece to the next. According to DDP, a whopping 72% of ballet companies have a male artistic director. Those women who do get the title of artistic director earn only 68 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Sadly, only one woman made it onto DDP’s top ten list of the highest paid artistic directors.
The gender bias in choreography is even worse. DDP found that in the 2018-19 ballet season, men choreographed 81% of all works performed by the top 50 ballet companies. Of the 467 works announced for the 2019-20 season, 79% will be choreographed by men.
Read the full feature on Forbes.com.
The ballet world is still male-dominated, research shows
By Elizabeth “Liza” Yntema
This article originally appeared on the Women’s Media Center website.
The great choreographer George Balanchine famously said, “Ballet is woman.” But an overwhelming majority of top jobs in classical dance on both the artistic and executive side are held by men, and the artistic vision presented — to a female-dominated audience — is similarly male, including re-treads of sexist stereotypes and an alarming number of ballets that include scenes of sexual violence and degradation.
I founded Dance Data Project four years ago to document and raise awareness about the lack of opportunities for female choreographers as well as the gender imbalance in artistic and administrative leadership in dance organizations. Our research has found that women hold only three of the artistic director jobs in the largest 10 companies in the U.S. (their combined revenue of $435 million exceeds the next 40 combined by approximately $125 million). Despite the fact that girls outnumber boys 20 to one and pay most of the fees in ballet schools, and despite the audience and donor base being 70% women, female artistic directors are paid 68 percent of what their male counterparts earn. The imbalance is even more pronounced when it comes to what you see on stage. For the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 seasons of work in the top 50 ballet companies in the U.S., a stunning 81% and 79% (respectively) of work is choreographed by men.
In 2018–2019, 70% of entire evening programs are exclusively male, and in the upcoming season 62% are — in other words, an exact inverse proportion of audience and donor base to works seen on stage. Eighty-three percent of the most prestigious pieces, full evening ballets, will be by men.
I started DDP because as an audience member and a donor, I couldn’t fathom why all the works I saw were male, why the leadership and commissions and even the panels of experts at company pre- and post-show discussions I have attended featured men only. I sat at a dinner not too long ago, and every single choreographer in a long list mentioned as important, a worthy inspiration for the men on stage, was another man.
Why should we care? Well, ballet globally is a multibillion-dollar industry. In the U.S., tens of thousands of girls and women go off to class, perhaps only a few times, many on an almost daily basis. They are being trained in a culture that enforces compliance, silence, and unquestioning submission to authority. And ballet is just one art form that perpetuates an “impresario” system with little accountability or transparency, and almost no recourse for victims of discrimination or violence. Opera, symphonies, and theater have also been plagued by lack of opportunities for women (especially women and girls of color) and violence against the vulnerable.
Ironically, it was women who originally were the powers in ballet in the United States. As Sharon Basco noted in her 2015 article “Where Are the Women in Ballet?” of the eight ballet companies launched in 1963 with a $7.7 million Ford Foundation grant, most were helmed by women who were ballet school directors. As the budgets grew, however, the women have been pushed out. That is now true even at ballet schools as salaries have risen. When I asked Alexei Moskalenko, assistant artistic director of the Youth America Grand Prix, why the overwhelming majority of the judges at the prestigious international scholarship competition are male, he said, “Well, that is because all the big ballet schools are run by men.”
Figures indicate declining and aging audiences for classical dance (a study by the Wallace Foundation found that only 3% of millennials had seen a classical ballet performance in the previous 12 months) and a real audience appetite for works by and the vision of women. Yet, the system is self-referential, with the hiring for plum commissions doled out on a who-knows-whom basis that reinforces an old boys’ network unchecked by outside rigor or opinions.
In giving the keynote address at Positioning Ballet 2019, the second Ballet Working Conference, an international symposium in the Netherlands, Theresa Ruth Howard, the founder and curator of MoBBallet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet), recommended a “12-step recovery program” for ballet, noting toxic ballet culture in which multiple reports of violence against women and lack of opportunities for leadership have been ignored. Howard, as so many critiques have detailed, cited a hierarchal system that enforces unquestioning obedience, particularly from women.
