DDP ally and choreographer Nicole Haskins shares her thoughts on what foundations and funders can do to better support female choreographers.
Examining other art forms with historic issues in hiring women: theater, symphonic/classical music, opera. Also including more contemporary fields: lack of women in country music, hip hop, contemporary pop music, and other genres.
1 June 2021
By Siobhan Burke
As a teenage ballet student in the 1990s, Katy Pyle had no interest in dating: not boys, not girls, not anyone. A serious love interest — all consuming, really — was already in the picture: ballet.
“I didn’t have space for any other relationships in my life,” Pyle, who uses the pronouns they and them, said in a phone interview from their home in Brooklyn. “It’s silly, but that was my true love.”
Looking back now, at 40 — as a genderqueer lesbian and the founder of the joyful, iconoclastic ballet company Ballez — Pyle can see that relationship more clearly, how it kept them from knowing their full self. Growing up, they knew many openly gay male dancers. But in Pyle’s mind, they said, to be a ballet dancer, gay and a woman “just wasn’t a possibility.”
“I truly was a stranger to myself until I got out of ballet,” said Pyle (who notes that while they are a lesbian and feminist, they don’t fully identify as a woman). “I did not ever know a lesbian in ballet in my training, and it was hard to even find lesbians in the culture at large. There was a real lack of representation, which kept me closeted and confused.”
As Pyle observed from a young age, ballet — a form based in rigidly gendered aesthetic values — is not a world without queer people. But those who are most visible, and have been historically, are gay men. To be a lesbian in ballet, or queer and not a man, is often to feel like the only one, to wonder, in the words of the choreographer Adriana Pierce, who trained at the School of American Ballet: “Has anyone ever done this? Has anyone like me ever walked these halls?”
Ballet upholds narrow ideals for everyone: for men, the archetype of the chivalrous prince; for women, the elusive swan or sylph. Women are expected to look weightless (an image reinforced by the pointe shoe), men more outwardly muscular. Men learn to lift, women to be lifted. In classrooms, strict male and female dress codes often apply.
But within these confines, women typically face greater pressure to conform, in part because there are more of them; competition is steeper. As Pyle puts it: “If Katy Pyle is not living up to the expectations of how to be, there are 20 other young women who want that place.”
Challenging those expectations can be risky and isolating. But more celebrations of difference are emerging. Over the past year, aided by the downtime of the pandemic and the ease of meeting online in the age of Zoom, queer ballet dancers, in particular those socialized as women in their training, have been forging stronger networks and creating work that affirms they’re not alone.
To read the full piece, click here.
26 May 2021
By Elaine Sciolino and Alex Marshall
Move over, Mona Lisa. You may be about to have competition as the most-talked-about woman in the Louvre.
For the first time since its creation in 1793 in the wake of the French Revolution, the Musée du Louvre will be headed by a woman, Laurence des Cars, the current head of the Musée d’Orsay and the much smaller Musée de l’Orangerie.
Des Cars, 54, was appointed on Wednesday as the museum’s president-director by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron.
“Four years at the Orsay gave me this confidence, this crazy idea that I could be the next president of the Louvre,” des Cars said in an hourlong telephone interview. “The president probably saw that I was ready for the job and that I am somehow serene. I am not overanxious. I have to stay very calm.”
On Sept. 1, des Cars will replace the museum’s leader of eight years, Jean-Luc Martinez, who had waged an intense media campaign to stay on for a new five-year term.
The two museum directors could not be more different. Both studied art history at the École du Louvre, the museum’s prestigious school. But the Louvre has traditionally been run by upper-class art historians, and Martinez, a trained archaeologist with little expertise in painting, was the son of a postman from a working-class suburb of Paris. Des Cars, a specialist in 19th- and early-20th-century painting, is descended from a French noble family of writers.
To read the full article, click here.
14 April 2021
By Valentina Di Liscia
It has been over a year since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic, but another health crisis has been silently brewing. Experts are beginning to grasp the virus’s devastating effects on our collective mental well-being, particularly for communities disproportionately impacted — essential workers, low-income populations, and people of color among them.
In the museum field, workers experienced sweeping job loss, salary cuts, and burnout that exacerbated the pandemic’s stressors. A new survey by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) finds that the sector’s workers have suffered “a grave toll on their mental health and wellbeing,” rating the impact at an average of 6.6 out of 10. Though many institutions remained shuttered during peaks in virus cases, half of museum staff reported a heavier workload.
Unsurprisingly, independent consultants, contractors, and freelancers — often hired as educators and other key roles in museums — bore the brunt of financial insecurity. More than half had contracts canceled or indefinitely postponed, struggled to find work, and lost over 50% of their pre-pandemic income on average.
