Throughout most of history, male dancers, inventors, presidents, and CEOs have dominated the spotlight. Stemming from an activity of the upper, bourgeoisie class to what we think of as dance today, men have led this art among many other titles: namely King Louis XIV of France to whom the invention of ballet is credited. Known as the Sun King for playing Apollo in a ballet, his court would eventually become the Paris Opera Ballet. Rumor has it he could not perform an entrechat so he invented the “royale”-- with one less beat in the air.
That is until key identifiers involving women in dance started to step outside The Sun King’s diminished jumps. Most notably, when women went en pointe. This drastic difference in movement execution clearly centralized women as the lead of the show.
Along with artistic indicators, there are several women dancers in history who deserve recognition for their influence in style, expression, and technique. Pioneers like Marie Taglioni, Isadora Duncan, and Martha Graham shaped dance as an art, planting their expertise that is still relevant today.
REWRITING THE SCRIPT
With thick thread at the base of her toes and leather soles to support her feet, Marie Taglioni (1804-1884) is thought to be the pioneer of the modern pointe shoe. And with “a delicate, restrained use of the points” she leaped across the stage with stylized leaps. Taglioni encompassed the early, Romantic, style of ballet.
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) used ancient Greek philosophies as inspiration for her expressive movements. She relied heavily on beauty and humanity when pioneering her outlandish gestures. As an early figure of American modern dance, she expressed her thoughts and feelings through movement turning away from industry standards of ballet:
“The real American type can never be a ballet dancer. The legs are too long, the body too supple and the spirit too free for this school of affected grace and toe walking,”
Instead, she took to rediscovering nature, expressing the condition of humanity.
Finally, and perhaps one of the more well-known dancers mentioned here, is Martha Graham (1894 – 1991). Through her innovative technique typified by movements of contracting and releasing, she broke through her contemporaries. Creating partnerships with visual artists, fashion designers, and musicians, she included many disciplines to further audience experience and hone her technique. Graham’s unique interpretation of dance based on the basic human form “enlivened the body with raw, electric emotion.”
We celebrate women in dance to pay homage to style, expression, and technique. Without women influencers like Taglioni, Duncan, and Graham, it’s difficult to say what dance would look like today. Being vital to the art of dance, women were active at its inception, and have continued to augment expectations, deliver unequivocally, and model experiences.
March is women's history month
In 1981 Congress passed a Public Law requesting that the President authorize the first week of March as “Women’s History Week.” Within the next 10 years, Congress approved the designation of the month of March to be “Women’s History Month.”
More specifically, International Women’s Day on March 8th celebrates women worldwide. This year’s campaign, #BalanceForBetter, merits that “a balanced world is a better world” and by celebrating women’s achievement, raising awareness about biases, and acting on inequality we can all help to balance the scales. By honoring women dancers we are taking a step towards leveling the perception of both male and female involvement in the art.
come celebrate with us
Taking #BalanceForBetter literally, Lady BOS is celebrating femme artists and choreographers with the culmination of works presented in ...that’s what she said. Through a series of peer-mentored workshops, Lady BOS Productions encourages individuals to explore, to experiment, and to create dialogue that builds valuable relationship.
Using a deeply collaborative method, audiences engage in layered and personal levels, as the pinnacle of collaboration, celebration, and performance of dance. Come bear witness to the intimate performances and share in the warmth of community that Lady BOS Productions promotes.
Click here for more information on participating choreographers in this year’s presentation of “...that’s what she said.”
Don’t forget to buy your tickets and donate to support our mission!
written by: victoria nunweiler
Published March 7, 2019
This blog contains contributions from several women with who we are grateful to work. Head over to our TEAM page to learn more about who we are; scan our archives to learn more about what we think.
Top Cover Photo: "shell" by I.J. Chan, Image by Haley Abram Photography