Rant & Rave
Jessica Lang's Her Notes, one of ABT's few recent commissions from women. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.

"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.

Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.

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Rant & Rave
The power dynamics and working environments in dance can leave women vulnerable. Photo by Soragrit Wongsa/Unsplash

When an anonymous letter accused former New York City Ballet leader Peter Martins of sexual harassment last year, it felt like what had long been an open secret—the prevalence of harassment in the dance world—was finally coming to the surface. But the momentum of the #MeToo movement, at least in dance, has since died down.

Martins has retired, though an investigation did not corroborate any of the claims against him. He and former American Ballet Theatre star Marcelo Gomes, who suddenly resigned in December, were the only cases to make national headlines in the U.S. We've barely scratched the surface of the dance world's harassment problem.

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Rant & Rave
Ahmaud Culver, Jasmine Hearn and Anna Witenberg in "Transmissions." © Paula Court.

Dancers are more than just vessels performing set material. We make contributions to creative processes all the time. Some of these are obvious: We often improvise material or generate entire phrases to be incorporated into a work. Others are more innocuous: Dancers are sometimes asked to give feedback that ends up shaping the composition of a work.

This is choreography.

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Dance in Pop Culture
"I wouldn't put my son into dance class because I think dance class might help make your son gay," says Perez Hilton.

"I don't want to enroll my son in dance class because I'm scared/worried/convinced it will make him gay." We've all heard some variation on this one, right?

Someone we'd never expect to hear it from: television personality and Hollywood gossip columnist Perez Hilton.

Wait, you might be saying. Isn't he gay? Yes. Which makes this whole thing even weirder.

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Rant & Rave
Is this the turning point when we'll finally see an end to dancer mistreatment? Photo by Gez Xavier Mansfield/Unsplash

Last week in a piece I wrote about the drama at English National Ballet, I pointed out that many of the accusations against artistic director Tamara Rojo—screaming at dancers, giving them the silent treatment, taking away roles without explanation—were, unfortunately, pretty standard practice in the ballet world:

If it's a conversation we're going to have, we can't only point the finger at ENB.

The line provoked a pretty strong response. Professional dancers, students and administrators reached out to me, making it clear that it's a conversation they want to have. Several shared their personal stories of experiencing abusive behavior.

Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, wrote his thoughts about the issue on his company's website on Monday:

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Rant & Rave
The marketing image for FEMMES, screenshot from grandsballets.com

It had the makings of great satire. Three male dancers wrapped up in several layers of dripping cellophane, set against a background of vibrant pink. Above them was the headline FEMMES. Below was a blurb outlining Les Grands Ballets Canadiens' concept: an evening of ballet on the theme of "Woman," which would be part of the larger 2018/19 season billed as "an ode to woman."

The punchline: the triple bill would be choreographed entirely by men, and out of the eight choreographers on the season program, only one would be female.

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Dance in Pop Culture
Screenshot via YouTube

If you hadn't heard of inclusion riders before Sunday night, you've almost certainly heard of them now.

At the Oscars, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand ended her speech with: "I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider."

Since then, everyone has been talking about the term: What does it mean? Could it actually be implemented?

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Rant & Rave
Photo by Robin Roemer, Courtesy Sleep No More

Last month, Buzzfeed News confirmed 17 instances of groping or sexual misconduct by patrons of the immersive theater show Sleep No More.

Having experienced the show for the first time just a week before the story broke, I can't say I was surprised by the accusations.

No, I'm not bitter because of the more common complaints I've heard from patrons: I didn't get lost in the dark halls of the McKittrick Hotel, and I don't care that I didn't get any of the coveted one-on-one scenes. Instead, at every step of my two and a half hour journey through the show, I felt that the safety of the performers—and of the audience—was being compromised for the sake of an experience that just wasn't worth the risk.

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