Is Sexism Still An Issue? (Hint: Yes)

The dance world has erupted on social media over the last few days regarding a particularly high-profile interview New York Times' Roslyn Sulcas did. Entitled: "A Conversation With 3 Choreographers Who Reinvigorated Ballet," it's an interview with Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky.

Sounds innocent enough - why the conflict? Well, the issue began with this question: "Most of the major choreographers in classical dance are men. Why is that?"

The answers were varied, and altogether startlingly unimpressive. Below are direct quotes from the New York Times article:

Justin Peck
Justin Peck

Peck: "There needs to be more encouragement and support for women - at an impressionable age - to explore that choreographic side of their brains."

Christopher Wheeldon - photo: Angela Sterling
Christopher Wheeldon - photo: Angela Sterling

Wheeldon: "There is such an obvious imbalance. I'm not sure why it exists and persists. In my experience, directors today are seeking diversity and would love to present the work of female ballet choreographers, so I don't think overt misogyny is at work."

Alexei Ratmanski
Alexei Ratmanski

Ratmansky: "I don't see it as a problem. Besides Crystal Pite, Jessica Lang and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa are among the very best now. And Graham and Nijinska are still performed. I'm sure that if new, interesting talent arrives and is a woman, she will have equal opportunities."

It's a complicated issue, to say the least. It's generally known that there are far fewer female choreographers than male choreographers, particularly in the world of ballet. Dancers and choreographers took to Twitter, expressing their displeasure and anger at the lack of emphasis and thoughtful responses the choreographers gave to the question.

What are your thoughts? How can we continue this conversation and combat this issue in our field? Leave us a comment below! And read the full New York Times interview

Main photo: Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young’s Betroffenheit. © Dave Morgan.

About the author

Anne Luben has performed works by notable choreographers such as Donald McKayle, Bill T. Jones, Jiri Kylian, Idan Cohen, Alex Ketley, and Summer Lee Rhatigan, among others.