Similarly, nearly two-thirds of part-time staff said they lost a median of $8,000 due to reduced salaries, benefits, or hours. Compared to their full-time colleagues, this group of workers faces greater instability: they are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck and less likely to have enough disposable income to save or spend on leisure.
The survey’s findings also reveal the role of gender and race in these workers’ experiences of pandemic-related mental health factors. Museum staff who identify as women were more likely to report an increase in workload and adverse effects on their schedules, salary, and mental health, and BIPOC respondents experienced more financial stress and fewer financial resources than their white counterparts.
9 April 2021
By Kerry Reid
Back in 2019, I interviewed Chicago set designer Arnel Sancianco for a short Reader profile. In the course of our discussion, he mentioned that, while creating a sustainable career as a designer is never easy, he felt that his peers in costume design (a profession that tends to have more women in its ranks than other design fields) had a harder road. They frequently work without the benefit of full crews, leaving the designer to do a lot of the hands-on work of making and even sometimes maintaining costumes during a show’s run. And they tended to be paid less overall.
How much less they’re paid has come to light in recent years, thanks to the efforts of organizations like Costume Professionals for Wage Equity (CPWE) and the Chicago-based On Our Team. Elsa Hiltner, one of the founders of the latter, created the anonymous crowd-sourced Theatrical Designer Pay Resource spreadsheet to collect data on who gets paid what and where in American theaters.
When Reader freelancer Sheri Flanders spoke to Hiltner last October, she was celebrating the fact that Theatre Communications Group had agreed to list salaries for all jobs posted in ARTSEARCH, the job search engine run by TCG. Now CPWE and On Our Team have convinced two more major theater publications—Playbill and Broadway World—to require salary ranges to be listed for all industry job postings.
As Flanders noted in her article, “It is common practice for a job seeker to respond to a posting for a seemingly full-time or contract paid position, only to discover upon receiving a ‘job’ offer that the position is unpaid, paid in ‘exposure,’ or paid at a stipend rate that averages out to far less than minimum wage.” In 2018, OffStage Jobs began requiring salary information for listings, and the League of Chicago Theatres soon followed suit.
Genevieve Beller of CPWE and Theresa Ham, one of the cofounders of On Our Team, know that transparency in listings is just part of the battle for wage equity. But even getting that victory on the board took major effort. Beller notes that CPWE “reached out to Playbill with a letter in December of 2019 that over 800 people had signed. And we sent that letter to the editor in chief at the time, who is no longer with them, as well as every member of their board that we could find information for. So we received zero response. Which is pretty much par for the course.
To read the full article, click here.
For Women’s History Month, Ladies of Hip Hop (LOHH) and Dance Data Project® (DDP) are coming together to highlight the contributions and lives of women in Hip Hop and ballet that are often overshadowed.
11 March 2021
By Rebecca Sun
As Hollywood companies and affiliated organizations scramble to hire diversity experts and strategists as part of their public commitments to inclusion, management consulting powerhouse McKinsey & Co. has applied its analytic expertise to the industry as a whole in a report diagnosing the experience of Black professionals working in entertainment.
Penned by McKinsey partners Jonathan Dunn, Sheldon Lyn and Ammanuel Zegeye and consultant Nony Onyeador, Black Representation in Film and TV: The Challenges and Impact of Increasing Diversity declares that collective, system-wide action is imperative for reform. “In any given week, let alone an entire career,” the report’s authors write, “a professional working in Hollywood might have to traverse multiple separate entities — agencies, unions and guilds, studios, networks, production houses, financiers, festivals, critics and awards establishments.” Because of the industry’s unique structure of “tight-knit, interdependent networks,” “small and informal” work settings and “temporary and contract-based” work, “a single company’s efforts to change the racial dynamic inside its own four walls can do only so much for the entire ecosystem.”
The report comes eight months after McKinsey declared in July 2020 that it would devote $200 million in pro bono work to advancing racial equity and Black economic empowerment. The consulting firm, which last month published Race in the Workplace: The Black Experience in the U.S. Private Sector, set its sights on Hollywood after The Black List founder Franklin Leonard (a former McKinsey analyst) reached out to the company and put it in touch with the BlackLight Collective, an informal group of 90-plus Black entertainment industry leaders who have quietly been working behind the scenes to support the community and effect tangible reform.
“Major media companies pay McKinsey to help them navigate difficult business situations,” Leonard tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the significance of this report is McKinsey’s reputation as a corporate entity squarely focused on business efficiency. “So why not get the people that they normally pay to do this work, to tell everybody this is what the reality is, this is how much money you’re leaving on the table, and this is the way forward?”
