Getty Images

Ballet's Gender Gap—By the Numbers

The lack of female leaders in ballet is an old conversation. But a just-launched website, called the Dance Data Project, has brought something new to the discussion: actual numbers, not just anecdotal evidence.


The site has published a report on leadership pay among the 50 biggest ballet companies in the U.S, broken down by gender. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

Unsurprisingly, there are major gaps between male and female artistic directors.

  • Fewer than one third of artistic directors are women.
  • In 2017, female artistic directors made 68 cents for every dollar men made in the same position (up from 62 cents in 2016).
  • Out of the top 10 highest-earning artistic directors, only one was a woman in 2017.
  • The highest-paid male artistic director earned $900,000 in 2017, while the highest-paid female artistic director earned $325,000.

Fortunately, the numbers are more encouraging when you're looking at executive directors.

  • In the three years surveyed (2015–2017), 43 percent of executive directors were women.
  • Although in 2016, female executive directors earned 90 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, that gap narrowed to 98 cents in 2017.
  • Women made three of the top 10 executive director salaries in 2017.
  • One woman was the highest paid executive director in 2017, with a salary of $540,570. Another woman was the lowest paid, earning $32,692.

The Data Dance Project plans to continue publishing various stats on gender inequities. Founder Liza Yntema, a lawyer and Joffrey Ballet board member (who has underwritten ballets created by women for the Joffrey and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago), hopes that cold, hard facts will drive change.

Data is collected through public records, like 990 forms and GuideStar, plus a self-reported 80-question survey that several major companies have already participated in. This year, Yntema plans to conduct a listening tour at ballet companies throughout the country to better understand how the field can nurture women to take on leadership positions.

Future reports will look at the gender gaps among boards of directors, festival staff members and invited artists, programmed choreographers at top venues, and more. Stay tuned.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

How Can I Stay Motivated While Training at Home?

Ethan Ahuero was having a good year: he was in his first season dancing with Kansas City Ballet II and had been presented with the opportunity to choreograph on the second company. "The day before we shut down I had a rehearsal, and I was so happy," Ahuero says. "The piece was coming together and this was the first time I felt really proud of my creative process."

Suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a halt. With the company's season cut short and the studios closed, Ahuero found himself attempting to continue dancing from home, with his choreography project put on hold. Like many other dancers around the world, Ahuero is dealing with disappointment while struggling to stay motivated.

Keeping up with daily ballet classes may feel difficult right now; inspiration can seem hard to come by when you're following along on Zoom and short on space at home. Below are a few simple tips for finding new ways to stay motivated.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
THE GINGERB3ARDMEN, Courtesy Complexions Contemporary Ballet

How Jillian Davis Created Her Own Path to Complexions and Learned to Believe in Herself

It's impossible to miss Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Jillian Davis onstage. Tall and glamorous, her commanding stage presence, luxurious movement quality and intuitive musicality have made her one of the company's standout stars. But her road to Complexions was anything but linear. The 6'2" dancer worked tirelessly over several years to find her place in the dance world, ultimately reinventing herself and creating her own path to success. At a time when many early career dancers may be facing uncertainty, her story shows the power of resiliency.

Davis grew up on a dairy farm in Kutzstown, Pennsylvania, where she studied dance at a local studio and in the Philadelphia area, and took private lessons at home. She also started growing, shooting up seven inches over one summer. At 13, she and her family decided to take her daily training up a notch, commuting 100 miles each way to the Princeton Dance & Theater Studio, where she studied under Risa Kaplowitz and Susan Jaffe. By then she was already 5'7", and she soon realized—especially as she started learning how to partner—that her height might be an issue if she wanted to dance ballet professionally.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Tulsa Ballet in Ma Cong's Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music. Kate Luber Photography, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Updated: Mark Your Calendars for These Online Ballet Performances

Updated on 5/21/2020

Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks