A world-class American dance company capable of rivaling the best Europeans had to offer: This was the dream of New York-based art patron Lincoln Kirstein, who, in the early 1930s met …
A world-class American dance company capable of rivaling the best Europeans had to offer: This was the dream of New York-based art patron Lincoln Kirstein, who, in the early 1930s met the Russian ballet dancer and fledgling choreographer George Balanchine and convinced him to emigrate. "But first, a school," was Balanchine's caveat to the offer.
The drive of Balanchine and his collaboration with other notable talents of his era led to the creation of the School of American Ballet and its company, the New York City Ballet.
Over the remaining five decades of his life, NYCB rose to the international forefront of contemporary ballet where it remains today, and gaining entrance is the Holy Grail for serious dancing students from across the world.
When Balanchine passed in 1983, NYCB issued a statement which said in small part, "It is hard to think of the ballet world without the colossal presence of George Balanchine."
Yet life, including ballet life, does move on, though his contemporary interpretation of centuries' old classical ballet techniques not just lives but thrives, continuing to impact the evolution of today's dance, noted Megan Yackovich, creative director of Ballet Taos and founder of its school.
"What Balanchine taught us is that being timeless doesn't mean being stuck in time," Yackovich said, herself a classically trained ballerina. He also demonstrated the power of collaboration.
This weekend, the New Mexico Dance Collaborative will take over the Taos Community Auditorium of the Taos Center for the Arts, and bring high-quality dance to the community while providing opportunities for young dancers from the region to further their training. The weekend includes both contemporary and classical performances, a series of master classes taught by internationally acclaimed teachers and a scholarship competition for aspiring New Mexico students aged 10 to 19 years.
On Saturday (March 30), an abridged restaging of Ballet Taos' highly popular work "Mechanical Nature: Movement VII" will begin at 7 p.m. The performance will feature local student performers alongside guest Chicago artist Zac Bigbee, who is adding his original work titled "Discourse" to the suite, scored by the original music of ethnomusicologist Meg York.
"The show emphasizes collaborative eclecticism, as it was choreographed collectively with the dancers and features video and multimedia components arranged by Kate Martin," Yackovich said. "And the students are particularly invested because they contributed to its development. We talked about what political issues mattered to them the most, and as a team [with former instructor CJ Bernal] we choreographed this," which, she believes, contributes to its power as a statement and to the local acclaim it has received.
Sunday afternoon (March 31) will see a 2 p.m. performance of Balanchine's iconic "A Midsummer Night's Dream" produced by the International Youth Ballet of Littleton, Colorado, and set to the music of German composer Felix Mendelssohn. The elaborate and poetic style of the original play are brought to life by the exceptional students of the school and guest artists Andrew Thompson as Nick Bottom and Harold Mendez as Puck.
"The student performers of IYB are among the best American classical dancers in their age group and are more regularly accepted into the world's most prestigious ballet schools than many others," Yackovich said. "This show is a unique opportunity for local viewers to see these gifted pre-professionals before they step onto the great stages of the world to begin their careers."
The second half of Sunday afternoon's show will feature two short contemporary ballets, "Tabula Rasa" and "Spiegel im Spiegl," masterfully choreographed by Mark Carlson, founder of IYB, to the music of renowned Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.
Master classes will be held on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, under the direction of Jefferson Baum and Carlson, respectively. The two come from completely different backgrounds but have both achieved great success in their careers as dancers and teachers. Those students who demonstrate "personal drive, work ethic, and a willingness to apply corrections" will be considered for scholarships to Ballet Taos' intensive summer program with Baum, Carlson and Jock Soto of NYCB.
"The master classes are open to viewing by the public, with free admission for students under 19. They offer a great opportunity for local students who may be interested in pursuing ballet and want to see exactly what's involved in training for a professional career in dance," Yackovich said.
Tickets for "Mechanical Nature: Movement VII" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are $20 each, and are available at ballettaos.com, where you may also view the full weekend's schedule.
Tickets for the classes are $10 for adults and free for students under 19.
All tickets may be purchased at the box office of Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, prior to performances and subject to availability.
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