"Like her nineteenth-century forbear, today's ballerina, an icon of teen youth, athleticism, and anorexic vulnerability, incarnates a feminine ideal defined overwhelmingly by men"(Garafola 35)
"To begin with, there's the equation of ballet itself, a lifetime mentor-pupil relationship requiring initiation before a child is old enough to make any serious decisions" (Kirkland 132)
The nature of ballet gives teachers enormous power and influence over the dancers. In order for a dancer to succeed and get cast in good roles they must give themselves completely to the work and that includes giving themselves to their teacher. Throughout history there have been many scandals involving ballet teachers or administrators and their students or dancers. This immense power that is given to easily to men in power only ends up hurting the dancers who give them everything in order to please them. (Image H2)
Even though the ballet world consists of mostly female individuals it was only recently that a world renowned company hired a female artistic director. Most of the time women are the directors of the schools where they help develop the students into company dancers but the men are often the public faces of these companies. These men who are put in such strong positions of power often abuse it, especially in their treatment towards women. Since so many women are fighting for a career they are conditioned to think of themselves as replaceable so they put up with a lot more abuse than the men in the dance world ever would.
One of the most influential men in the ballet was George Balanchine. He was one of the first and most famous to bring ballet to America. He created ballets known for their tenderness, romanticism, or classicism and permanently altered how audiences think human limbs can be articulated in space. He was celebrated for his grand legacy but he has a dark side that is often hidden. He set up many of the dangerous and cruel standards that dancers are judged by today and he set terrible precedent for the future men in charge. He demanded his dancers to be
"long-limbed, slender, with what he called 'bird-bones,' strong, fast, deeply musical, and committed to his dictum of "Don't think, just do." (Wilken 711)
He also often encouraged dancers to use drugs to enhance their performances. Dancers were told that they were being given "special vitamins" and the management just looked the other way. He created amazing ballets for the art form and careers for many of his muses but it was at a major cost.
Image Citations Image H1 Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Gelsey Kirkland and Helgi Tomasson, in a New York City Ballet production of "The Nutcracker." (New York)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1974. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/6709e320-a94a-0131-65c3-58d385a7bbd0 Image H2 Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "New York City Ballet rehearsal of " The Figure in the Carpet" with George Balanchine and dancers, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1960. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/46ca91f0-543b-0135-fa56-0d5fac121de3 Image H3 Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Elena Tchernichova directs Andris Liepa and Susan Jaffe during rehearsal for the American Ballet Theater production Swan Lake" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1988. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/32f539b0-8b5a-0135-99f2-0f38f3a97fa8 Image H4 Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "New York City Ballet production of "Jewels" (Rubies) with Patricia McBride and Robert Weiss during filming of NET Dance in America series, choreography by George Balanchine (Nashville)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1977. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/51483ad0-1fdd-0132-b4f4-58d385a7bbd0 Image H5 Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "New York City Ballet rehearsal of "Clarinade" with George Balanchine and dancers, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/1245d9f0-fafc-0135-0671-5f4e8e498710