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Oregon Ballet Tackles Ballet's Gender Problem


As a winner of Oregon Ballet Theatre's XX Choreography Contest, choreographer Nicole Haskins (left) has four weeks to create and rehearse a new work with OBT's dancers before its world premiere.

As a winner of Oregon Ballet Theatre's XX Choreography Contest, choreographer Nicole Haskins (left) has four weeks to create and rehearse a new work with OBT's dancers before its world premiere.

Aaron Scott/OPB

Ballet has a gender problem.

No, we’re not talking about the lack of male dancers, although that may have something to do with it. We’re talking about the lack of female choreographers. It’s not at all rare for major companies to go whole seasons without performing a single work created by a woman.

Even this year’s Ballet Across America series at the Kennedy Center — a snapshot of the country’s best ballet co-curated by perhaps the most famous woman in ballet today, Misty Copeland — did not feature even one woman choreographer.

Oregon Ballet Theater set out last year to change this with a new competition called Choreography XX. Of nearly 100 applicants, they chose three women from around the continent — Gioconda Barbuto, Helen Simoneau, and Nicole Haskins — to create new works, set them on the company, and premiere them at free concerts at Washington Park’s Rose Garden Amphitheater on June 29 and 30.

Nicole Haskins dancing with Smuin Ballet.

Nicole Haskins dancing with Smuin Ballet.

Chris Hardy

“State of Wonder” stopped by the studio to watch one of them in action. The youngest of the three choreographers, Haskins, dances with Smuin Ballet in San Francisco and has choreographed pieces for it, her former company, Sacramento Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and ballet schools across the country.

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