Dance

Ballet Taos offers prelude to a dream

'Discourse Disco' previews momentous New Mexico Dance Collaborative in Taos

By Dena Miller
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 3/14/19

Don't feel too badly if you missed it last weekend. There is such a thing as a second chance, and you will have that in a couple of weeks.Ever the innovator in advancing professionally …

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Dance

Ballet Taos offers prelude to a dream

'Discourse Disco' previews momentous New Mexico Dance Collaborative in Taos

Posted

Don't feel too badly if you missed it last weekend. There is such a thing as a second chance, and you will have that in a couple of weeks.

Ever the innovator in advancing professionally driven instruction and performance, Ballet Taos offered on Saturday (March 9) a collaboration between the talents of an international cache of notable instructors and performers, young dancers from across the region and, most importantly, with the troupe of our very own talented Taos students.

Megan Yackovich, the founder of Ballet Taos and its creative director, teased the community with a program titled "Discourse Disco," at Vagrant Heart, an art center at 216 Paseo del Cañon East. Along with her students, she was joined by guest artist Zac Bigbee and ethnomusicologist Meg York for two workshops that both intrigued the community and hinted at what Ballet Taos has in store.

" 'Discourse Disco' was planned to be a communicative event between the dancers, the artists and the audience," Yackovich said, indicating it was meant not only to preview their upcoming showcase but also to lend a bit more understanding to the nuances of the ballet form.

Nonverbal communication

Through insightful talks and performances the company was able to illustrate the power of nonverbal communication. Bigbee explained, "There is a dialogue derived from body language and gesticulation that communicates the meaning of movement within the music in which it's performed." For many of us, this is a complex notion around which to wrap one's head. To the dancers, however, it is the heart of what they do.

In a week's time, the two noted, the company was taken through the rigors of perfecting a newly choreographed movement alongside an original score. "The immediacy of it is an exercise that develops their physical and mental acuity, working on their form while grasping this interaction between movement and music that is their job to portray," said Yackovich.

But last weekend was just a precursor to the premier of the New Mexico Dance Collaborative, which will happen Saturday and Sunday (March 30-31) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. As its host, Ballet Taos is hoping to position the event as an annual one whose end result will mobilize the collective ballet talents in our state.

"Between the students, of course, and the availability of talented instructors," said Yackovich, "New Mexico has the wherewithal to be a presence on the world stage, but the problem is we're separated from each other by so many miles and by the lack of a unifying collaboration designed to support us. NMDC is our shot at changing that."

Ballet intensive

With first-come, first-served registration for 40 intermediate and advanced students aged 10-19, two master classes will be conducted over the weekend and, for New Mexican students, will include the opportunity to compete for scholarships to the intensive Ballet Taos summer workshops under the direction of Jefferson Baum of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo and Jock Soto of the New York City Ballet. There will also be cash scholarships available for those who cannot commit to the study in Taos.

"This isn't a typical audition structure, however, where you get on stage and are either gone or not in five minutes," said Yackovich. "First, all participants get the benefit of the entire master class under the instruction of Jefferson or Mark Carlson," the founder with his wife, Sandra Kerr, of Colorado's esteemed International Ballet School.

"Second, our judging criteria is different in that we aren't looking for perfection. We're looking for personal drive, work ethic and a willingness to apply corrections because we believe these qualities to be absolutely essential in any aspiring professional."

Two performances will also be held over the coming weekend, including that of Ballet Taos' signature "Mechanical Nature Suite," amended by the inclusion of the Bigbee-York movement, "Discourse."

"This is a performance that our students are particularly invested in, 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," Yackovich said. "You can see their hearts every time we perform it."

Fanciful ballet

And Carlson's acclaimed International Youth Ballet company is also scheduled over that weekend to perform "A Midsummer's Night Dream," the fanciful Shakespearean ballet that has captured hearts over the years and throughout the world. "Mark's school and company have produced more American entries into the world's most prestigious ballet schools than many others," Yackovich was quick to mention.

For Bigbee, a native Taoseño, this is a prodigious return to his hometown. He began his study of ballet at the late age of 17 and has gone on in eight years to become a student and performer in Denmark, San Francisco, the Netherlands, Israel and Russia. He now performs with Zikr Dance Ensemble in Denver and the Cocodaco Dance Project in Chicago.

Musician Meg York graduated from the University of New Mexico with a performance degree in clarinet, flute and flamenco accompaniment. In addition to her travels throughout the country, she has also traveled through Turkey, Mexico and India, studying and performing music for dance, and directs the Tarab Retreat in Colorado.

Note that the late choreographer Agnes de Mille said, "Ballet technique is arbitrary and very difficult. It never becomes easy; it becomes possible."

Our own Ballet Taos reminds us that possibility is all around us. "Please support us and enjoy a high-energy, professional performance before our students leave for the world stage," Yackovich urged. And there's no doubt that is exactly where these dancers are headed.

For more information about these upcoming events, schedule times and ticket prices, visit ballettaos.com. For more on events at Vagrant Heart, visit vagranthearttaos.com or call (575) 737-5112.

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