Are Men Actually Running Ballet?

Controversies aside… who is actually running ballet? It is funny, as a gay man in ballet to look at what is being written in the press about ballet, and how ballet is being ran by men, critiqued by men, and structured by men… When if you look at the ballet infrastructure as a whole… it’s not men at all.

female artistic directors ballet copy

There is some fact that men run ballet, if we are saying that Artistic Directors (ADs) run the entire scope of ballet.

Artistic Directors do have a lot of power in a ballet company when it comes to aesthetic and casting, but it isn’t a dictatorship, as the AD has to answer to the Executive Director, Board, Trustees and the general public (which now has a ton of say). Not to mention the ballets are prepared by a rather large staff of ballet mistresses, masters and repetiteurs.

But, if you have been inside a ballet company, you know it takes a monstrous amount of people to make a ballet company successful and run.

So, who is really in control of ballet? The answer is simple… females.

If you look at the executive staff, the board, the board of trustees, school administration… the majority is female.

In terms of shaping body types, or selecting body types during puberty for these elite schools… most school directors in the US are females… Not to mention the majority of school owners and studio owners are female and they are the ones preparing children to enter into the world of ballet. Not to mention it is usually the moms of the dance world pushing their children to help them achieve their dreams of making it into a top company, with whatever pressures that comes with, and psychological effects it has on the child…

In terms of employment of dancers females outnumber males 3:1. Not to mention when looking up the top ballet dancers of all time only three are men.

So, I wonder where all this ballet needs more women in power is coming from? Is it because there aren’t enough female AD’s and choreographers? 

Karen Kain, National Ballet of Canada (Not to mention National Ballet of Canada was co-founded by Celia Franca)
Aurelie Dupont, Paris Opera
Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet
Lourdes Lopez, Miami City Ballet
Julie Kent, Washington Ballet
Patricia Barker, Royal New Zealand
Virginia Johnson, Dance Theatre of Harlem
Victoria Morgan, Cincinnati Ballet
Emily Molnar, Ballet BC
Suzanne Farrell, Suzanne Farrell Ballet
Dorothy Pugh, Ballet Memphis
co AD, Carinne Binda, Sacramento Ballet

Cristal Pite, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp (who also resided at ABT), Agnes De Mille (who also resided at ABT), Bronislava Nijinska, Trisha Brown, Judith Jameson, Ninette de Valois, Yagpin Wang, Aszure Barton, Isadora Duncan, Pina Bausch, Lauren Lovette, Mia Michaels, Sonya Tayeh,  Carolyn Carlson, Debbie Allen, Katherine Dunham, Marguerite Porter, Marie Agnes Gillot, Susan Stroman, Natalia Makarova…. and many more…

If we think of the current choreographers and the ones who are rising to the top, they are men… and is that a bad thing. If they are more talented and creating more accessible work, then they deserve the credit? Or don’t they, because they are men?

So, are we saying that none of this is good enough because until ballet is 50% or more is women it isn’t going to be fair. Well, I hate to break it to you all… if you look at ballet companies overall… and who is running their boards, and just plain out executive directorships… it is women, at about 80% of the executive and artistic staff. Not to mention it is women who are running the Ballet and Dance Press scene… Dance Media has monopolized the publishing industry and advertising industry of dance… all female.

Dance Media is Vice President & Group Publisher female… Editorial vice president female…

Dance Magazine, Editor in Chief, Female
Dance Spirit, Editor in Chief, Female
Pointe, Editor in Chief, Female
Dance Teacher, Editor in Chief, Female
all of the awards run by females, produced by Break the Floor (male)

So, what you are seeing and reading is curated and approved for by females.

Which means… we are saying that the lack of change in ballet isn’t just the male AD’s of ballet (and don’t get me wrong… I think they are a large part of the problem in ballet…), but they aren’t the only ones to blame and point the finger at… I’m just presenting some of the facts about what we see, what we are seeing on stage, what we are reading, and who is actually running the overall spectrum of ballet.

The board can easily pressure an AD to hire or fire… we saw that happen at PA Ballet easily… We also saw how careful boards are when hiring… Ballet West… We also know that one man isn’t running the entire show… He might be running casting and hires… but the legal, finance, logistics, structure of ballet is being ran by women.

