by Diane Claytor
Diablo Ballet opens its 21st season on November 14, with performances on both the 14th and 15th. And when the curtain goes down after the final show, the Diablo Ballet audience and dancers alike will no doubt be feeling a little sad, perhaps a little teary-eyed. That November 15th show will be Edward Stegge’s last time on stage with this Company. The beloved dancer, described by Artistic Director Lauren Jonas as an “audience favorite and adored by his fellow company members” will retire. “It’s just mytime,” the 45 year old said.
With the average retirement age for a ballet dancer being only 32, Eddie has performed far longer than most. “I realize I just can’t do some of the things I used to do,” he noted. “Even though I still love it, my feet really ache at the end of the day and I don’t want to end up hating to dance. I’ve had an amazing career and I certainly never thought I’d dance this long.”
Eddie, who began taking classes at 6 years old, has been dancing with Diablo Ballet for 12 years; he spent the previous 10 years with the Colorado Ballet, dancing soloist and principal roles. He was also a guest artist with the Minnesota Dance Theater and danced with the Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Oakland Ballet and San Francisco Opera Ballet. He received his training at the San Francisco Ballet as well as New York’s School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently wrote that Eddie “is known for his scene-stealing performances as mischievous characters: a little red devil in “Magic Toy Store,” as an evil stepsister in “The Tale of Cinderella” and his mesmerizing solos with just the right touch of camp in “Once Upon a Ballroom” and “Making Love With Your Socks On.”
Lauren commented that “Eddie has made an incredible impact and he is a gift to all who know him and watch him dance.” And his Diablo Ballet colleagues couldn’t agree more.
Dancer Derek Sakakura said that “Eddie is one of the kindest, most humble people I know. His presence, both on and off the stage has been something I will always cherish. He has taught me much about how to persevere and what it means to be a good person.” Tetyana Martyanova share’s Derek’s feelings. “Eddie is one of the kindest guys on the planet. No, really!! He is just so open and generous,” she said. “He will always listen and put forth his very best efforts to anything you ask – whether it’s just trying a step together one more time, changing an approach to a dance lift or anything else. He’s got such a big heart and I feel lucky to share the stage with him.” And David Fonnegra added that “it’s always been a pleasure to work with that ‘kid’, Eddie, a dancer full of many emotions and the desire to always do everything right. I admire him for who he is as a person, friend and coworker. He gives without expecting anything in return.”
As Eddie recently told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I love expressing myself to other people, and I don’t feel that I’m so good with words, but through ballet you get to communicate to everyone in the audience.”
Eddie definitely has mixed feelings about his retirement. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel at that final performance,” he said. “I think every dancer feels like they’ve lost their identity when they finish dancing. But once a dancer, always a dancer. I’m so grateful and feel so lucky. And in a way, I’m kind of excited. I know when it’s over, I won’t get notes, won’t get any corrections. It’s just this chapter that will be over.”
Eddie may be stepping off the professional stage, but he certainly isn’t tossing out his ballet shoes just yet. And he won’t be sitting around on a rocking chair either. Additionally, his Diablo Ballet friends will still have the opportunity to see him.
As the Ballet’s PEEK (Performing Arts Education and Enrichment for Kids) Outreach Assistant, Eddie will continue working in underserved classrooms, teaching movement classes to help children learn to communicate their emotions through music and without words. He will also continue teaching ballet to budding middle and high school dancers through a partnership between Diablo Ballet and Walnut Creek’s Civic Arts Education and even performing with the students at their annual winter gala. And finally, Eddie will continue taking classes. “Maybe not every single day,” he said, “but regularly. The physical aspect of dancing is such a part of me. It’s food for the soul, it centers me.
“I am so honored to have been a part of Diablo Ballet for over 12 seasons,” Eddie said. “This is my family.”
If you would like to send Eddie your thoughts or good wishes, feel free to send us your comments; we’ll make sure Eddie gets them.