Curtain Up

February 10, 2011

What does it mean to be a woman in the dance world? How can we be strong and at the same time be open to possibilities? During the 1970s’ wave of feminism, these are some of the questions that I, along with many other women in downtown New York, were asking ourselves. We were closely watching how our heroes—women like Yvonne Rainer, Twyla Tharp, Trisha Brown, and Meredith Monk—brought their female selves into their work. Some of us took part in women’s consciousness-raising groups, which were exhilarating for their sense of sisterhood—the feeling that we were all trying to figure things out together.


Now my questions have shifted: What makes a woman a leader? How do women lead in the dance field? Two of the women I encountered in the ’60s and ’70s—Brenda Way and Liz Lerman—have, over the years, created their own dance environments. Lerman and Way, as well as Karen Kain, Stoner Winslett, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, have forged ahead, applying their women’s consciousness to their leadership styles. These five women are strong individuals with strong beliefs, and they have changed the dance landscape in different ways. What do they all have in common? Read Victoria Looseleaf’s “A Female Force” to find out.


One issue that comes up when talking about women in dance is how much harder it is for a woman to land a job than for a man, whether as a performer, teacher, or choreographer. We’re hoping that our “Jobs Guide” will help with that—check out our listings beginning on page 38. Also, in “So You Think You Can Back Flip?” Jen Peters (who got a job dancing with Jennifer Muller/The Works soon after graduating from Ailey/Fordham) interviews various dancers and teachers about extending their comfort zone to become more marketable.


On a different note, we’re embarking on a new adventure at We’re starting a video series called “Choreography in Focus,” choosing a different choreographer each month. First up: Larry Keigwin. We’ll have a lively conversation about his process and artistic goals, and also bring you right into his studio so you can see him working with his dancers. “Choreography in Focus” joins our other popular web features, like the “Behind-the-Scenes” clips of cover shoots; “See and Say” commentaries; blogs by education editor Siobhan Burke, guest bloggers, and myself; and the new “Talk Back to Critics” option. So, see you on!