Thursday, June 23, 2016


Michael Cooper, fighting the good fight, has a new article at the NY Times on the subject of female choreographers and the underrepresentation of their work at major ballet companies.

Sound familiar? It should; a number of us have been beating the drum for years over the failure of large musical organizations - symphony orchestras and big opera companies - to perform the works of female composers. It's great to see this examination of the same subject in the world of dance.

Deep in the article there's a quotation that really caught my eye:
But while the Royal Ballet has presented works by a number of female choreographers in recent years, they have tended to be done at its smaller Linbury Studio Theater, not on the main stage. The lack of women having their work performed has become a topic of conservation in London. Kevin O’Hare, the director of the Royal Ballet, said in an email that “commissions are about the right fit for the company, whether by male or female choreographers.”
I'm very curious about this. If an organization commissions a musical work from a composer, the organization gets to specify quite a bit about that work, perhaps including the instrumentation, form, and length. The Kronos Quartet isn't going to commission a brass quintet, for example. Well, it might commission a work for string quartet plus brass, but you see my point, I'm sure.

So what exactly does Mr. O'Hare mean by "the right fit for the company"? One common reason for not hiring people is known to be "not a good cultural fit," which is rather loose and nonspecific and can cover a multitude of sins, excluding people are different but qualified from being hired for an open position. Without follow-up, we don't know what he meant, but I sure would like to know.


Eric Pease said...

I loved Svadba at SF Opera Lab. though at the time, I did wonder why the director wasn't a woman...

Speaking of which, season 2 tix are on sale.

Lisa Hirsch said...

For Opera Lab? Couple of things I want to see there....

baebythebay said...

Usually the "right fit" for a company today would mean that the choreographer is creating something that matches the repertory of the company. Every season San Francisco Ballet presents an equal amount of Petipa ballet classics (Swan Lake, etc), Balanchine, and newer more modern works by Forsythe, Wheeldon, etc. The dancers have a strict classical training combined with the experience of a more modern repertory, some of which occasionally spills into other styles like jazz, ballroom, etc. That is not true for many other companies in the US and around the world, where the "right fit" might be more traditional or more avant-garde. In this context however, "the right fit... whether by male or female" is a total cop out. It's the same sort of response to why Misty Copeland is the only black principal dancer in a major company today. "We take dancers that are the right fit... whether black or white." He totally skirts the issue; not willing to blatantly say that it's due to sexism.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, that is extremely informative and helpful.