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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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Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020