That certainly resonates with my experience. It is commonplace to hear artistic directors of the largest, most influential companies freely opine publicly that women cannot be choreographers, for the most risible, blatantly illogical reasons, including “Women don’t want to choreograph, they just want to have babies and dance” (told to me at a company fundraiser) or this gem from a recent gala, reported by a woman well known for her advocacy for women in finance: “Women cannot choreograph because they are used to being lifted on stage, so they cannot see what’s going on behind them.” Nope, not making it up. Alexei Ratmansky, who as the in-house choreographer for American Ballet Theatre has immense influence, stated on Facebook in 2017 that there is no equality in ballet, and he is fine with that, it is simply part of the tradition and the way things are.
There are some notable and encouraging exceptions in the big companies. An extraordinary and unprecedented 100% of world premieres announced this summer to be featured in American Ballet Theatre’s 2019–2020 season will be work choreographed by women. ABT stands alone among the big companies by investing so heavily in new work. ABT’s Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie has made a multiyear, multilevel commitment to bringing new voices to the stage by working with female choreographers from every level — black box short pieces to full evening main stage productions. This alleviates the anxiety I have heard from so many female choreographers that if they don’t hit it out of the park every single damn time, they will never work again.
However, the most innovative work, which will keep classical dance relevant and younger audiences excited, is being done outside of the big companies, by the second companies in big cities or by regional ballets staging more interesting “contemporary ballet” by women. Smaller companies led by women — BalletX in Philadelphia (Christine Cox), the Cincinnati Ballet (Victoria Morgan) and Dayton Ballet (Karen Russo Burke), the extraordinary Amy Seiwert at Sacramento Ballet, the 40-year veteran Stoner Winslett of Richmond Ballet, as well as newcomer Hope Muir in Charlotte — are producing great work to enthusiastic audiences.
Dance Data Project’s July report did find an encouraging trend: Women are obtaining more commissions to create for the shorter, mixed repertory programs in top 50 companies. Thirty-eight percent of single-act world premieres announced to date for the 2019–2020 season will be by women. In the past season, 2018–2019, 45% of the non–main-stage world premieres were choreographed by women. But both trends underline what dance scholar, Barnard Professor Lynn Garafola has noted: that companies are unwilling to trust women with big, expensive productions.
But to really address disparity in leadership in ballet, we need to change how girls in ballet are encouraged to think of themselves: not as fungible automatons, but as future artists. Eva Stone, who has been a teacher and choreographer for 30 years, persuaded Peter Boal, the artistic director at Pacific Northwest Ballet, to start an intensive in choreography for 14- to 16-year-old girls. Programs like these are critical because girls become serious about ballet at about the same time that they stop speaking in class: a double cultural whammy. And in a lovely gesture, completely upending typical ballet norms, Boal offered up his own choreography to the class for critique and feedback.
So what can we do?
Female audiences, donors, and students continue to support an art form that routinely marginalizes women in all respects. The best chance for real change is for audiences to insist on equity, and to invest their money in companies that are paying women fairly, hiring more women in leadership positions, and showcasing the work of women choreographers. Even female board members who are senior executives at banks and venture capital and accounting firms with active diversity programs often don’t push back. One exception is Alison Quirk, a member of the board of trustees of Boston Ballet. She and another female board member advocated for the establishment of ChoreograpHER at Boston Ballet, a program that showcases choreography by female company members.
Ballet is behind the times and tone deaf. It’s not going to change unless those of us sitting in the seats, board members, critics, and audiences force it to do so. If you want to make an affirmative effort to support female artists, here are some names, besides Twyla Tharp, to look for: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Jessica Lang, Crystal Pite, Helen Pickett, Pam Tanowitz, Melissa Barak, Amy Seiwert, Gemma Bond, Gianna Reisen, Lauren Lovette, Stephanie Martinez, Toni Pimble, Celia Fushille, Virginia Johnson, Penny Saunders.
