"Eugenia is an experienced community leader who, in her past roles, identified strategic opportunities and major challenges, designed efficient planning and management processes and frameworks, and consistently produced organizational objectives on time and under budget. Her skills cover the breadth of program development and evaluation, management, strategic planning, fundraising, outreach, volunteer programs, governance and fiscal accountability. I couldn’t be more pleased that an experienced Executive Director like Eugenia is bringing her many skills and talents to AXIS. I look forward to working with her to further AXIS’ mission of changing the face of dance and disability."
- Jan Garrett, AXIS Board President
AXIS Dance Company's new Executive Director shares what led her to AXIS.
I’m two, maybe three years old. I’ve lost the sight in my left eye from a disease that medical science had never encountered before. By then, my father was already gone. A gay man in the 50s, he left my mom with four children under five, and she had no college degree. We had very little and we needed assistance. I recall sitting in the lobbies of the County clinics and the Crippled Children Society. We were shoved into drab and lifeless offices waiting for support. I felt in my tiny little psyche the visceral shock of it—it was my first experience of deep injustice. It touched a depth of compassion in me that woke me up. I counted my blessings, considering all that I lacked was sight out of one eye—I knew how much I had. I was grateful and later, discovering my white privilege, I took nothing for granted.
The first thing they did to keep the eye from perforating was to scrape tissue from underneath the eye-lid to sew over the ulcerated cornea. They hoped that the blood vessels would fight the virus. Corneas have no blood vessels so therefore no mechanism for fighting off disease. For most of my life my eye was pure white. When I had surgeries, I wore an eye patch. The years I had a painted scleral shell limited the ridicule and gawking. When I couldn’t wear it, I was called Cyclops. Living life with a “disfigurement” teaches you a lot. There are layers of marginalization we live in, depending on your social location, socio-economic class, race, gender, sexual preference and physical appearance and capabilities. The list goes on. So much of what we do with these categories speaks to what we value and what we see as capabilities and what is acceptable, normal. All of it separates us.
My mom was encouraged to put me in dance class to help me adjust and balance. There was something about dance that inspired me. Sacramento didn’t have much, but I probably still have the autographed programs for the Sacramento Ballet. I had to stay close to San Francisco for UC Medical Center, where I spent a good deal of my childhood undergoing lengthy surgeries and seeing specialists. I did well in school, and attended Dominican College on basic grants, state scholarships and work-study. How delighted I was to find that Dominican tuition covered class at the Marin Civic Ballet! I danced nearly every day. I never felt so free and able to express myself as through dance. I pushed hard and dealt with my visual impairment. I was told by teachers that I was a gifted dancer and should consider staying in dance as a career but not as a dancer. With my eye, I didn’t have the “face” of dance. I was crushed on the one hand, and nonplussed on the other. I had to do something of value, something along my goal of eradicating injustice in any form.
After graduating I spent thirty years building my leadership skills, a solid network, and a track record of non-profit excellence in order to help as many people as possible. I’ve kept up my dancing in the authentic dance movement, and share ballrooms, churches and studios with dancers of Five Rhythms, Core Connexion, Ecstatic, Barefoot Boogie and Contact Improvisation. This job was suggested after the search was already underway by a dancing friend from Dominican. It was time for me to be able to dance for work, and work for dance. And better yet: To change the face of dance and disability!