Nonprofit Quarterly: The Gender Divide in Ballet Leadership and Choreography

By Jeanne Allen

28 September 2015

In 1963, the Ford Foundation used the power of its grants to help create eight ballet companies across the U.S. Most of these companies were founded and cultivated by leading female artistic directors. Today, all of these companies are headed by men. Additionally, men also head the choreography.

According to a recent article on NPR, many of the current female leaders in the arts, and in ballet, seem to share similar perspectives. According to scholar Lynn Garafola,  “The more professional a company becomes, in my observation, the more likely women are going to disappear from the leadership positions, and they’re going to be replaced by men. I think this is very typical of organizations when they get larger, when they get more important.”

And, indeed, this is a dynamic that cuts across organizational types, as is reflected in this recent review of studies of nonprofit diversity profiles.

Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer who started her own dance troupe 50 years ago, is touring this year to celebrate that lifetime achievement. She comments, about the vanishing number female choreographers, “It’s not a woman’s prerogative to be an artist. We all know women have a high hill to climb whatever they do.”

Why the change? Well, in ballet schools, girls outnumber boys by almost 20 to 1. This creates a “culture in which the boys are trained to be much more individuals, to do solos,” according to Rachel Moore, who will serve as CEO of the American Ballet Theatre until October 5th, when she leaves to take on the role of president and CEO of the Los Angeles Music Center. “Girls are taught to stand in line and be obedient.”

Read the full article in Nonprofit Quarterly.