American Ballet Theatre artistic director Kevin McKenzie has announced the formation of the ABT Women's Movement, a multiyear initiative to support the creation of new works by female choreographers. ABT's fall performance program will feature new work by Jessica Lang and tapper Michelle Dorrance, and Le Jeune, by New York City Ballet's Lauren Lovette. Along with Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room, which has long been part of ABT's repertoire, the ABT Studio Company will premiere a new work by choreographer Claudia Schreier.
"I am proud to be a part of this initiative," says Lang. "If we can ignite all imaginations to find creative potential, we can move from possible to probable that the future will have equality and be rich with inventive ideas and engaging art."
DT spoke with Stefanie Batten Bland, whose new work will be featured in ABT Studio Company's annual residency at Duke University in January.
Dance Teacher: What does it mean to you to be a part of the ABT Women's Movement?
Stefanie Batten Bland: We are being considered makers, and it's really about the work. I'm so aware of how the women's movement has come back. I just happen to be a part of this iteration of it. This movement has repeated itself because we haven't gotten it right yet. Maybe we will finally get to the point where we have equality. I'm honored to be alongside these women.
DT: Dance Magazine wrote an article questioning ABT's plan to provide female choreographers with "guidance and feedback," arguing they would never say that to a male choreographer. What are your thoughts on this?
SBB: For the types of grants and funding that I generally go for, feedback is a very natural part of the process. I am not finding gender bias in that. No one is able to participate in any type of residency without getting feedback from a mentor. Creating requires dialogue.