Gender Inclusion in the performing arts

Oksana Lyniv
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For the first time in its 144 years of existence, the Bayreuth Festival, founded by composer Richard Wagner, will have a woman as conductor. This is the Ukrainian Oksana Lyniv, who will occupy the podium at the premiere of the opera The Flying Dutchman, at the opening of the 2021 edition of the festival.

Lyniv considered his appointment special, which was announced last September, since Wagner wrote operas where women, in addition to having outstanding roles, tend to be very independent, as she expressed in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

The debut in Bayreuth, within the festival dedicated to opera since Wagner created it in 1876, highlights the gradual opening to inclusion, not parity, of gender within the performing arts.

One more example of this slow but determined progress was the recent participation of more than twenty Mexican women in the III International Symposium of Orchestra Directors, held on the Zoom platform, from September 15 to 20.

The symposium arose on the initiative of Brazilian conductor Ligia Amadio, had its first edition in 2016 and then in 2018, as a space for reflection on the performance of women in this professional classical music scene, in order to find mechanisms of gender equity.

In this third edition, the need arose to create a common front to fight for equal opportunities in this musical area, according to the composer, Mexican pioneer of orchestral conducting and founder of the New Millennium Women’s Symphony Orchestra, Gina Enríquez Moran.

The discussion tables of this symposium aimed to analyze the proposals that promote and strengthen the participation of women, historically limited, to give a feminine face to music and highlight their talent, hidden for decades.

Conducting is one of the artistic fields where the presence of women is still a minority, but it is not the only one. Gender disparity is also manifested among choir and chamber music directors, among orchestra instrumentalists and traditional band directors in Mexico and internationally.

And that disparity also extends to stage directors and choreographers. Just think of great dance companies named after their creators: Alvin Ailey, Béjart Ballet Lausanne and Limón Dance Company, to name a few.

Although now in the Mexican government there are several women at the head of the institutions, such as Alejandra Frausto as Secretary of Culture, I believe that what is called «positive discrimination» should prevail in public administration and in art and culture.

Historically, decision-making, both within and outside the cultural sphere, has fallen to men and that is why it is logical that some are more prepared to occupy a position. It is, therefore, a question of discriminating a better profile to privilege the arrival of a woman to the position and thus allow him to continue acquiring experience with a view to achieving the much desired gender equality.

Positive discrimination must also encompass black women, indigenous and women of color to aspire to multiculturalism and eliminate the centuries-long exclusion they have been subjected to. Implementing this type of public policy will not be the only solution, but it will be a necessary measure in favor of greater equity.

In this feminist struggle, certainly, an important artistic reference is the International Dance x Identity Festival, which aims to contribute to the search of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo to find their grandchildren who disappeared during the last military dictatorship in Argentine.

This project highlights dance productions that promote work around human rights and broadens the social commitment of both the artist and the spectator for a collective construction of identity based on the principles of «Memory, Truth and Justice», together with the struggle of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, an NGO created in 1977 whose purpose it is to locate the children kidnapped by the military regime and return them to their legitimate families.

The IV edition of the festival took place via streaming from November 6 to 8, 2020. It was free and with open access for the public and it included dancevideos and testimonies of granddaughters and grandsons that have been recovered. Here’s art that transforms society.

We will continue to pursue gender equality in the performing arts. Although much has been said, the pandemic has made inequality and patriarchal oppression more visible than ever. Our work at Contenidos Artísticos implies daily a greater commitment to women’s projects so that they are supported through our alliances and colleagues, and so that they are disseminated with complicit programmers, venues, media and producers.

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