By David Lyman
18 June 2019
DDP correction: The article states below, “Among the nation’s top 50 ballet companies, only 13 of the most prestigious full-length works are by women. Of those 13, two were commissioned by Cincinnati Ballet.” The correct number of full-length ballets by women announced for the upcoming season as of May 19, 2019 (as stated in DDP’s report) is 11; two of these ballets are indeed announced for Cincinnati Ballet’s season (one being a second company work).
“The numbers are shocking,” says Elizabeth Yntema, founder and president of the Chicago-based Dance Data Project.
She’s talking about the lack of female choreographers in America’s ballet companies.
“We’ve been talking about this for years,” says Yntema, “but almost nothing has changed.”
Consider these numbers, which Yntema shared in a pair of presentations at the recent annual conference of Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance. Analyzing statistics from the nation’s top 50 ballet companies, she found that:
- 81 percent of all ballets scheduled for the 2019-2020 season are created by men. (The number is even higher – 85 percent – for full-length ballets.)
- 64 percent of all ballet programs during the 2019-2020 season feature only male choreographers.
- Just 12 of the nation’s top 50 ballet companies have female artistic directors.
One of the rare exceptions to all of this, she points out, is Cincinnati Ballet, where artistic director Victoria Morgan has championed the works of female choreographers for more than a decade.
According to the DDP report:
- 56 percent of the works Cincinnati Ballet commissioned for the 2019-2020 season are created by women.
- Female choreographers will be featured in 71 percent of Cincinnati Ballet’s programs.
- Among the nation’s top 50 ballet companies, only 13 of the most prestigious full-length works are by women. Of those 13, two were commissioned by Cincinnati Ballet.
Cincinnati Ballet isn’t completely alone. Yntema’s study noted a handful of other companies, most notably Sacramento Ballet – led by Cincinnatian Amy Seiwert – and Philadelphia’s Ballet X.
“But for the most part, you’re seeing very little progress from the largest companies,” she says. “What makes all this worse is that critics from the largest publications almost never see these other companies. Traditional journalism has been cut, so there is this massive disconnect between the biggest cities and the work that is being done in the rest of the country, particularly the ones being led by women. Often, they don’t get reviewed, so they’re invisible to the rest of the world.”
Read the full article in the Cincinnati Enquirer.