“The Top 50 Ballet Companies Can Do Better Than This.” Dance Data Project Finds Men Choreographed 81 Percent of All Works for 2018-2019 Season. Some Progress for Women in the Upcoming Season.
July 24, 2019, Northfield Illinois Dance Data Project® (DDP), https://www.dancedataproject.com, today released a new report highlighting the overwhelming majority of male-choreographed works presented by the nation’s top ballet companies. Female choreographers are making some progress but not nearly enough given the growing concerns about gender inequity in ballet. DDP conducted a comprehensive review of the 2018-2019 ballet season of the Top 50 companies in the United States and found men choreograph 81 percent of all works. The report also provides a comparison to the announced works to be featured in the upcoming 2019-2020 season. Of the 467 works announced to date for the 2019-2020 season, 79 percent will be choreographed by men. DDP also found that 70 percent of the last season’s programming was exclusively-male.
DDP launched earlier this year to address gender inequities in leadership positions and pay in the country’s 50 largest ballet companies by providing data and research that highlight the inequities and lack of opportunities for women. Although women are the economic drivers of ballet at every level, few career avenues exist for them in ballet beyond dancing or teaching.
“Women make up seventy percent of the audience and donor base of classical ballet companies. Frankly, the Top 50 companies should and can do better than this,” said DDP Founder and President Liza Yntema, “We need more women leading companies and providing a new artistic vision through choreography. It is absolutely indispensable to the longevity of this art form.”
The ten companies staging the most works by women in the 2018-2019 season were Ballet Hispanico of New York (63%), Eugene Ballet Company (60%), Dayton Ballet (57%), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (50%), Sacramento Ballet (47%), Ballet Austin (40%), Cincinnati Ballet (36%), American Ballet Theatre (35%), Charlotte Ballet (33%), and Ballet Memphis (31%). The companies on this list for the 2019-2020 season are Sacramento Ballet (67%), American Ballet Theatre (67%), Eugene Ballet Company (60%), Cincinnati Ballet (56%), Kansas City Ballet (38%) Richmond Ballet (38%), Nashville Ballet (35%), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (33%), Joffrey Ballet (25%), and Pacific Northwest Ballet (23%).
Five companies make the lists for both the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons: American Ballet Theatre, Cincinnati Ballet, Eugene Ballet Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Sacramento Ballet.
“Outside of the powerhouse American Ballet Theatre, which is relentlessly championing women, our research shows often the most noteworthy and inclusive work is staged by smaller, regional companies,” said Isabelle Vail, DDP Director of Research. “This should encourage critics to travel outside of the big cities and report on regional programming, which would subsequently inspire similar commissions and re-staging by larger companies with greater resources.”
Positive examples include the Sacramento Ballet, which commissioned the only full-length, main stage world premiere by a woman in the 2018-2019 season, and BalletX, a non-Top 50 company commissioned Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s The Little Prince this summer. The 2019-2020 repertoire of the Top 50 companies will also incorporate ballets like Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre staged this fall by Joffrey Ballet and Claudia Schreier’s Passage which will be performed on Dance Theatre of Harlem’s upcoming tour.
Based on the works DDP was able to obtain from company websites and press releases for the 2018-2019 season, the ten least gender-diverse companies in terms of female choreographers were: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (100% male works), Ballet Arizona (100%), Texas Ballet Theater (100%), Colorado Ballet (100%), BalletMet (100%), Oklahoma City Ballet (100%), California Ballet (100%), Pacific Northwest Ballet (95%), New York City Ballet (95%), and Atlanta Ballet (94%).
For the announced works for the 2019-2020 season, the ten least gender-diverse companies in terms of female choreographers are: Ballet Arizona (100% male works), Texas Ballet Theater (100%), New York City Ballet (94%), Sarasota Ballet of Florida (93%) Miami City Ballet (92%), Pennsylvania Ballet (92%), Atlanta Ballet (92%), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (91%), San Francisco Ballet (91%), and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (90%).
“While our research shows only 19 percent of works will be choreographed by women this season,” says Yntema, “there are reasons to be hopeful and we want to champion them. Take a smaller Top 50 company like Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, for instance. Promoting female artists has consistently remained among Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton’s priorities year-after-year. It can be done, and we need to see more opportunities like this for women in the ballet.”