Dance Australia


IF you’re a young woman aspiring to choreograph ballets, history might have you feeling lonesome. Beyond the great Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972) and the indefatigable Ninette de Valois (1898-2001), whose 20th-century masterworks are still performed today, audiences and dancers alike can be hard pressed to recall the names of female choreographers who emerged from within ballet. Perhaps Sweden’s Birgit Cullberg (1908-1999) might make your list, or England’s Andree Howard (b. 1910), whose sensitive, atmospheric works were widely praised before slowly disappearing after her sudden death in 1968. Add the Paris Opera’s Janine Charrat (1924-2017) and the Bolshoi’s Maya Plisetskaya (1925-2015) and the list lengthens, little by little…

But now, can you think of a woman who choreographed ballets before the 20th century?

Hmm… struggling? Well you may. From gnawing prejudices about women’s artistic capacities to the impositions of

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