Dancers without borders: Danielle Rowe

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Danielle Rowe (front). Photo: QUINN WHARTON
Danielle Rowe (front). Photo: QUINN WHARTON

Former Australian Ballet principal is working up a fury in San Francisco.

Some dancers have a set list of goals from a young age, and move through life ticking them off one after the other; others change path and direction as they go, finding new goals along the way.

Readers who have watched the Australian Ballet (AB) for a decade or more might remember a former principal dancer by the name of Danielle Rowe -- who danced with the company from 2001 to 2011. Tall and striking, she excelled in both classical and contemporary roles with the AB until a restless nature and a desire to seek new challenges took her overseas.

First stop was Houston Ballet, until her application for Netherlands Dance Theatre (NDT) -- sent on a whim, never expecting to actually get in -- was accepted, precipitating a second move to the Netherlands after one season in Houston.

Rowe loved NDT, but after three years was ready for another change. One reason was personal; her partner Luke Ingham (another former AB dancer) was a principal with San Francisco Ballet, and they had been managing a long-distance relationship. Rowe also knew that she wanted to start a family, so in 2015 she moved back to San Francisco without a clear plan of what her future held, but with a sense it would not involve another full-time contract as a dancer.

Having previously choreographed her first work at NDT for the annual dancer’s choreographic program SWITCH, and finding the dance scene in San Francisco generous and welcoming, she continued to dabble in choreography and found that she loved being on the other side of the rehearsal process. In retrospect, she realised, “My favourite part of being a dancer was creating new work in the studio, being part of that process and trying to get the choreographer’s message across.”

In the last couple of years Rowe has started the family she wanted (daughter Agnes is now three) and carved out a life in America as a freelance choreographer and Associate Artistic Director of San Francisco Danceworks.

An invitation from director/producer Kate Duhamel two years ago led her to choreograph the cross-disciplinary work Fury, which is based on the Mad Max: Fury Road movie. Set to live music by pop band YASSOU, the purpose of this production was to make dance accessible to the masses, and it has played in a number of cities across America already with top notch principal and soloist ballet dancers from companies like San Francisco Ballet (SFB) and Lines Ballet.

So why, of all the movies Kate suggested, did Rowe and YASSOU choose Mad Max: Fury Road as the basis of this new work? “It’s a very physical movie with key fight scenes and there’s not a huge amount of dialogue. I admired how powerful the female characters are and felt it was a story that would adapt well to the physicality of dance. YASSOU also felt a connection to the story and that it would suit them musically.”

Having brought a little bit of Aussie culture to the states with Fury, is there any chance it might tour to Australia in the future? She laughs. “We would love for it to tour to Australia! Kate has big plans for Fury, so who knows?!

Meanwhile, Rowe has been commissioned to create a new work for NY based project company Co-Lab Dance and recently had a duet she choreographed on SFB principals Sofiane Sylve and Aaron Robison, Unsaid, performed again at SFB’s Opening Night Gala and at the 2019 Ballet Sun Valley Festival in Idaho.


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