I Am Woman -- Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

Heather Longley
October 02, 2018

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State recognizes women in the arts. The center's 2018–19 season features women of all ages, cultures, genres and disciplines in leadership and supporting-artist roles. The scheduled events represent the success women artists and allies have found through determination, despite hardship and with the help of supporters. When you support women artists, you recognize their challenges, validate their talents and help them to advance their achievements. Learn more about “I Am Woman.”

If Annabelle Lopez Ochoa were a literary artist, she might be a poet. But because she’s a world-renowned contemporary dance choreographer, she portrays her modern narrative scenes in abstract and concise episodes of movement.

The Colombian-Belgian artist blends her wide-ranging dance training with a love of visual art and music. The nature of art means she isn’t beholden to tradition or to the expectations of dance or of woman choreographers. In an interview in Dance Magazine, Lopez Ochoa said she is inspired by other artists “because with each work, I also try to expand my limits.”

Lopez Ochoa emerged from a ballerina mold to become an award-winning choreographer. In 2016, she told to Crosscut.com the story of the Scarpino Ballet artistic director finally acknowledging her intent to create a dance.

“You’re so serious about it. I’m going to give you the chance to make a work for the company,” she quoted him as saying.

Her first piece for Ballet Hispánico, 2009’s “Locked Up Laura,” examines the struggle of a dancer’s identity.

“Laura dances with sensuous surrender in [her partner’s] arms until he dresses her forcibly in a tutu; then her movements become stiff and staccato. She's a woman backstage, a wind-up ballerina onstage — though in the last few moments, she appears to have found a path toward integrating the two,” dance reviewer Tresca Weinstein wrote about the piece.

Lopez Ochoa has created works for more than 50 companies, and her accolades span from competitions to dance industry publications worldwide. On Oct. 17 at Eisenhower Auditorium, Ballet Hispánico will present 2016’s “Linea Recta,” Lopez Ochoa’s third work for the company under Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro.

“‘Línea Recta’ is a direct reaction to the conspicuous absence of physical touch in flamenco,” Lopez Ochoa said in an interview with the Center for the Performing Arts. “‘Linea recta’ is a French expression which means ‘straight to the point.’ I’m a direct person, hence the expression relates to my personality.”

Lopez Ochoa on how cultural and gender identity has come into play with works commissioned by new companies:

I always put facets of my personality into my work, including my Colombian roots, my Belgian roots, my knowledge in the Vaganova classical technique, hip-hop, jazz and flamenco. I find it hard to define what female means. I have a strong character, and my female dancers are always strong and rarely romantic. I enjoy the unknown, and I find it extra exciting to create works on companies I’ve never worked with before. I guess what attracts companies to me is that I’m adaptable in different styles of dance.

On the misleading notion that there are fewer woman choreographers in the dance profession:

There are many female choreographers in the contemporary dance world, but less so in the classical ballet companies due to the archaic structure of such companies ruled by hierarchy.

On the importance of the inclusion of women behind the scenes in the arts:

I do believe that more women choreographers should get opportunities to create new story ballets. A female perspective on a female character or on a particular subject or situation is essential in the times we’re living.

On the importance of being viewed as a woman choreographer versus a choreographer:

I would hope that I get new commissions for what my work represents and what it has to offer to a company than for the fact that I’m a woman. I’ve been lucky that I’ve never been without work since the moment I decided to dedicate myself entirely to choreography 15 years ago.

On the perceived differences between women and men choreographers:

I would say that the difference between a male colleague and me is that I’ve developed more slowly than my counterparts. No complaints about that. I prefer to be a mature well-rounded red wine than a Beaujolais nouveau.

The presentation by Ballet Hispánico is part of the Center for the Performing Arts Diversity and Inclusion Collaborative.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 02, 2018