Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

Celebrating new visionaries of dance

Eugene Ballet's "Uncommon Woman" brings to the forefront dances by five contemporary woman choreographers.

|

A young ballerina, yearning to be a choreographer, has had few female role models to look up to for hope and inspiration. Fortunately the glass slipper of a male-dominated art form is continuing to crack, as evidenced in Eugene Ballet’s upcoming Celebration of the Uncommon Woman featuring the work of five contemporary female choreographers. 

“Uncommon Woman” ensemble member Hayley Tavonatti. Photo © Ari Denison 2019

Although attitudes about women as choreographers have been changing since Eugene Ballet’s Artistic Director Toni Pimble first staged Celebration in 1992, Pimble and Resident Choreographer Suzanne Haag believed it was time to update the original production, and set about doing so in the past year. Hagg recalls in a recent Eugene Ballet blog posting, “We narrowed down specific pieces that would complement each other over the course of the program and give the audience a broad range of styles, as well as challenge and showcase our dancers with different ways of moving.” 

Pimble and Haag invited three outstanding guest choreographers to join them in highlighting the unique contributions women have made to the dance repertoire. They are Penny Saunders, Resident Choreographer at The Grand Rapids Ballet; Nicole Haskins, Trainee Program Director at Ballet Idaho; and Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Phyllis and Andrew Berwick Dean and Professor of Dance at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance.

On Stage

The February 12-13 performances of The Celebration of the Uncommon Woman offer audiences music and dance that entertains, inspires, and captures the interest of dance enthusiasts through choreographic styles ranging from creative classic to bold and innovative contemporary.

Photos courtesy Eugene Ballet.

Toni Pimble’s Concerto Grosso is a non-narrative ballet set to the late Oregon composer Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra and Piano. It has strong rhythmic impulses that make it ideal for dance, and is choreographed with a mix of modern and classical techniques. This piece was last performed by the Eugene Ballet in 2012 after having had its world premiere with the Kansas City Ballet in 2010.

With Your Own Wings, a piece by Suzanne Haag, will receive its world premiere performance. Hagg has choreographed it in three movements featuring seven company dancers, set to music by the American composers Caroline Shaw and Michael Wall. Haag suggests in a recent Facebook posting that the piece “… explores the quest for independence, for finding your own wings, which at times is frustrating and exhilarating made so by the many experiences and interactions we have with others.” The title also reflects the Oregon state motto, “She Flies With Her Own Wings” and Hagg observes, “Though I’m not originally from Oregon, much of my adult life has taken place here and that has surely shaped who I am as a woman and how I fly.”

Choreographer Suzanne Haag rehearses the “With Your Own Wings” ensemble. Photo: Antonio Anacan

And Then There Were Five is a piece about overcoming, supporting, and surviving—putting one foot in front of the other, according to choreographer Sabrina Madison-Cannon. “All of my works are somewhat based in personal narrative.” she suggested in a Eugene Ballet blog posting. This ballet, with music by Max Richter, has been performed several times since it was created in 2014, including a performance by the University of Missouri-Kansas City Dance Division.

Sponsor

Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

Penny SaundersGhost Light is a haunting work inspired by the theatrical superstition that a single stage light should remain on after everyone leaves the theater, allowing the “ghosts” of former performers to be left to their own devices and assuring that the theater, set, or current production will be free from a curse or sabotage.  Music for this piece includes selections by film and TV composers Alexandre Desplat and Mark Mothersbaugh, and classical J.S. Bach.

Penny Saunder’s “Ghost Light” (clips) performed by the Owen/Cox Dance Group. See Vimeo here.

Nicole HaskinsIlluminations was originally created for the Choreography XX competition and performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2017.  Jamuna Chiarini of Oregon Artswatch described this piece when it premiered as “sweeping, grand, and architectural. It encompasses the attributes of classical ballet like the pointe shoe and the use of line, but goes beyond positions, allowing the limbs and energy to extend, limitless, into the space, creating a larger-than-life effect.” It is set to Benjamin Britten’s composition Les Illuminations.

Excerpts from Nicole Haskins’ “Illuminations,” performed by Oregon Ballet Theater. See Vimeo here.

Celebration of the Uncommon Woman provides audiences with the opportunity to become familiar with five gifted women who today are making their mark as established artists, and in doing so serve as role models not only for the young female dancer hoping to be a dance maker, but also young men in recognizing that both women and men are equally gifted and creative artists.

Because she was fortunate to have had positive female and male role models as she matured as an artist, Suzanne Haag realizes how important it is to have the guidance and support of both when possible. She is hopeful that the climate of the ballet world continues to change for the better as more women make their mark as choreographers and dance leaders.  She told ArtsWatch, “A diversity of voices onstage (whether this comes from gender, ethnicity, training background, life experience, etc) increases the likelihood of a choreographer or work reaching an aspiring artist in a profound way. And the more artists feel empowered to share their perspectives and experiences on stage, the deeper the art form becomes for artists and viewers alike.”

Eugene Ballet’s “Ghost Light” ensemble in rehearsal. Photo courtesy Eugene Ballet.

***

Tickets are available at eugeneballet.org, at the Hult Center Ticket Office in Eugene, and by phone at 541-682-5000. Youth and college tickets (with valid ID) are available for $15; adult tickets start at $25. COVID-19 protocols are followed in the Hult Center; click HERE for details.

Be part of our
growing success

Join our Stronger Together Campaign and help ensure a thriving creative community. Your support powers our mission to enhance accessibility, expand content, and unify arts groups across the region.

Together we can make a difference. Give today, knowing a donation that supports our work also benefits countless other organizations. When we are stronger, our entire cultural community is stronger.

Donate Today

Photo Joe Cantrell

Gary Ferrington is a University of Oregon Sr. Instructor Emeritus whose career spanned over 30 years as the College of Education’s Instructional Systems Technology program director. He has been, since retiring in 1998, actively involved in the Eugene arts community serving for nine years on the Board of Directors for the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts Center where he also coordinated its online and print public relations efforts. Since the closing of the center during the Great Recession he has committed himself to advocating for the performance of contemporary music and dance. He is a volunteer with the Eugene Ballet Company and is an advocate for the UO School of Music and Dance programs in music composition, Intermedia Technology, and jazz studies. His articles for Oregon ArtsWatch, focusing primarily on music, dance and occasionally theatre in Eugene, can be found online at artswatcharticles.blogspot.com.

SHARE:
Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon
City of Hillsboro Walters Cultural Arts Center She's Speaking Live! Hillsboro Oregon
Grace Goudy Distinguished Artists Series Willamette University Salem Oregon
Portland State University College of Arts William Shakespeare Measure for Measure PSU Portland Oregon
Portland Chamber Orchestra Young Artist Competition University of Portland Free Event Portland Oregon
Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon
Portland Art Museum Virtual Sneakers to Cutting Edge Kicks Portland Oregon
Tilikum Chamber Orchestra Lake Oswego High School Fairy Tales and Folk Songs Lake Oswego Oregon
Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon
Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon
Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
White Bird Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon
Northwest Dance Project Sarah Slipper Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
Corrib Theatre Contemporary Irish Theatre Portland Oregon
Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington
Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
White Bird Dance Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall Newmark Theater Portland Oregon
Newport Visual and Performing Arts Newport Oregon Coast
High Desert Museum Sensing Sasquatch Indigenous Art & Knowledge Bend Oregon
Oregon Cultural Trust donate
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.