Ghosts, goblins, and witches. Candy apples and candy corn. Stubby candles aglow in carved out pumpkins on porches and adobe walls. It's Halloween in Taos and there is a playfulness in the air the last weekend in October.
The Taos Dance Academy [TDA] is embracing the “spooky season” with a rather special virtual performance to get you in the holiday spirit.
“Everything is falling into place,” according to Kathleen Martin, the director of Taos Dance Academy. “Because there are still pandemic precautions to follow, our dancers will take to the virtual stage in a long-awaited collaboration with Society of The Muse Of The Southwest [SOMOS] Young Writer’s Group in a performance titled Las Brujas.”
Tune in as young Taos artists storm the virtual stage and transform themselves into witches with magic powers, spooky cats springing from the bushes and more. An original storyline with all the best characters from Halloween, crafted by young writers from SOMOS, accompanies this spooktacular event.
Martin said the performance has been on the dance academy's schedule for months, originally slated to be a live performance set at the Millicent Rogers Museum. Because of pandemic safety protocols, Martin, her dance troupe, and the young writers agreed to change course and revisit the success of the academy's past filmed performances.
Martin said adapting the performance to film expanded the storyline and “opened the doors for a new and creative green screen approach. SOMOS’s young writers' carefully crafted storyline traces the five Brujas (witches) as they fly down from their homes high in the [Sangre de Cristo] mountains and search for mischief in the streets. When the brujas find children dancing in the streets, each child is cursed. The village children, played by Taos Dance Academy dancers, transform themselves into different animal creatures."
The question in the storyline is: who will save the day? To find out, you'll have to watch the performance this Halloween weekend to see just how this spooky dance story unfolds.
Martin said the featured dancers "are members of the Junior Studio Company, who portray the Halloween witches. During rehearsal Martin asked one of the witch dancers, Aya Robinson, to talk about her experience acting and dancing in this epic drama. She said “It’s interesting, fantastical and fun!”
Her classmate Ellis Livingston added, “I love melting to the ground and cursing everyone! It is fun to be so dramatic.”
Martin continued to explain how the performance focuses on the Children’s Division, ages 2 to 5 years old, with the Junior Studio company taking the lead roles of the Brujas.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the younger generation of dancers because they can show off what they have worked hard on all year," Martin said. "Dance classes that begin at a young age focus primarily on basic body movements and holding a formation and remembering the dance steps. Tuesday Faust is the primary Children’s Division teacher for Taos Dance Academy and she has transformed her students into young artists. The dancers’ joy shines through their masks as they work to remember and perform each step.”
The soloists (the witches) are TDA’s Junior Studio Company members. “The dancers had fun discovering who their characters are and dancing as witches. We traditionally focus ballet on lighter characters, like fairies, princesses, and the like. Playing a character like an evil witch brings a new element to the dancer's growing repertoire. Surprisingly, our Junior Company did not have any issues adjusting to their new roles as Brujas. I saw a lot of personality when I presented the witch choreography.” Martin recalled a moment during filming when Ellis Livingston, a Junior Company dancer, exclaimed “This is so me!”
The talented young storytellers from the SOMOS Young Writers Group are Blu Cielo Holmes and Emmasofia Hayett. Additional creative writers include Sofia Bates, Anais Borger-Morian and Eliana Kaysing. Martin said collaborating with SOMOS created a learning opportunity and challenge in the production phase of the performances.
“Traditionally the storyline is complete before choreography is set. This time around, Taos Dance Academy presented SOMOS with an outline of what the individual dances would be, and then SOMOS took charge to fill in the blanks and create an ending.”
Martin said the performance is free. “We want to give back to our community. Taos has supported our dance studio throughout the pandemic and this is our opportunity to share what we have been working on this year.”
The virtual performance will be available to Taos and beyond through Taos Dance Academy’s website. For more details about Las Brujas and the Taos Dance Academy, visit taosdance.com.