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Gender Inequality in Dance Leadership

Nowadays, as soon as a person learns someone is a professional or pre-professional dancer, they follow with the same prompt response: “I did dance when I was four then quit.” While most of our parents may have put us in dance at one point or another for the cute pictures of tutus and smiles, a handful of students do continue to pursue a career in dance. With dance quickly associated with a female-dominated corps (which we are also working on), why is are women not represented in leadership?! Dance is notoriously seen as a female-dominated career that graciously attempts to recruit men at any possible moment. While the effortless technique and poise grace the stage following a dance display, people underestimate the overwhelming strength and conditioning required to be a dancer. People are needed to lift and support fellow dancers. If only that support carried into leadership roles…

Concert Dance

When people think of a dancer, they may think of Isabella Boylston and Misty Copeland (primas of the American Ballet Theater) or contemporary dancers Briar Nolet or Charity Anderson. 80% of dancers are female, yet they lack proper representation in leadership and choreography.

Unfortunately, the glass ceiling culture still stands… even in dance. Notable male figures quickly rise to fame through the ranks and eventually occupy 72% of artistic director positions of companies throughout the world! Major European companies such as the Mariinsky Theater, The Bolshoi Ballet, Teatro alla Scalla, and The Royal Ballet are all led by male artistic directors. The Australian Ballet and the American Ballet Theater are also led by men.

Commercial Dance

The same phenomenon occurs in commercial dance. Televised dance competitions have rapidly grown in popularity and highlight rising artists paired with professional dancers. These pros are often male-dominated, with 9 men and 6 women on Dancing with the Stars. The winner or winning group is often accompanied by a male professional. Although most backup dancers for singers are female, male choreographers also dominate the commercial scene in music capitals like Los Angeles and New York.


Some of the most famous dance techniques such as Graham modern by Marta Graham and Vaganova ballet developed by Agrippina Vaganova originated from women. However, since the dawn of dance, women have lacked opportunities to choreograph or have not been commissioned. Currently, a shocking 9% of reputable works are female-led choreography projects. A woman has not choreographed a main stage full-length ballet at the Royal Ballet in London in 15 years.


Through the concert and commercial dance industry, the women overpower men on most rosters, however, they severely lack leadership and choreography opportunities. This is a prevalent modern-day example of subtle injustices that are not truly uncovered until statistics are present. In order to encourage future generations of dancers to continue exhibiting their work and considering dance as a career, women must feel as though they are trusted and valued in leadership positions.

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