Dancers. Partners. Parents. Just a few of the roles Eugene Ballet Principal Dancers Danielle Tolmie and Mark Tucker perform and embody. We checked in to find out how they’re doing and to get to know their new family member, Luca, born in February of this year.
Like many of Eugene Ballet’s dancers during shelter-in-place to Phase 2 reopening status, maintaining physical activity is a must. Mark and Danielle have created a home gym in their garage, “with various pieces of exercise equipment to train our bodies through strength training and yoga, and we go on daily walks to explore our neighborhood. With the recent reopening, Eugene Ballet has been incredibly supportive in allowing us to go into the studio and take class with the proper safety protocol in place,” they explained.
In previous years, summer is when Mark and Danielle would travel as guest performers or teachers. This summer they’re redirecting their creative energies to making the house they bought last year into their home. Mark explained, “We have been pleasantly surprised with the silver lining in all of this. Not only have we been able to spend endless amount of time with our son but we’ve also been able to work on our house. We have never been in the same place for this long and it has certainly provided us with numerous opportunities.”
House projects have included making lawn furniture, growing a garden, and tiling their laundry room and bathrooms. And Danielle is trying out new recipes that she hasn’t had the time to do in the past.
Considering all that they’re doing to take care of themselves, we wondered which performance they’re looking forward to most during the 2020/21 season.
“The two of us are most looking forward to Toni Pimble’s new full-length ballet Taming of the Shrew. We have always felt that Shakespeare’s stories translate well into movement and we are excited to see her spin on it with the Steampunk theme. Throughout our time at Eugene Ballet we have had numerous opportunities to be a part of Toni’s creative process. These times have not only been something we have loved but the challenge it presents has made enormous positive impacts on our growth as dance artists. She has a way of giving her dancers ownership over the movement and that is something we have never experienced anywhere else.”
Dancing now with Eugene Ballet for 13 seasons, we asked Danielle and Mark what roles have been their favorite? Mark responded with “Carmen and Don Jose.” He explained, “They were our first full-length lead roles that we performed with the company. Neither of us were principal dancers at the time, so we wanted to do well and prove that we deserved the parts. We put different narratives from our personal relationship and life experiences into the characters and that made the opportunity that much more special. We gave our heart and soul into each and every rehearsal and during the performance we felt the reward was that much greater.”
Alongside these favorite roles is their favorite moment on stage—dancing in last year’s production of Swan Lake. Mark said that Danielle placed a lot of pressure on herself, as she was nearly six months pregnant, and “dancing arguably one of the hardest ballets in the classical ballet repertoire for a female dancer.” He continued, “However, when we got on stage all of our worries melted away. In those special moments, the outside world completely vanished and we were entirely immersed in the roles and our partnership. Getting to dance on stage with my wife, feeling our son move to the music in her belly, is one that we will never forget.”
Now in their new role as parents, we asked what they’ve learned about themselves and what they’re learning from Luca. “Letting the small things go,” they agreed. Though they would do anything for their child, self-care is key as it sustains them in taking care of and nourishing Luca. Mark added, “My goodness the love and the joy you can experience from being responsible for a young life rivals anything the two of us have ever experienced.”
Luca’s presence in their lives “…really emphasizes being in the moment and at times I have to remind myself not to long for his next milestone and appreciate where he is right now. I have found this is important when looking at our own lives and career as well,” Mark said.
Though it’s too early to say what Luca is learning from Mark and Danielle, as they lead their lives with passion and inspiration, they think he will follow their example. “We hope for him to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and the expression of his own identity, to find his own loves and to follow them. And, of course, learn how to surf.”