Commentary: Where are all the female choreographers?

Luke Jennings, The Observer newspaper [UK], 4/27/13

Why, when British dance was founded by women like Ninette de Valois and Marie Rambert, and has always employed more women than men, are there no high-profile women choreographers? In contemporary dance, historically a territory marked out by choreographic pioneers such as Martha Graham and Pina Bausch, men are much more prominent than women [and] get the big commissions. In classical dance, female choreographers are rare indeed, and the dynamics of vocational ballet schooling are at least partly responsible. Boys see themselves as individuals from the start, but girls quickly learn how replaceable they are, and in consequence can become over-anxious to "fit in". What the history of British classical dance overwhelmingly demonstrates is that while women may run ballet schools and become ballet company administrators and directors, they are rarely, if ever, invited to the choreographic high table. They are permitted responsibility, in other words, but not creative power. Kevin O'Hare, director of the Royal Ballet, is sensitive to the issue. "There's no getting away from the fact that the women haven't been coming through," he says, adding that he has approached an internationally renowned female choreographer with a view to a future commission. Within the company, O'Hare says: "I will try and make a path for women to be creative." This is heartening, as is the news that Scottish Ballet director Christopher Hampson has commissioned pieces from three women for the 2013 season. But there is a long way to go before female choreographers achieve anything like parity with men.


Commentary: Where are all the female classical music composers?

Alex Ross, The New Yorker magazine, 4/29/13

In addition to the outright sexism of certain male composition teachers...there is the unintended bias of well-meaning performers, administrators, and, yes, critics, whose choices perpetuate the status quo. A conspicuous disparity persists. To date, the Met has performed only one opera by a woman: Ethel Smyth's Der Wald, in 1903. On Operabase's 2012 list of the 100 most frequently performed opera composers, Saariaho is the lone female, in 96th place. The average orchestra plays, at most, one or two works by women each year. Often, such imbalances arise not because misogyny runs rampant but because only a few slots for new pieces are allotted, and these go to safely familiar male names. The problem would ease simply if more new music were played. This much is clear: hundreds of gifted women crowd the field, their styles ranging from the most dissonant avant-gardism to the most melodious post-minimalism. No concert series would suffer a loss of quality if more of their work were included. To the contrary, any institution that made a habit of spotlighting women would, by default, become a livelier place. It's possible that the indifference to classical music observed in younger generations has something to do with the musty, clubby atmosphere of the repertory. This season, two of [New York City's] strongest new-music series -- Composer Portraits and the Ecstatic Music Festival -- have offered glimpses of a world in which the "woman composer," in the embattled-minority sense, has ceased to exist.


Commentary: Where are all the female painters?

Ellen Gamerman and Mary M. Lane, The Wall Street Journal, 4/18/13

When Berthe Morisot's "After Lunch" sold for $10.9 million in February, it set a record as the most expensive work ever sold by a female artist at auction. It also helped power a wave of interest among collectors and dealers looking to identify undervalued female artists. While an age-old debate rages over whether talent, sexism or lack of promotion has held many women out of the art world's boys club, everyone agrees that prices for female artists have always lagged behind those of their male counterparts. [But] as the supply of great pictures diminishes, more collectors are priced out of blue-chip works and are combing the market for previously overlooked names. A number of highly regarded women artists are seeing their prices rise as a result. A number of theories exist for why women have languished in the art world's bargain basement. Experts point to the smaller supply of work by women from certain periods -- which limits the frequency of sales and holds down prices. Women also are underrepresented by major museums, where purchases and exhibits boost prices. Others say women haven't marketed themselves as well as men. An older generation of women artists sees a much different art market today than the one they grew up with. Pat Steir, a 74-year-old artist, recalled [meeting] Mark Rothko in 1964. Steir approached him, explaining she had just gotten out of art school. "I said, 'Mr. Rothko, you're such a great artist, I admire your work so much,' and he said, 'You're a pretty girl. Why aren't you married?'" Ms. Steir's art now hangs in most major museums across the U.S.


Commentary: Where are all the female art collectors?

Judith H. Dobrzynski, The New York Times, 4/27/13

The next time you visit an art museum, look around -- not at the paintings, but at the people in the galleries. It's a fair bet women outnumber men; even government statistics say so. More women than men study art, too. Art appreciation is a female predilection and so, you would think, is collecting. But the walls in art museums tell a different story. The donor names inscribed on labels or etched into museum facades are nearly exclusively male. Why? It is true that, for a long time, society thwarted female collecting. Confined to the home, women focused on furnishings, porcelain, jewelry, lace and the like, not great paintings and sculptures that made reputations. But that changed at least 100 years ago. It's tempting to say men still predominate because they control the money, and for the most part it does take a lot of money to become a great collector. But the explanation is too simple: many great collectors begin when the objects of their affection are out of fashion or underappreciated. There is a better explanation: collecting, at its highest levels, is more like hunting than shopping. And who, by and large, are the hunters and the thrill-seekers of the world? Men. Gender parity in art collecting, as in so many areas, is a long way off.


Commentaries: Gender parity in the theater industry

FROM TC: recently hosted a series of blog posts on gender parity in the theater industry. Here are a few highlights:

  • Parenting & Playwriting: Snow in April by Catherine Trieschmann
    In my very first conversation with Denver Center, when they told me they wanted to produce the play, the Artistic Director said to me, "I know you have small children, so we'll work with you to give you what you need." I almost cried.
  • Playmaking in Pseudo-Post-Feminist America by Rachel Grossman
    I present these snapshots in the life of a Gen-X artist, administrator, and newly emerged leader trying to find her grounding in a field dominated by male leaders. A field in which I am asked, because of my gender, to carry forth the responsibilities of creating theater that holds to gender equity as a guiding principle and presents positive images of women.
  • Gender Parity by Heather Kitchen
    One of my strongest motivators for choosing theater was my heartfelt belief the theater business was one in which your gender, look, sexual preference, ethnicity, religion, and political leanings were considered as unimportant criteria in making hiring decisions.
  • Push for Parity by Julia Jordan
    Hilary Clinton said, "I believe the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century." In our little corner of the world, the American theater, it's way past time every theater wakes up a bit to the fact that they can't live in an unjust past which was frankly, less excellent than it could and should have been.
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