When I was about 13 I did a presentation on feminism in my English class. On reflection it was very juvenile, only discussed the very basic ideas and included playing Britney Spears ‘Womaniser’ in the background… At that time I didn’t fully understand how serious feminism was and still is. Of course I knew about the Suffragettes and the struggle for equal women’s rights, but I guess I kind of assumed that it was pretty much all sorted now.
Oh how naive my 13 year old self was! I am writing this post mostly because of the Dancing Times article on the lack of female choreographers in September’s issue, an article that really got me thinking about women in dance. I think feminism and inequality of any sort is something that I never really think about properly until someone points out that there is something not quite right (I know I need to be more observant). Building on the Dancing Times’ statistics that the majority of the dancers in companies (both ballet and contemporary) are female, it’s crazy to think that there are barely any female choreographers/women in charge of the big dance companies (1:15 according to Dancing Times).
What is worrying is that there is no continuity between female dancers and female choreographers. I know that you could bring out the old ‘family card’ that at the time when a female dancer’s career comes to an end they decide to start a family and this is probably why there are fewer female choreographers than male. Sure, this would have been perhaps the only explanation years and years ago, but in a modern society where women are choosing careers over children or alternatively juggling both this doesn’t seem like the definitive reason. I mean look at Darcey Bussell she had two children and still kept on dancing with the Royal Ballet! In an increasingly career driven world where women can be CEO’s, doctors and prime ministers, where they have the ability to be both a mother and a career women should they wish it really makes me question what is the real problem?
Having read Dancing Times’ article it was additionally shocking to hear that women find it difficult to get commissioned as choreographers and how they feel they have to constantly prove themselves, which in my mind only puts off more potential female choreographers. Why are people prepared to take more risks with men? Is it because they have some silent strength and unsaid promise that they’ll be amazing, because women have that too. As someone who would maybe like to choreograph in the future the lack of female choreographers really doesn’t fill me with an amazing sense of empowerment. I’m not saying that I’m expecting it to be easy- dance is not easy, I’ve already struggled to get where I am and I know I have plenty more struggling to come. But it seems so so so much harder for women than men!
I am a feminist, even as a naive 13 year old with a warped understanding of the true meaning of the movement I knew I was a feminist. I think it is unfair that women, even in the dance world which is stereotypically referred to as a ‘girly thing to do’ do not have the same chances and opportunities as men. I can’t promise that I’ll find out the reason and solve the problem. It needs to be a collective move forwards so that female choreography is no longer in a tiny minority. So I guess this post is an extension of the Dancing Times article and so an attempt to raise awareness. If only one person reads this and feels inspired then I’ll be happier….
If you’re interested in finding out more check out:
The Female Choreographer’s Collective: http://www.the-fcc.org.uk/
Sexism in dance: where are all the female choreographers?: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/apr/28/women-choreographers-glass-ceiling
Why aren’t there more female choreographers?: http://www.timeout.com/london/dance/why-arent-there-more-female-choreographers