Also, the Youth America Grand Prix, that is dictating a lot of how dancers are training is ran by a woman. So is the Prix de Lausanne… USA IBC, which is happening this year, is ran by a woman both on the Artistic and Executive side…

I’ve done the legwork for you…

Let’s take a look at New York City Ballet by the numbers

Of the nine elected positions on NYCB’s board, three are women.

The head ballet mistress… female.

4/9 ballet masters are female

Children’s Ballet Master… female.

The entire board has 68 names listed, some deceased. 27 of them are women.

The executive director to NYCB is a woman.

In the executive office positions- all are women.

In communication and special projects, 2/3 are women.

In development and special events 14/19 are women, of the 7 directorships, 5 are women.

In marketing and media, the majority are women, the senior director of marketing and media is also a female.

The director of education and and Public programs… a woman.

Director of Production… a woman.

Now onto ABT… co-founded by a female…

Executive director… Female.

ABT’s AD of the JKO school… female.

Pr, Marketing, Chief Admin, Director of Education all female. Principal ballet mistress, female.

Admins Executive Officers… all female.

Marketing and communications 5/7 female…

The board officers … 3/7 female

Executive Committee… 7/`5 female

San Francisco Ballet…

3/6 ballet masters are female.

of the  8 alive listed board officers…6 are female…

Boston Ballet

female executive director…

14/27 females on the board….

2/7 females on the artistic staff

3/4 admin females…

9/10 development female…

18/ 21 marketing and communications female

2/5 financiers female

1/1 human resource… female

2/16 production female

AD of Boston Ballet School Female…

Houston Ballet

9/15 artistic staff female

7/10 board members female

1/3 executive admin female

5/5 finance female

2/4 info and technology female

5/7 human resources

11/ 14 development female

14/15 marketing and PR

Alvin Ailey

former AD was a female…

2/4 executive staff female

8/11 Development

11/13 Marketing

4/5 PR

1/1 Film

10/ 13 Finance and Admin

Pacific North West Ballet, co founded by a woman

Female Executive Director, Development Director, Marketing and Communications Director, Human Resources Director…

President of board.. female…

Committee Chairs … 3/5 female

14/17 Admin staff female

Smaller Companies…

Carolina Ballet

Female Executive Director, Director of Finance, Admin Director, Development   Director,Summer Intensive AD,

Ballet Idaho

Female Executive director, marketing director, business manager, academy director and more

Atlanta Ballet

1/2 executive staff

1/4 artistic staff

4/6 finance and admin

5/6 development

6/7 marketing and pr

4/4 ticketing

2/5 production

5/6 costumes

Orlando Ballet

Former female ED. looking for a new one

9/12 board members

Ballet Arizona

Female Executive Director

2/5 females in the artistic staff

School manager, director of finance, director of development, stage manager, accounting manager and most all of the positions… female.

Colorado Ballet

5/7 Artistic Staff female

9/16 executive board positions

38/ 64 directors and staff female

5 responses to “Are Men Actually Running Ballet?”

  1. First off, thank you so much for doing obviously a ton of work on this issue. Compiling all these facts and figures is important and must be part of the conversation. HOWEVER (and I have a lot to say on the matter as a woman and minority with a college education in the art form), but I’m just going to add that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes despite a robust appearance in employment figures.

    Inequality (which includes women AND minorities) in decision making, planning, salary, everything and anything goes into this issue within companies big and small; it’s not just the numbers at this point in dance history. I can speak based on my experience with one of the companies in this list (which isn’t mentioned on this list but was actually founded by a woman too), and let me tell you sincerely (albeit a bit vaguely), since the late 1990s to today, the groups of women in this (undisclosed) major company, though seemingly large in scale, aren’t “in charge” in any long-term sense–with the expectation of the rare handful of experienced, educated, passionate (underpaid) employees in one (undervalued) department.

    There are short-term wins which many of these women and their departments achieve throughout a season, but in the long run for this company and the art form, these women are underpaid for the enormous amount of work they’re assigned per season, and that work generally gets scrapped when the department gets reworked with new hires/rebranding/etc. THAT is just one reason why many people in our art form stand behind the fact/statement that (white) men are in charge of ballet; simply put, men get paid more.

    I hope this helps bring a bit more clarity to the issue; I don’t mean for this to be an aggressive debate. We’re all in this great world of dance together.