Shoes beside the pointe for renegade
Date: January 1 2013
A former ballerina has embraced innovative, modern dance, writes Philippa Hawker.
A LMOST everyone said the same thing to Danielle Rowe. When she told people she had decided to join the contemporary company Nederlands Dans Theater, the reaction from dancers and non-dancers alike was almost universal. She draws in her breath to demonstrate the shock-horror: ''No more pointe shoes?!''
Is that really the case? ''Never say never,'' she says. But, after being principal dancer with the Australian Ballet and the Houston Ballet, she has put them aside for now.
''I feel really strong working this way. And if I put them back on again, I know it will feel different. I'm hoping that, in some ways, it would feel easier,'' she says.
Rowe, 30, spent 10 years with the Australian Ballet, winning several awards and becoming a principal in 2008. She joined Houston Ballet in 2011. This year, she was named one of Dance Magazine's 25 to watch - described as ''a modern version of an old-fashioned ballerina. Queenly without added pretension''.
Yet she was ready, she says from The Hague, to make another change.
''I practically had my tutu glued to my hips and my pointe shoes glued to my feet in Houston. I felt really fulfilled there, after a season and a half, and I felt I wanted to try something completely different - to work in a different way, approach my dancing from another place,'' she says.
This year, Australian audiences will be able to see Rowe in her new environment. Nederlands Dans Theater has been an influential, innovative force in contemporary dance for more than half a century and recently became one of a small number of performing arts companies to present programs of its new works in cinemas, recorded live. This month, a program will be screening at selected cinemas around Australia. It is an evening of three pieces by Paul Lightfoot, the artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater, and Sol Leon, his wife and choreographic partner.
This month's program consists of Same Difference, Sh-Boom and Shoot the Moon, in which Rowe has her first significant role with the company. And in June, she will perform it at the Sydney Opera House, when Nederlands Dans Theater comes to Australia for a short season.
The Opera House program consists of Shoot the Moon and two works from legendary choreographer Jiri Kylian, Sarabande and Sweet Dreams. It will be the first time Rowe has been home since she went to Houston.
Being at Nederlands Dans Theater, she says, ''is for me not so much about the product now, it's more about the process. The way they approach rehearsals is all about those beautiful little details and the reason why you do a certain step or gesture. It's a different kind of energy from what I've been used to''.
The transition from being a principal in a ballet company to a dancer in a smaller contemporary company has been more straightforward than expected, she says. She has been struck by how each dancer is unique.
''It's almost like NDT is a company of principals,'' she says.
Moving to Europe has had its ups and downs but she feels settled now, she says, as well as eager to take advantage of its proximity to so many other places. And she has just started to learn Dutch.
At Nederlands Dans Theater, ''I'm discovering things about myself. And what I am capable of, movement-wise, has surprised me''.
She was so moved by the dancers around her, she says, that sometimes she would find herself in tears.
''When I first came here and was looking at all these amazing dancers, I was thinking 'I don't know how they do that','' she says. ''And now I am starting to do some of those things.''
Nederlands Dans Theater Live screens on January 19 and 20 at the Chauvel cinemas, Riverside Theatres and Cinemax Cinema, Kingscliff. It screens at Dendy Opera Quays and Dendy Newtown on January 20 and 24. Nederlands Dans Theater is at the Sydney Opera House from June 12 to 15.