Diversity has always been a shining achievement in the arts. Artists tend to look past the outward appearances of race and gender to see what truly makes up a person.
We have come far in the area of gender roles. Most women aren’t at home all day cleaning and taking care of the children while the men are all at work. Women and men work outside the home, and the margin between women’s wages and men’s wages, while not equal, are better than in the past.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed women represent 51 percent of all persons employed in management, professional, and related occupations, somewhat more than their share of total employment of 47 percent.
Though these percentages are changing, it is much different on the stage, especially in dance, where men are the leaders in virtually every style genre of dance.
In ballet, the male gaze theory says that when a man and woman dance together in ballet, the man stands behind her presenting her to the men in the audience. The male gaze theory also states that the man always looks at the woman in a sexual manner and presents her to the men in the audience to do so as well. He is said to manipulate her and that she is always passive and subservient to him in all of their dancing together.
Most recently, in her thesis “Sight Silenced,” graduate dance major Leann Huddleston explored the meaning of gender roles. Through dance, she investigated women’s role in ballet and her relationship with her male partner.
“Being a ballet dancer myself, I was confronted with a contradiction – this academic theory and my own personal experience,” Huddleston said. “I have danced pas de deux (a dance for two with a man and a woman) many times, and I have never felt or been trained that I was subservient to my male partner at all.”
She said her experiences and training showed the exact opposite.
“I was trained that we were equals in the relationship, working together to fulfill the choreography,” she said “If something went wrong, we were both held responsible because we were independent individuals working together, not a master over a passive woman.”
This is an important notion because men are also given leniency in performances over women in terms of how they are treated after making mistakes. Women are treated much harsher, which is unfair considering the balance between dance partners requires equality where there is none currently.
In her thesis Huddleston reversed these roles. Throughout the concert, one man went on a transformation journey beginning with only looking at his female partner. In the dance entitled “See no More” the woman dancer covered her partner’s eyes, taking away the limitation sight gives us and enabling him to look at her whole self, including her heart and mind, not just her physical body.
The concert ends with something so simple, yet so foreign to us