05 April 2021
By Chloe Angyal
This spring, the Pennsylvania Ballet’s season will feature precisely zero ballets made by women choreographers. It will feature three separate nights of programming, combining 11 different ballets, all of them made by men, most of whom are white. This programming is, wait for it, a tribute to the company’s late founder, Barbara Weisberger.
The “Where are the women choreographers?” debate, also known as the “Did you know women also make dances?” discussion, or the “Is it really THAT HARD to hire women?” discourse, is decades old at this point. It was old in 2014, when New York City Ballet put together a program of works by five young white men and called it “21st Century Choreographers,” suggesting that in then-artistic director Peter Martins’ view, the 21st century was going to look an awful lot like the 20th, 19th, and 18th. (He then patted himself on the back for his purported daring and courage, telling the New York Times, “what can I say, I’m gutsy. I liked the idea of having all these people in their 20s, making new work. It shows the art form is really alive.”)
It’s old, but it’s clearly not over. And it’s exhausting.
The Pennsylvania Ballet spring season is a particularly egregious example, but not by much. It is not unusual to show up at the ballet (or on your couch, in this age of digital seasons) and see a series of short ballets, all of them by men. It’s totally normal to spend a night at the ballet — to hand over a sizeable sum of your hard-earned money — and not see a single piece of art created by a woman choreographer. In fact, according to the Dance Data Project®, in the 2019-2020 session in the US, that happened 62% of the time. In an art form where women make up 70% of audiences.
This is meant to be fine. This is supposed to satisfy us. This is not meant to bother us, or strike us as strange.
It is not fine. It does not satisfy. It does not merely bother, it confounds. It rankles, it insults. It is not strange, it is embarrassing.
To read the full piece, click here.
Note: Ms. Angyal was interviewed for DDP’s Global Conversations Round 3: The View from 30,000 Feet, which aired in the Fall of 2020. Her forthcoming book, Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers Is Saving Ballet From Itself, will be published May 4, 2021 and will feature DDP’s work.