Looking at Ballet's Gender Gap By the Numbers
The lack of female leaders in ballet is an old conversation. But a just-launched website, called the Dance Data Project, has brought something new to the discussion: actual numbers, not just anecdotal evidence.
The site has published a report on leadership pay among the 50 biggest ballet companies in the U.S, broken down by gender. Here are some of the most interesting findings:
Unsurprisingly, there are major gaps between male and female artistic directors.
- Fewer than one third of artistic directors are women.
- In 2017, female artistic directors made 68 cents for every dollar men made in the same position (up from 62 cents in 2016).
- Out of the top 10 highest-earning artistic directors, only one was a woman in 2017.
- The highest-paid male artistic director earned $900,000 in 2017, while the highest-paid female artistic director earned $325,000.
Fortunately, the numbers are more encouraging when you're looking at executive directors.
- In the three years surveyed (2015–2017), 43 percent of executive directors were women.
- Although in 2016, female executive directors earned 90 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, that gap narrowed to 98 cents in 2017.
- Women made three of the top 10 executive director salaries in 2017.
- One woman was the highest paid executive director in 2017, with a salary of $540,570. Another woman was the lowest paid, earning $32,692.
The Data Dance Project plans to continue publishing various stats on gender inequities. Founder Liza Yntema, a lawyer and Joffrey Ballet board member (who has underwritten ballets created by women for the Joffrey and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago), hopes that cold, hard facts will drive change.
Data is collected through public records, like 990 forms and GuideStar, plus a self-reported 80-question survey that several major companies have already participated in. This year, Yntema plans to conduct a listening tour at ballet companies throughout the country to better understand how the field can nurture women to take on leadership positions.
Future reports will look at the gender gaps among boards of directors, festival staff members and invited artists, programmed choreographers at top venues, and more. Stay tuned.
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In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
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"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
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