Liza would like to note that Celia Fushille, Virginia Johnson, and Toni Pimble are three artists she would move up from the “names to look for” list at the end of this Op-Ed and relocate to the paragraph detailing female artistic directors. (See paragraph beginning with, “However, the most innovative work, which will keep classical dance relevant and younger audiences excited, is being done outside of the big companies, by the second companies in big cities or by regional ballets…”.
These women are leading extraordinary companies and initiatives. Celia Fushille leads Smuin Ballet, which was founded by a man but now heavily supports the addition of female work. A founding member and principal dancer-turned-artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Virginia Johnson is also a leading advocate for African-American girls (and boys) entering the ballet world. Toni Pimble leads Eugene Ballet with major inclusion of female work (much of it her own), setting a standard for companies of the same size in the U.S. to commission more women and level their ratio of male v. female work in every season.
See the Op-Ed online at Women’s Media Center.
The following is a report on the gender distribution of repertoire within the Top 50 domestic companies’ 2018-2019 seasons. The data is separated into three subsections: Gender Distribution in Seasonal Repertoire, World Premieres, and Comparison of 2018-2019 Seasons to 2019-2020 Seasons. DDP cites sources and expresses limitations at the end of the report.
Four companies have announced their upcoming seasons following May 19, 2019. American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Los Angeles Ballet and California Ballet announced their seasons, with new work by women in both ABT and HSDC’s roster.
Of the total works announced in the four companies’ new seasons, 38% will be choreographed by women. Forty-three percent of the mixed-repertory works will be choreographed by women and no full-length works by women have been announced, however two full-length works by Los Angeles Ballet’s co-founders, a male-female team, will be included in the company’s season.
American Ballet Theatre’s season will be 64% works by women. All of the company’s premieres will be female-choreographed work. Similarly, the majority (67%) of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s premieres will be works by women.
These newly-announced seasons come at a great time following DDP’s May “First Look” report, which revealed a lack of female work in the upcoming season. American Ballet Theatre and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago are among the best in terms of including world premieres of female choreographers on the main stage.
Figures from our First Look report (in which the aforementioned companies’ seasons were not included) will be compared with the figures depicting gender distributions within the 2018/19 season of the Top 50 companies in our upcoming July report. Find the July report soon on our website.
The following is a report on the gender distribution of leaders within the Top 50 domestic companies’ Boards of Directors and Boards of Trustees. The data is separated into two subsections: Chair Gender Distribution and Executive Committee Gender Distribution. DDP cites sources and expresses limitations at the end of the report.Download the June 2019 Report
DDP has spent the last year or so thinking about the most strategic way to move the needle in terms of women’s leadership in classical ballet. While our focus has been the world of dance, the same thoughts apply to women and minority representation in film, opera, symphonic music, museums, and frankly, any not-for-profit organization.
As I sit in boardrooms with trustees of foundations or listen in the back as board members blithely accept that all male panels of experts are the norm, I have become increasingly frustrated with the status quo and even more committed to changing it.
It is not enough to simply donate money to a female-led production. These are often one-and-done, or, as I have begun to realize, their funds don’t actually go to support the female artist. Instead, she is frequently given the leftovers of casting, rehearsal time, costumes, pay, venue and touring.
A recent conversation with a supremely talented West Coast investment advisor, who has been transformational in leading the charge for more women in finance, reinforced my growing suspicion that, in the dance world, seeing the inequity in numbers just isn’t sufficient.
Clearly, numbers do matter – but they aren’t enough. Dance Data Project™’s original research should eliminate the arguments offered by male dance leaders (critics, senior staff, resident choreographers and board members) who refuse to recognize there is a problem.
DDP can demonstrate the inequity all day long, cite statistics that women-led productions are extremely popular with audiences and, more broadly, refer to study after study demonstrating that management teams with female representation make better decisions.
All this evidence from our research is critical. At the end of the day, however, all the rational argument in the world cannot stand against entrenched beliefs.
