The Women Who’ve Founded Dance Companies In The US Since 1929

For this DATA BYTE, the DDP research team gathered information for 179 ballet companies either founded or co-founded by women between 1929 and 2024 to provide an archival tool for tracking the historical contributions of women to the field.

“Keeping track of these female-founded ballet companies is vital in understanding the pivotal and often unknown role of women in shaping the American ballet sector,” said DDP Research Consultant Aanika Khansaheb. “These companies represent the talent, groundbreaking innovation, and perseverance of their female founders, and their significant impact on the evolution of ballet, especially regionally. They serve as inspiration to aspiring dancers, choreographers, and leaders within the industry, challenging norms and pushing boundaries.”

The Data Byte distinguishes between the 153 currently active and 26 defunct/inactive companies. Including inactive organizations is important in recognizing the previous work of female founders, work that may otherwise face erasure from the industry’s history.

“Many of the female-founded companies were established before important laws were enacted to protect women’s rights. This includes laws like the Equal Pay Act (1963), the Equal Opportunity in Education Act (1972), and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (1974),” said DDP Research Lead Jenna Magrath. “These instances highlight the significant obstacles many women faced and overcame to establish successful ballet companies.”

DDP sourced founder names, gender, and years active primarily from company websites, social media, news articles, archival news articles, and the New York Public Library’s Archives and Manuscripts online search. Pronouns were used as an indicator of gender. DDP especially wants to acknowledge Diana Byer and Dr. Elizabeth McPherson for responding to our request and providing additional founders included in this Data Byte.

“It’s shocking that a tool like this has not existed for the dance industry,” said DDP Chief External Affairs Officer Isabelle Ramey. “We are honored to assemble this ongoing resource, creating a baseline for further scholarship. Just like our friends over at the Lost Women of Science are making sure women from science history are not forgotten, we want to ensure that the contributions of women remain in the permanent canon of dance history.”

The Women-Founded U.S. Ballet and Classically Based Companies 2024 Data Byte can be found on DDP’s Research Page or by download below.

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