A Filmmaker Reflects on Week 1

The participants in this year’s Instituto Coreográfico enjoyed a weekend away from the studios, but they were still busy working and reflecting! One of our filmmakers, Will Atwater, had this to say about his first week:

My first week at Instituto Coreográfico was both challenging and rewarding. For me, one of the biggest challenges when working alone on a video shoot is being able to anticipate where to place the camera to best capture the action. Not that this is ever an easy task for an emerging filmmaker, but working solo requires one to manage all of the equipment – keeping batteries charged, handling tripods, etc. While important, these tasks can hinder one’s ability to anticipate and capture the action unfolding. As you know, dance rehearsals are loaded with action – dancers lunging and twisting through space. Until I started to learn the dance routine, I was not sure where to set up and which action to follow.

Having no prior knowledge of the dance routine that would unfold, it is critical to establish rapport with the choreographer and dancers early in the process. Interviewing Abdul Latif Rasheed, the choreographer I am working with, gave me a better sense of his vision for the week, which in turn helped me begin to figure out camera placement. My comfort level grew as I became more familiar with the dancers and the routine they were learning. Feedback from Gerrit Vooren, video coordinator, on my initial footage also gave me confidence to take more chances with the camera: the first day of shooting I kept the camera on the tripod, but by Friday I was capturing more hand-held footage and getting closer to the action.

In the second week, I look forward to building on what I learned during the first week. I am grateful for the opportunity the Instituto Coreográfico has given me to expand my skills as filmmaker by working with Abdul and members of the Ballet Hispanico Company.

Instituto Coreográfico 2012

It has been a busy week here at the Ballet Hispanico studios! On Monday, June 4 we kicked off what promises to be another fantástico Instituto Coreográfico. BH has been buzzing with creative energy.

The Instituto Coreografíco provides emerging choreographers a professional and
supportive environment in which to explore their heritage through the creation of Dance.
That support includes: 60 hours of studio time working with the Ballet Hispanico
Company dancers; an appointed mentor with whom to discuss the art making process;
access to resources at New York University through the Center for Latin American and
Caribbean Studies; sharing the work for constructive feedback from leaders in the dance field; video footage of the rehearsal process; a work sample on DVD; and a stipend.

This year, we are pleased to be with working some extremely promising artists. Our choreographers are Abdul Latif, from New York City, and Rosie Herrera, from Miami. The participating filmmakers are Andres Aria and William Atwater. It has only been four days, but with the support of their mentors Martha Clarke, Lourdes Lopez, Dudley Williams and Gerrit Vooren, these artists are already producing spectacular works. Next week, the choreographers will present their pieces–performed by our BH Company dancers–for a panel of experienced professionals: Richard Chen See, Francesca Harper and Risa Steinberg.

We are so excited to see how everyone’s projects will unfold. Be sure to stay-tuned here for reflections from the artists and more behind-the-scenes information!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photo Credit: Joshua Preston

Company Dancer Kimberly Van Woesik: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Right after graduating from Southern Methodist University, life quickly began to transitiion from university life to the real world! How exciting! I spent my beginning two weeks of the summer in NYC with Ballet Hispanico, taking part in the “Instituto Coreográfico” with choreographer George Cespedes…what a treat! Not only was this my first adventure with the company, who welcomed me with open arms, but it was also nothing short of inspirational and challenging. As artists we collaborated and pushed each other to new limits, workshopping a piece that was unique to our individual ideas. I felt very blessed to be able to come and work with my new company for a little bit before the season started, since I got a taste of what things would be like when I got back to NY..and of course I’m so thrilled to be back!

After NY the next week I went to Houston to teach at Red Door; I find such great pleasure in teaching and sharing with our youth. I learned just as much from them as they learned from me! Since Houston, I’ve been back home in Dallas, TX. With heat like this (over 100 degress everyday!!!) I of course spent much of my summer in the pool 🙂 This summer I have really come to enjoy hot yoga; after doing it day after day I feel like I HAVE to have it! I have fallen in love with everything that I get out of it: strength both mentally and physically, flexibilty, balance, and a sense of sweating it out and being cleansed, leaving with peace, positivity, and serenity. I’ve also kept busy with working out at the gym, making sure I kept up with my cardio and doing some light weight training. From moving out of my apartment in Dallas, to saying my “Good-Byes” and “See you laters” to friends and family, and trying to stay physically active this summer, I am definitely ready and excited to leave this Texas heat, for one :p; and of course embark upon my new journey in the Big Apple with Ballet Hispanico!

Instituto Coreografico: Panel Presentation

It was a wild ride at the panel presentation of George Céspedes’s ‘Stop: This Door is Alarmed’ last Thursday. Click here to view the pictures!

Instituto Coreográfico: Inside the Studio, Week 2!

Instituto will be wrapping up this Friday and wow, does the work look amazing!

Check out the new set of pictures courtesy of Joshua Preston.

Instituto Coreografico: Inside the Studio with George Céspedes

Filmmaker Danny Mendoza, with guidance from mentor Gerrit Vooren, submitted this wonderful footage from the first week of Instituto.


Instituto Coreografico: Thoughts from Eduardo

On the first day of Ballet Hispanico’s Instituto Coreografico there was a moment when choreographer George Céspedes posed a question to the Ballet Hispanico dancers. The room stood still. The question, rather personal, was not used to break the ice but rather to totally unhinge the dancers expectations as well as challenge their “dancer” mindset.

Mr. Céspedes, who has just finished his first American tour with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, is a Cuban dancer and choreographer who described himself to me as an accidental dancer but a born choreographer. And move he does! He is constantly on the move and so full of energy that it feels like we may have discovered a new powerful strain of ADD in his being. He is non-stop, whimsical and bold with a natural Cuban touch of arrogance.

