Guest Blog: Eva Stone on New Voices: Choreography and Process for Young Women in Dance

New Voices: Choreography and Process for Young Women in Dance has been my passion project from the very start. My aim was to fill a deficiency that inherently exists in ballet training. So much time is spent perfecting technique and execution, and rightly so. But what about nurturing the artist? What about creativity? Individuality? What about stimulating artistic exploration earlier in the training process rather than later (or, in some cases, not at all)? I was determined to find a way for space to be made for this kind of thinking, and in the fall of 2018 (due to the overwhelming successes of the previous summer) New Voices became part of the PNB curriculum, designed specifically to educate and encourage the next generation of female choreographers.

This course breaks the craft of dance-making into three main areas of exploration—time, space, and energy. Tasks are given, both in-class and as homework, and students are asked to respond to these tasks, mostly in solo form and without music. Students are encouraged to create movement studies in any format they choose (pointe shoes, bare foot, roller skates, tap shoes.) As they progress in the course, further studies in choreographic devices, compositional structures, and frameworks comes into focus. Deeper explorations consider choreography through the lens of deconstruction, criticism, music, and a philosophy of dance as a form of communication. 

 The pandemic forced this course to switch to an online format and I quickly adapted to our new limitations. As an educator, choreographer, and someone who loves a challenge, I wasn’t going to let a silly question like “How can we create if we are all isolated?” hinder our trajectory. I placed students in breakout rooms (to keep them working together – apart) and gave them assignments that could be successfully satisfied given their new conditions. We talked a lot about environment and how to build work in thoughtful relationship to the spaces they are in. I witnessed movement studies in closets, swimming pools, bathtubs, and can recall a very memorable solo that took place in a space between a washer and dryer. Many studies included their pets, their family members, and several in which the students duct-taped their zoom cameras to the ceiling in order to offer a new perspective on an assignment about perspective.

New Voices offers pathways to the creative process. On this journey, we inevitably end up examining ourselves, our communities, our histories, our stories. There are no protocols here…no rules, no traditions. Once they arrive at the realization that this is their time to make their work, the floodgates open and inspiring new voices have an opportunity to be heard…and they are loud and clear. 

 Eva Stone (Seattle) is a teaching artist, choreographer, artistic director, producer, and curator. She is the founder/producer of CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival and is on faculty at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and the School at Spectrum Dance Theater.