Men hire men. Once women are hired into an organization, they receive less support and fewer resources than men. See McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2018. The study found that people (even women) trust men’s decision making more than women’s, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.
Another critical article is by Aneeta Rattan, Siri Chilazi, Oriane Georgeac, and Iris Bohnet. “Tackling the Underrepresentation of Women in Media” highlights the important lessons leadership can learn from BBC’s 50:50 Project. Journalist Ros Atkins addressed the distinction between the roles of confronter and bystander in the workplace. When making a change in diversity and representation of women, one must ask oneself, “What can I do differently?” Atkins and other interviewees teach us that change can be made through a combination of self-awareness, clear goals and teamwork, data collection, and their verifiable outcomes that alter the field beyond our immediate workplace.
Like the vast majority of ballet companies and dance organizations, DDP is made up of a largely-female team, and I, as its leader, am proud to act as a confronter in a field that is thronged with bystanders.
So, this begs the question: What other actions will be effective to change ballet as an industry?
There is one clear avenue to incite change: advocate for political and economic pressure through an informed donor base, whether that base be supported by individuals, corporations or foundations.
This is why Dance Data Project™ is establishing our first advocacy platform to publicly encourage board, foundation and donor education and responsibility.
Below are questions every donor should ask:
Board of Trustees/Directors:
- Has the organization had a female or other diverse minority chairman?
- Outside of the traditional minority and female committees (such as Community Relations or Marketing), are there women (and trustees or board members of color) on the Strategic Planning, Audit, Finance, and Governance committees?
- What is the gender and racial diversity of the c-suite positions beyond the traditionally female roles like Director of Development or Community Relations/Engagement?
- Are women entrusted with roles involving financial decision making, like CFO/CEO?
- In arts organizations, are women truly leading, or have they been hired to solely lead and shape the organization’s artistic vision?
- Will the organization commit to pay equity and transparency in order to ensure equal pay for women with the same job as men?
- Will the organization share this data publicly?
Internal Policies – Sexual Harassment, Mandatory Arbitration, & Parental Leave:
- What is the organization’s policy on dealing with sexual harassment complaints?
- Is there an independent reporting mechanism?
- Has the organization committed to eliminating mandatory arbitration clauses that remove litigation as an option for employees who have been harassed?
- What is the organization’s written policy on parental leave and health care around women’s issues?
- What percentage of the artists for main stage productions are women (and/or minorities)? This should include set, lighting and costume designers, as well as original composers.
- Will the organization pledge to eliminate manels (all-male panels of experts who opine on and interpret work for audiences)?
- What is the company’s track record of commissioning women and minorities? Do these women and minorities receive repeat commissions?
- If there is a program dedicated to developing more women and minority artists in-house, how is success measured?
- What is leadership’s plan to bring women and minorities to main stage productions?
- Will women’s work be supported by touring, receiving original costumes, adequate rehearsal/studio time and casting choices?
- If a donor contributes to support a female led production, how much of his or her money will actually go to support the woman’s work?
To learn more about philanthropy in general, specifically issues in philanthropy and how women are changing the field through giving circles and financial techniques like social impact investing, search for resources like Kiersten Marek’s wonderful website or check out Inside Philanthropy:
For an excellent discussion of ending sexual harassment at not-for-profits, see the April 2018 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
To become part of the women’s empowerment movement in philanthropy (male allies included), see the following:
- Julie Castro Abrams’s How Women Lead, which advocates for fair gender representation on boards, whether for-profit or philanthropic.
To learn about initiatives that focus specifically on women and their money, have a much deeper understanding of how women give and how they prioritize philanthropic investments, visit:
The following is a report on the gender distribution of choreographers in the upcoming seasons of the 50 largest ballet companies in the United States that have been reported so far this year (38 out of 50 as of May 23, 2019). The data is separated into subsections, focusing on different aspects of the distribution of male and female choreographic work included in the upcoming seasons. DDP cites sources and discusses limitations and important disclaimers at the end of the report.
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