George Balanchine famously announced that “ballet is woman” but he wasn’t talking about choreographers… Many women have expertly restaged ballets created by men, but few have invented new work of their own. The hottest dance event in the Bay Area this summer challenges this imparity:
Amy Seiwert’s Imagery presents
SKETCH 2: The Women Choreographers
World premieres by Amy Seiwert, Julia Adam and Gina Patterson
August 2, 3, & 4, 2012 8pm
ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
How does a 500-year-old artistic language sustain and develop a relevant voice for today? For an art to evolve, it must be practiced continuously. Choreographers need the opportunity to create work in an environment that encourages risk and innovation. SKETCH creates that fertile, intensely creative environment. On August 2, 3, & 4, ODC Theater will become the sight of the final performances of a month-long investigation in the process, and the glass ceiling, in ballet. While there is not a prescribed agenda regarding what the dances will “be about,” there is no question what the process is about . . . women in ballet. Amy Seiwert’s Imagery is commissioning some of the country’s most talented and gifted dancers and choreographers to come together, collaborate, and investigate ballet in an environment where habitual reactions are discouraged. Risk, challenge, and questioning will be at the forefront of what is the evolution this art form, keeping ballet relevant in today’s artistic landscape.
The lack of female ballet choreographers in a field where most of the participants are women is an odd phenomenon, and SKETCH 2 is a perfect vehicle for addressing this lack of opportunity within the field. Titles of articles written on the topic say much, for example the New York Times article by Claudia La Rocco, “Often on Pointe but Rarely in Charge,” or Evan Namerow’s response to New York City Ballet’s Architecture of Dance Festival – “Architecture of Ballet: Men on Top, Women on Stage,” in the dancingperfectlyfree.com blog. The suspected reasons for this trend are many, and though reasons can be debated, Ms. La Rocco states a simple truth in her article,
. . . as women have flourished as artistic leaders in modern dance (albeit with some struggles), ballet has lagged behind.
Seiwert, Adam and Patterson were professional ballet dancers, and all three danced well into their 30s. All were training seriously by age 12 and came of age in an environment with few women in leadership positions. Imagery is dealing with this bias the best way we know how – creating opportunity.
Amy Seiwert, Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer of Imagery
Her collaborations with artists of other disciplines and commitment to experimental work from a classical base make her a unique voice in the Bay Area dance community. Rita Felciano, San Francisco Bay Guardian,
She quite possibly is the Bay Area’s most original dance thinker, taking what some consider a dead language and using it as a 21st century lingo to tell us something about who we are.
Awards include “25 to Watch” from Dance Magazine; “Hot 20 under 40″ from 7×7 Magazine; “Goldie” Award, San Francisco Bay Guardian; “Top 10″ dance events of the year from San Francisco Chronicle in 2007 and 2010. She has participated in the New York Choreography Institute at the invitation of Peter Martins. Commissions include: Ballet Austin, Ballet Met, Atlanta Ballet, Smuin Ballets, Sacramento Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Louisville Ballet, American Repertory Ballets and Robert Moses’ KIN. Collaborators include Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Frieder Weiss.
Julia Adam, Choreographer
Ms. Adam danced with the National Ballet of Canada before joining San Francisco Ballet. As a principal dancer, she performed a wide range of lead roles, retiring from dancing in 2002 to focus on choreography. She currently serves as Artistic Associate for Ballet Memphis and her commissions include San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, Alberta Ballet, ABT Studio Company, Atlanta Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Danish Summer Festival in Copenhagen. She received an Isadora Duncan Award in 1996 for her ballet, “13 Lullabies.”
Gina Patterson, Choreographer
Ms. Patterson has been hailed as a choreographer of “startling originality” (Back Stage) and “a standout on the soulful front” (Sun-Sentinel). A former principal dancer with Ballet Austin, Ms. Patterson has won the Choo San Goh Award, B. Iden Payne Award, Hubbard Street 2 National Choreographic Competition, and has been a participant in the National Choreographic Initiative. She has created works for her own Austin-based company, VOICE, as well as Richmond Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Compania de Danza Siglo XXI, Ballet Austin, BalletMet, and DanceWorks Chicago.
Jamielyn Duggan: Oakland Ballet, San Francisco Opera Ballet
Sarah Cecilia Griffin: Oakland Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem
Peng-Yu Chen: Atlanta Ballet
Rachel Furst: LINES Ballet BFA scholar
Brandon “Private” Freeman: ODC, Oakland Ballet
Weston Krukow: University of Arizona Dance Department
Ben Needham-Wood: Louisville Ballet
David Barocio: Oklahoma City Ballet
The vocabulary of ballet never changes, it is only the usage that becomes outmoded. – William Forsythe
Imagery, a contemporary ballet company in San Francisco, holds the belief that ballet has an expressive and vital voice relevant for the current time. Though respect is held for swans and sylphs, they are not where the company’s interests lie. Having no desire to regurgitate art, Imagery’s artists share the belief that through collaboration and experimentation, vibrant and courageous ideas can be expressed. Habitual reactions are discouraged.
- Amy Seiwert