Chamber Music Northwest Orion Quartet The Old Church Portland Oregon

Preview: Eugene Ballet poised to present ‘BOLD: Beyond Our Love of Dance’

The diverse production fuses the work of four renowned choreographers, including a world premiere by EB’s resident choreographer Suzanne Haag


“Penumbra,” a world premiere by Eugene Ballet’s resident choreographer Suzanne Haag, features a rare pas de deux with two women in pointe shoes. Photo by Antonio Anacan.

A meandering adventure through an array of moods, music, and scenarios, Eugene Ballet’s upcoming production, “BOLD: Beyond Our Love of Dance,” is a daring exploration of movement styles in dance.

The program showcases pieces by guest choreographers Val Caniparoli, Eva Stone, and Nicolo Fonte, plus a world premiere by Suzanne Haag, Eugene Ballet’s Resident Choreographer. The works were created and set across the globe — from the Pacific Northwest to Europe, Asia, and South America — combining to bring a rich complexity to “BOLD” while showcasing the versatility of the company’s dancers.

“When we were discussing the “BOLD” programming for this year, we were interested in featuring Pacific Northwest choreographers,” says Jennifer Martin, Eugene Ballet’s Associate Artistic Director. “Each member of the artistic team was tasked with contacting a choreographer and finding an appropriate piece for the production. Ultimately, Toni Pimble [Artistic Director] chose Nicolo Fonte from Portland, Oregon. Suzanne chose Eva Stone from Seattle, Washington. I chose Val Caniparoli from San Francisco, California.” 

Four diverse pieces

Val Caniparoli’s “Triptych” eases audiences into the show on a contemplative note. Caniparoli’s choreography, which has been performed from San Francisco to Singapore to South Africa, draws from global art and music. “Triptych” was inspired by a series of portraits of British servicemen entitled We Are The Not Dead by photojournalist Lalage Snow, who was embedded in Afghanistan.

Rehearsal of “Triptych” by guest choreographer Val Caniparoli. Photo by Antonio Anacan.

In the photo series, Snow displays photos of individual soldiers, showing how they change before, during, and after going to war as a triptych. “Triptych” combines both the earnest and the exuberant — quiet moments interspersed with grand jumps, fouettés en l’air, and extensions.

Rehearsal of “Penumbra,” a world premiere by Eugene Ballet’s resident choreographer Suzanne Haag. Photo by Antonio Anacan.

The next piece, “Penumbra,” a duet for two women by Suzanne Haag, features a rare pas de deux with two women in pointe shoes.  “The use of pointe shoes on both parties in a duet provides a definite challenge in terms of how weight can be shared and how much support each dancer can provide,” explains Haag. The relationship between the women dancing is left to the viewer. “Whether it is a story about sisters, a mother and daughter, two women in a relationship, or one woman and her shadow self that the world sees — all of these are right,” adds Haag.

The third piece is Eva Stone’s “F O I L”, which premiered to critical acclaim at Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) in November 2019. Stone is on the faculty at PNB, and works as a choreographer throughout the United States.

Rehearsal of “F O I L” by guest choreographer Eva Stone. Photo by Antonio Anacan.

The context Stone provides for “F O I L” is from an anonymous poem: “And so she built the house with a steady hand, room by room, until the walls held tight every secret of the Universe, and the neighbors, their hands pressed to the glass, watchful of the radiance within.” The dance is about illumination, exploring our connections to each other, and does so in a way that Seattle arts writer Gemma Alexander described as “unapologetically pretty.”

“BOLD” finishes with Nicolo Fonte’s “Choros.” Fonte is known for the distinct movement style of his choreography and for his vivid expression of ideas in dance. His choreography has been performed internationally, from the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam to the National Dance Company of El Salvador. “Choros” provides striking nonstop movement and gestures, set to captivating music. It is a fitting way to end the “BOLD” program.

Rehearsal of “Choros” by guest choreographer Nicolo Fonte. Photo by Antonio Anacan.

Showcasing the dancers

“Several factors were considered when organizing this program,” notes Martin. “The length of the piece, the number of dancers involved, the general tone or mood of the work, the diverse quality of movement, and the music choice. Though the pieces are very different, they need to have a degree of compatibility and harmony for the audience. “BOLD” is going to be a very high-energy performance and will showcase the athletic and artistic abilities of our dancers.”

Learning shifting styles of movement from four different choreographers presents both an amazing opportunity and a challenge for the company dancers. “Working with guest choreographers and their repetiteurs is an invaluable experience to my colleagues and myself at Eugene Ballet,” says Sterling Manka, company dancer. “Learning new movement vocabulary and nuance from masters of our craft allows us to continually evolve as artists and convey messages and emotions through movement more clearly, which ultimately makes us better storytellers for our Eugene audiences.”

Leader in gender equity

Eugene Ballet is leading the United States dance industry in advancing gender equity with an all-female artistic staff, with Pimble, Martin, and Haag. In March, the company was presented with Best Overall and Best of Commissions awards in Dance Data Project’s first-ever Gender Equity Index. According to Data Dance Project, of 179 artistic directors of major ballet companies, 59 are women (33%), while 119 are men (66%), and one is gender expansive (0.6%). Of artistic directors of the largest 50 U.S. ballet companies, there are 15 women (29%) and 36 men (71%). Dance Data Project’s founder and president Elizabeth Yntema visited Eugene Ballet at the end of March and attended rehearsals for BOLD.

For tickets

“BOLD” will be performed Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 9 at 2:00 p.m. on the Silva Concert Hall stage at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Eugene. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Eugene Ballet.

Jean Zondervan does communications work and enjoys creating content for causes. She has written and produced collaborative projects for print, web, exhibits, and video and has a particular interest in exploring environmental and social issues through the arts. Prior to settling in Portland, she taught English as a first and second language in Texas and South Korea, worked at the Art Institute of Chicago and a small gallery in England, and grew up on a farm in Minnesota. She currently tends to kids, pets, and a large garden in North Portland.

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