Drawing from research both qualitative (more than 50 one-on-one interviews with Black and non-Black industry participants) and quantitative (a compilation of studies from UCLA, Nielsen, USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Variety and more), the McKinsey report establishes a familiar statistical foundation that finds Black professionals proportionately underrepresented both on- and offscreen (the authors note that “the prominence of certain films and TV series with Black leads obscures [that] fact”).
However, one original finding is likely to have even the most jaded and change-resistant industry gatekeepers take notice: The McKinsey report estimates that the $148 billion film and TV industry is leaving more than $10 billion in annual revenue on the table by not resolving its inequity issues when it comes to Black inclusion — a potential loss of 7 percent. This estimate is based on the consulting firm’s projection of profits in a more equitable ecosystem, one that has “[closed] the representation deficit for Black off-screen talent, [achieved] production and marketing budget parity, and [given] Black-led properties equal international distribution.”
Read the full article here.
14 March 2021
By Whitney Perry
“Can you be an athlete? You, pregnant? You, a mother? That depends,” the short film titled “Toughest Athletes” begins. Posted on Nike Women’s Instagram page on March 14, the ad goes on to define the term as it cuts between a group of mothers in various stages of pregnancy and postpartum journeys, including Serena Williams and Olympia, USWNT soccer player Alex Morgan, and track stars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Perri Shakes-Drayton, Nia Ali, and Bianca Williams.
“What is an athlete? Someone who moves? Sounds like you,” the narrator continues. “Someone who gets it done, no matter what? You do that. Someone who listens to her body. Also you. Someone who defies gravity. You. Someone who deals with the pain, hits her limit, and pushes past it. Pushing, pushing, pushing. Someone who earns every single win. You, you, you. So can you be an athlete? If you aren’t, no one is.”
Read the full article here.
8 March 2021
By Ben Sisario
The latest study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that women’s representation in music has not improved in the last decade.
Three years ago, an academic tallied up the performers, producers and songwriters behind hit songs, and found that women’s representation fell on a scale between, roughly, poor and abysmal.
The starkness of those findings shook the music industry and led to promises of change, like a pledge by record companies and artists to consider hiring more women in the studio.
But the latest edition of that study, released on Monday by Stacy L. Smith of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, has found that the numbers for women in music have mostly not improved, and in some ways even gotten worse.
Among the findings of the study, based on the credit information for songs on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart for each year since 2012, is that last year women represented 20.2 percent of the performing artists of the year’s top songs — down from 22.5 percent in 2019, and slightly below the nine-year average of 21.6 percent.
Of the 1,797 artists behind the 900 songs on those charts — representing solo performers as well as members of duos and groups — there were 3.6 men to every woman, according to the study, which received funding from Spotify.
To read the full article, click here.
By Kate Silzer
13 February 2021
In a powerful 2019 essay in Artforum, Hannah Black, Ciarán Finlayson, and Tobi Haslett made the case that artists who were slated for exhibition in the 2019 Whitney Biennial had a moral obligation to withdraw their work in protest of the then vice chair of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Warren B. Kanders. Kanders had made himself very rich in part through his company, Safariland, which manufactures, among other weapons and police equipment, teargas used by governments to quash civil protests around the world. The authors cite as historical precedent the New York Art Strike Against Racism, War, and Repression, which kicked off in 1970 after Robert Morris closed his own Whitney exhibition in response to “the killing of students at Kent State, the suppression of the Black movement, and Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia.”
In May 1970, groups of activist artists and members of establishment art organizations gathered together in advance of this strike. Among those represented was Women Artists for Revolution or W.A.R., a feminist outgrowth of the Art Workers’ Coalition (A.W.C.), an organization fighting for racial and economic equality within the New York art scene. Cindy Nemser, an art critic and member of W.A.R., reported on the event for The Village Voice, writing that “neither Morris’s brand of moral indignation nor his proposals were strong enough for all those present.” W.A.R., along with the Art Students Coalition, the A.W.C., and Artists and Writers in Protest, voiced “dissatisfaction with what they considered rather mild palliatives.” This article is one of many primary sources compiled in A Documentary HerStory of Women Artists in Revolution, first published in 1971 and reprinted in 2021 by Primary Information.
W.A.R. existed for a brief yet prolific period, from 1969 to 1971. The group ignited a robust movement against gender discrimination within, and widespread exclusion from, New York City’s patriarchal art industry, particularly by galleries and museums who saw art made by women as inherently illegitimate and therefore ineligible for serious consideration. W.A.R. set out to change this.
Read the full article online here.
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