Women’s Stories Take Center Stage for Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Upcoming 2024-25 Season

Dani Rowe, OBT’s first permanent female artistic director in the company’s 35-year history, will highlight the haunting stories of Giselle and Marilyn Monroe.

Carly Wheaton with OBT Artists in Wooden Dimes. Photo by Yi Yin.

On April 9, Oregon Ballet Theatre announced a roster of haunting, heartbreaking stories for its forthcoming 2024-25 season, set to begin in October.

Dani Rowe, OBT’s new artistic director, selected Giselle and her own biographic ballet Marilyn for the upcoming season, alongside classics like Hansel and Gretel and The Nutcracker—which are tragic if you sympathize with the fates of the witch and her gingerbread house, or Phyllis Diller’s Mouse Queen in the 1990 cartoon The Nutcracker Prince.

Giselle is a ghostly love story about a woman’s death by heartbreak, and how she overcomes eternal bitterness in the afterlife. Marilyn gives Monroe’s tragic life story the ballet treatment, inspired in part by Milton H. Greene’s iconic image of Monroe from the famous “Ballerina Sitting” photo series.

The 2025 season, like this one, caps with a series of new works, including Rowe’s next ballet, For Pixie, a duet set to Nina Simone’s song “Wild Is The Wind.” For Pixie is inspired by Rowe’s grandparents’ turbulent love story.

“There’s a haunting quality to [Simone’s] voice, and the story that this particular song tells was in alignment with the story I wished to tell about my grandparents’ relationship, so it just felt right,” Rowe says.

Rowe says the stories OBT will stage for the 2024–25 season intentionally have little to do with one another. The ballets were chosen for the range of skills OBT dancers will exhibit in each performance. Giselle and The Nutcracker focus on traditional ballet form, while Marilyn and Hansel and Gretel focus on storytelling through dance.

Hansel and Gretel is extremely theatrical, almost Broadway-esque as far as the production value is concerned, showcasing the dancers’ ability to tell a clear story and inhabit these crazy characters,” Rowe says. “Marilyn is a new creation, and I think it’s vital that we tell new stories and be that company that’s presenting these wonderful new and relevant stories about characters that perhaps more people understand or relate to.”

Marilyn began as an unfinished collaboration with another ballet company. As she dug into Monroe’s mythology, Rowe felt it was important to nonverbally translate her story, already told across scores of movies, books, songs and even operas.

“I related to her need for acceptance,” Rowe says. “We all want to be loved, and we all want to feel true love, not necessarily in a romantic way but just a genuine way, to be loved for who we are. I think sometimes words get in the way, which is why I love the artform of ballet so much. [Monroe is] so well known for her image and her clothes and the way that she looks, and I know ballet is a visual art form, so I think it’s a lovely way to represent her.”


Hansel and Gretel, Keller Auditorium. October 5 –12, 2024

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Keller Auditorium. December 7 –22, 2024

Giselle, Keller Auditorium. February 14–22, 2025

Marilyn, Newmark Theatre. April 4–13, 2025

The OBT Collection, Newmark Theatre. June 5–8, 2025

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