For years, we've been wrestling with the relative lack of female ballet directors. When women make up the majority of the companies' dancers, why are they so underrepresented in the troupes' leadership? Aside from a few longtime females at the helm—Richmond Ballet's Stoner Winslett and Ballet Memphis' Dorothy Gunther Pugh, for instance—there aren't too many examples of ballerinas who went on to lead from the front of the room.
But a few years ago, it seemed like things started to change. 2012 marked the appointment of two major dancers as directors. Tamara Rojo left The Royal Ballet as a dancer to lead and dance at English National Ballet, and Lourdes Lopez took the reigns at Miami City Ballet. Then, just last month, The Washington Ballet announced that former American Ballet Theatre star Julie Kent will come on board in July. Talk about a fantastic trio of women.
Charlotte Ballet's incoming artistic director Hope Muir. Photo by Rimbaud Patron, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.
Now, Charlotte Ballet has appointed Hope Muir as its next director, following Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux's retirement at the end of the 2016–17 season. Although her name may not instantly ring a bell with American ballet fans, the Canadian-born Muir certainly has the professional chops and a range of experience that will benefit Charlotte Ballet. As a performer, she danced with English National Ballet, Rambert Dance Company and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She's also staged work for the likes of Crystal Pite and Helen Pickett, and is currently the assistant artistic director of the Scottish Ballet.
In a press release from Charlotte Ballet, Muir said, “I plan to draw on my vast international experience and network of choreographers, directors and designers to develop and enhance the company’s unique identity. I’m passionate about the nurturing of young talent from Charlotte and abroad, as well as collaboration with like-minded companies and artists. I envision a pioneering and innovative future for Charlotte Ballet in the U.S. and abroad.”
Looking back on the past few years, it seems like the ballet world is finally taking concrete steps to welcome more females as directors. What's behind the trend? Stay tuned for our Feminist Issue in July to find out more and read about women's unique perspective as leaders.