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Uplifting Female Voices

Just in time to celebrate alongside International Women’s Day, Dance Data Project has released the winners of their first-ever Gender Equity Index and Eugene Ballet has been awarded Best Overall and Best of Commissions. According to DDP, their GEI is “designed to assess how dance companies measure up in terms of commissioning female creators, promoting women to leadership positions, and fostering a transparent and accountable culture.” Eugene Ballet is proud to be leading the US dance industry in advancing gender equity in a historically inequitable field. For a deeper dive on Eugene Ballet’s historically significant leadership, read last year’s blog An Uncommon Woman to Celebrate.

Left to right: Suzanne Haag, Resident Choreographer; Toni Pimble, Artistic Director; Jennifer Martin, Associate Artistic Director. Photo by Ari Denison

We thank Dance Data Project wholeheartedly for their very important work and are honored to receive these awards!” – Toni Pimble, Artistic Director

In honor of International Women’s Day and being awarded Best of Commissions on DDP’s GEI, we are highlighting the female choreographers commissioned for Eugene Ballet’s upcoming production of BOLD on April 8 and 9 at the Hult Center. Eva Stone, an established teacher, choreographer, and director based out of Seattle, WA, is presenting her stunning ballet F O I L. Stone, artistic director of the Stone Dance Collective, also founded the annual dance festival CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work.

Dancers of Pacific Northwest Ballet in F O I L. Choreography by Eva Stone. Photo by Angela Sterling

Originally set on Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2019, F O I L was Stone’s main stage debut as a choreographer. “After 25 years of creating for pre-professional dancers and smaller companies, I was given an incredible offer to create a main stage work for Pacific Northwest Ballet,” says Stone. “In other words, a rare chance as a female choreographer to make something that I wanted the world to see. The title, F O I L, speaks to the societal challenges and persistent presence of female artists everywhere.” From choreography, costuming, and lighting to musical composition, F O I L was crafted entirely with female voices.

I hope that as audiences watch F O I L that they see things in the dancers at Eugene Ballet that they’ve never seen before. What’s most important to me is how the dancers connect with each other and to the audience. And that there is an intimacy between everyone that’s in the room and not just on stage.” – Eva Stone

Choreographer Eva Stone working with dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet. Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Nurturing the female artist’s voice, creativity, and individuality has been the driving force of Stone’s immensely successful teaching career. Stone’s passion inspired her to establish a choreography class designed to promote and educate the next generation of female artists at the Pacific Northwest Ballet school called New Voices: Choreography and Process for Young Women in Dance. “They come to me with an empty toolbox and I fill the toolbox with the tools that they need to build and craft dances that have content and value.” Stone wants to educate women at a younger age “to make sure that they could move forward to the professional world fully prepared to work with anyone in any situation.” To learn more about Stone’s New Voices Initiative read her Guest Blog with DDP HERE or DDP’s article, Initiatives to Follow, HERE.

Eugene Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Suzanne Haag is presenting a new work for BOLD titled Penumbra, a duet for two women where the audience interprets their relationship through their own lens. “This piece began with many conversations with choreographers and dancers about the lack of pas de deux for two women. I know this isn’t a new concept, but it is surprisingly rare in the ballet world and something that I haven’t tackled much as a choreographer,” says Haag. Penumbra is sure to be a unique viewing experience in that the audience is creating a story of their own as the dancers move and connect with one another.

Company Dancers Sara Stockwell and Hayley Tavonatti rehearsing Suzanne Haag’s Penumbra. Photo by Katie Patrick

Haag transitioned from Company Dancer to Resident Choreographer just five years ago and has already proven her creative vision, thoughtful choreographic process, and tenacity in her work. “I feel I am just beginning and have been very fortunate to have been gifted a platform here at Eugene Ballet where Toni has already moved the barriers for me to begin creating. This is a privilege that I don’t take lightly,” says Haag. Haag believes that programs like BOLD—that feature female voices—help undo the prevailing thought process that girls do the dancing and men make the steps.

Spending most of my career as a dancer and transitioning into my current role as resident choreographer at a woman-lead ballet company has shaped me as an artist and given me the space and confidence to develop my craft. I am honored to be a part of Eugene Ballet, an organization that has been committed to female leadership in ballet since it was founded in 1978.” – Suzanne Haag, Resident Choreographer

Suzanne Haag in rehearsal at the Midtown Arts Center. Photo by Antonio Anacan

“Some choreographers are better at making solos, or group pieces, or narrative works and I don’t think gender determines this,” Haag explains. “But what gender does determine is the lived in experiences of choreographers and how that translates to movement and what the audience receives. A broader range of experiences means that the audience is seeing the art form in new ways, from new perspectives.” Eugene audiences will experience these perspectives in Eugene Ballet’s upcoming production of BOLD on Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 9 at 2:00 p.m. at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. To learn more about this upcoming show or to purchase tickets visit HERE.

Written by Nina Nicotera

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