Last week we wrote about how choreographer Alexei Ratmansky set off a Facebook firestorm with a post proclaiming that "there is no such thing as equality in ballet" when it comes to gender roles. Coming from one of today's foremost choreographers in ballet, his words unsurprisingly drew hundreds of heated reactions.
And maybe that was part of the point.
The New York Times posted a fantastic story by Gia Kourlas last night about how New York City Ballet's current season features two ballets with significant same-sex duets: Lauren Lovette's Not Our Fate and Justin Peck's The Times Are Racing, which is the first in the company's history with gender-neutral casting.
For her piece, Kourlas asked Ratmansky about his Facebook post, giving him a chance to explain his reasoning and what he meant. She writes:
Mr. Ratmansky, whose work richly engages tradition, wrote in an email that he didn't mean to offend or impose a ban. "But there are gender roles in traditional ballet," he said. "In other words, men and women are of equal value but have different tasks."
He continued: "Being passionate about ballet traditions, its present and future, I wanted to continue discussing gender roles in ballet, but hesitate now. There are so many things one could discuss around this topic. I agree that the rules are there to be broken, that's how art evolves. And I myself have enjoyed playing with these conventions. But I personally choose to work within a tradition because I find it too beautiful and historically important to be lost."
It's unfortunate that Ratmansky's now hesitant to continue discussing the topic. Whether you agree with his post or not, it (re)ignited a conversation that should definitely be had. As much as the ballet world needs to keep pushing the envelope and reflecting the contemporary world, it also needs healthy debate.
As Ratmansky himself writes in response to one of the many comment threads on his post: "I am definitely learning a lot from the comments." So could we all, if we're brave enough to keep the conversation going.