You’ve got to remember what world you’re living in.
Looking around in dance class it’s deceiving, most people are women. If there are men, they are few, and often one of them is the teacher.
It’s a telling sign.
For a population that is overwhelmingly female, the dance world is as patriarchal as it comes. Men, in a kind of reverse glass ceiling, enter the game late (they face less ridicule when they reach adulthood) and are coveted in a way that makes me sting with injustice. Since men are so rare their presence is yearned for, male-only auditions are common, and male dancers with far less training or skill are hired alongside women who are at the top of their game.
Imagine that in the boardroom: “We NEED more women. It’s not a reflection of life without women. We’ll have to have women-only interviews. If we promote them to executive positions immediately then maybe we’ll be lucky enough for them to stay with us. Put them on track to become CEO.”
In dance this is not affirmative action, it’s normal practice.
Men do become the CEO’s in dance, meaning that the few men that are in dance are practically guaranteed to get a job, and if they work hard and keep at it they are likely to become prominent teachers, choreographers and artistic directors.
Far be it for me to say that successful male dancers aren’t any good, no, they are deserving and terrifically skilled. It’s just that they achieve positions of power much more quickly and easily than female dancers. Women are consistently left out.
- Ballet BC has John Alleyne
- The Alberta Ballet has Jean Grand-Maître
- The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has André Lewis
- Les Grands Ballets Canadiens has Gradimir Pankov
- While the National Ballet of Canada, until recently had James Kudelka, and now only Karen Kain has ended a series of male directors.*
Like most things patriarchal, there is no one person to blame. It’s a systemic problem with a deep history and strong influence. You just have to see a recent report on movies that shows of 15,000 characters in films across ratings men outnumber women 3 to 1.
Can’t we just have a female-dominated art form and be okay with that? No art form seems to be worried about being male-dominated.
So I’m reduced to listening to what G.I. Joe used to tell us kids: “knowing is half the battle.” That’s about as much hope as I can muster at present, and from a patriarchal icon no less.
Go forth and change the world please people, because I’m currently tired of fighting an enemy that I can’t even touch.
*Let me explain, since nothing is so simple. Women tended to found these companies, such as Celia Franca and the National in 1951. She was followed by four men, with a two year stint of a co-artistic team of two women who replaced Erik Bruhn only as an emergency when he was stricken with AIDS — and they were administrators, not dancers. Karen Kain made the jump, but c’mon, did you have to be Canada’s most famous dancer and the National’s most loyal member to deserve the job?