Following the inauguration of President Trump, a group of professional dancers in Taos had a response – a visceral response – to express their feelings about the current administration. That brainchild, “Mechanical Nature: Movement VII,” was performed in May over two nights to near-sold-out success. Now is your opportunity to see this contemporary and original ballet for the first time or come witness its evolution as an art form.
Ballet Taos presents three performances of “Mechanical Nature: Movement VII ENCORE” at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. It can be experienced Friday (Aug. 25) at 7 p.m., Saturday (Aug. 26) for a noon matinee, and Sunday (Aug. 27) at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, $15 for youth. For the Saturday matinee, students can present their ID for a reduced admission of $10.
The ballet company’s press release states, “This provocative original ballet explores global issues we all face today. Integrating aerial and contemporary dance genres with multi-media elements, the choreography reveals the human condition, set to a flawless re-composition of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons.’ The professional artists of Ballet Taos invite you to be moved, and to join the mission to honor the relevance of dance in modern society and acknowledge that movement is a catalyst for positive change.”
Its two principal dancers are CJ Bernal and Megan Yackovich. At press time, only Bernal – who is the artistic director and is from Taos Pueblo – was available for an interview.
“I was at Standing Rock (Dakota Accress Pipeline protest) for a month and half. I underwent this experience of being there and seeing the powerful corruption first hand. Megan and I have been collaborating and working together for six years. She calls me and I’m at Standing Rock in North Dakota. I’m going to speak for Megan, she said: ‘I feel very affected by what’s going on in the world and I want to do something about it,’ “ says Bernal.
He goes on to explain that since they are both experienced, professional dancers and choreographers, their natural inclination was to create performance art. Through the use of dance, music, costumes, and props – they’d express their bodily frustration of what’s going on in the world today.
“The ballet is about the human condition,” Bernal said. “We touch on several global issues and there are several pieces in the show. There is one about oil spills: it’s about a bird caught in an oil spill and she’s trying to get the oil off of her and she ends up dying at the end of the piece. We also have a piece about women’s rights and having a voice. We touch on pollution, war, and climate change. The performance touches on a lot different areas and is very powerful.”
When asked about the naming of the show, Bernal had a very deep and thoughtful response to this too. When he and Yackovich sat down to brainstorm names, they jotted down a few different points they knew would be represented in the show. For example, their performance touches on mechanics and the creation of industrial technology.
“A lot of us are influenced by technology; this is the machine that we’re living in together. We also wanted to represent the nature we’re surrounded with here,” Bernal says – and then adds, “That’s another piece in the show: the corporate machine versus nature.”
As the musical underscore, they draw on a modern recomposition of the classical violin concerti, “The Four Seasons,” composed by Antonio Vivaldi in 1721.
Since this is an encore performance, Bernal reflects on the positive reviews of its premiere performances back in May. “People came up to me after and said they couldn’t breathe. They were crying and saying, ‘Oh my God, this was amazing. Why doesn’t this happen in Taos more – this performance to this level?’”
Bernal points out that not only was “Mechanical Nature” received very well from the community, it was Memorial Day Weekend and their shows competed with quite a number of events happening around the county – yet their performances were nearly sold out.
“People were so amazed by the quality of performance and the story line and what was being said through dance. We’ve evolved a few pieces and we’ve added a few things. It’s the same performance and it’s changed a little bit,” says Bernal.
The show will be cast with professional dancers, like Bernal and Yackovich, who have a history in dance and working with different companies in the world. And the other half of the cast will consist of local students. “We wanted the students to be involved in the show – to test them and really challenge them with this work. Most of the cast is high school students, and they are rising to the occasion. They have evolved in their art and dance,” Bernal says.
Yackovich is owner and founder of Ballet Taos, which is a brand new dance studio that just opened in Taos four weeks ago. The studio’s address and contact information is 1037 Calle de Sol, (575) 779-9128; www.ballettaos.com. Contact Ballet Taos to learn more about their classes and outreach programs in the community.
Additionally, Ballet Taos is presently casting for its New Mexico version of “The Nutcracker” – scheduled to premiere in December. Bernal and Yackovich are sticking with Tchaikovsky’s classical tale, but the themes will be based on New Mexican culture. Expect Pow Wow dancers, flamenco dancers, Georgia O’Keeffe paintings as backdrops, and the role of Clara re-imagined as a chile farmer’s daughter.
For “Mechanical Nature: Movement VII ENCORE,” Ballet Taos collaborated with Jack Mitchell for photography, Kate Martin for multimedia/video, Alessandra Ogren (of the Peñasco Theater Collective) for aerial choreography, and Dianne Demille who has started a new aerial studio in Taos. Tickets are on sale now.