Dancing Up the Glass Escalator: Institutional Advantages for Men in Ballet Choreography

How to Cite

Kelly, C. (2015). Dancing Up the Glass Escalator: Institutional Advantages for Men in Ballet Choreography. Columbia Undergraduate Research Journal, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.52214/curj.v2i1.4113


A dearth of women exists in the upper echelons of ballet choreography. Both academia and the popular press have noted and documented this phenomenon. For instance, in “Breaking the Glass Slipper,” New York Times journalist Michael Cooper recently noted, “When it comes to choreography, at least at most major companies, ballet remains overwhelmingly a man’s world” [1]. Similarly, critic Luke Jennings has noted, “In professional ballet companies, faced with heavier workloads and greater competitive stress than their male colleagues (not to mention the exigencies of pointe work), few women have the time, energy or inclination to consider choreography” [2]. And yet many arguments (such as Jennings’) as to why women do not become choreographers reflect back on women in ballet – claiming a lack of interest, ambition, or even ability – and fail to acknowledge the structural and systemic inequities that promote men in ballet at the expense of their female peers. Even women choreographers themselves tend to claim that women do not become choreographers because of their own choices, constraints, etc., instead of citing systemic structures of unequal opportunity [3]. Failing to acknowledge institutional inequality places the fault of discrimination upon its victims, and ignores the gendered hierarchy within ballet institutions. As an alternative, situating ballet choreography in the context of sociological theory can shed light on how institutions promote token men in ballet to artistic leadership positions, and may help disprove the notion that women do not become choreographers simply because of cultural reasons that relate back to the women themselves.