Four days after his bold opening statement, George has taken the dancers through a series of Laban exercises: improvisation and “honest” movement exploration that challenges the dancer’s every move and intention. These exercises have allowed the dancers to move towards George’s philosophy of movement flow. To me it a looks like a free association of muscle and bone that naturally takes a dancer from point A to B without strong-arming the movement. This does not mean that the movement has no intention or power. These dancers are being invited to harness their power in a very natural and personal way.

It is clear that George is guiding our dancers towards his preferred form of movement poetry, more “dance slam” than haiku.

More to come,

Instituto Coreografico: Session 4

This week we welcomed Georges Céspedes to the studios to kick off the fourth installment of Instituto. George comes to us from Danza Contemporánea de Cuba and his engagement with with Ballet Hispanico follows Danza Conteporánea’s first tour in the United States in its 52-year history, with two weeks of sold-out performances earlier this month at The Joyce Theatre.

Photos from this studios can be found here.

Join us here on the blog as we explore the culmination of Mr. Céspedes’ first work on an American contemporary dance company.

About the choreographer: GEORGE CÉSPEDES was born in Holguín, Cuba, in 1979 and studied dance and choreography at Havana’s National School of Dance. Upon graduation he joined Danza Contemporánea de Cuba and has performed as a principal dancer in more than nineteen of the company’s repertoire works. Céspedes is also a prolific choreographer, having created more than eighteen works for his own company, for the National Ballet of Cuba, the school of the National Ballet, and for the National School of Dance. Céspedes’s many achievements include the Luna Prize (Mexico, 2009) for his production of “Carmina Burana,” the Vigna le Youth Dance Prize (1997), and a finalist placement at the 23rd Wettbewerb International Competition for Choreographers in Hannover (2009). “La Ecuación,” which he choreographed, won the Villa Nueva Prize (2004) and the Alicia Alonso Ibero-American Choreography Competition (2002). Céspedes’s work for Ballet Hispanico will be his first with an American dance company.

The Evolution of “yo recuerdo”

My first day working as an intern in the Marketing department here at Ballet Hispanico, I was surprised to learn that I would be attending a live in-house performance by the company.  Thrilled by the idea of getting to see the dancers perform (not to mention the fact that this was part of my job!), I spent the majority of the day looking forward to the evening’s showing.

The piece, yo recuerdo, was the most recent product of Ballet Hispanico’s Instituto Coreografico.  Company member Nicholas Villeneuve had worked for three weeks to conceptualize and choreograph the piece, and that night was to be its premiere performance.  For me, it was extremely interesting to be able to see a work of such magnitude, performed by such talented dancers, in a relatively an early stage of development.  Usually we as the audience are only privy to final products, while the process that the choreographers and dancers go through to create a final product is not revealed.  So the opportunity to see Nicholas’ work-in-progress was particularly exciting.  It was clear that there were still certain places that were going to be developed, certain ideas and concepts that were still going to be elaborated and explored.   This first showing was raw material- beautiful, compelling choreography that nonetheless still lacked a solid emotional or motivational intention.  Audience members asked, what exactly is it about?  Who are these characters, these couples, and what are their relationships to one another?

During the panel discussion, Nicholas fielded these questions with grace and eloquence, explaining that in some cases, he himself did not yet know the answers.  He told us that he was still in the process of creating the storyline, and that he was working with the dancers to crystallize the emotion and purpose behind the piece.  One thing, however, was clear to the audience: that this dance was about love.  What sort of love, and how it was manifested throughout the dance, was yet to become clear…

Two months later, I sit in a theater at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, surrounded by the high-pitched squeals of hundreds of children.  They are here as part of a special initiative to provide music and dance performances to grade-school students, and today’s show includes a presentation of yo recuerdo. Accompanied by the St. Luke’s Orchestra, eight Ballet Hispanico dancers are about to perform Nicholas’ piece, and I am looking forward to seeing how it has evolved and grown since I last saw it.

As the piece begins, elements associated with theatrical production are immediately apparent.  Lighting, costuming, and make-up combine to convert the stage into a separate, almost surreal space that the company members, now transformed into anonymous characters, inhabit.  The fourth wall has been raised, and there is a clear distance between dancer and audience member that was not nearly as articulated during the first showing two months ago.  The dancers begin to move with a certain assurance and relaxed confidence that immediately reveals that they have had time to explore the dance on a deeper level.  Their performance throughout the show confirms that they have spent time developing their characters and their relationships to one another.

But for me, perhaps the most interesting element of this performance is that the audience is given a glimpse into the now clarified and fine-tuned intention behind the dance: before the piece begins, Nicholas takes a few moments to address us about his experience with yo recuerdo, saying “I wanted to make a dance about four women, remembering their experiences of love.”  It is a simple statement, but with these few words Nicholas provides me with just enough of a storyline to be able to actually relate to the dance.  This small insight into piece’s intention allows me to recognize a multitude of new elements that were not quite as clear during the first showing: jealously, infatuation, betrayal, exuberance, tenderness, and of course, love.  I can now better appreciate the title, which translates to “I remember,” for the piece does indeed strike me as a memory- slightly nostalgic, sometimes fuzzy, but always informed by the theme of love.

Seeing these two performances of yo recuerdo was a unique opportunity to observe the process of artistic growth, and to witness how Nicholas’ work matured into a fully accessible and powerful piece of art, of which he should be extremely proud.

Joanie is currently the Spring Marketing Intern at Ballet Hispanico.  She is a junior at Barnard College, where she is studying Middle Eastern Language and Culture, as well as Dance.  Joanie is fascinated by the blending of traditional and theatrical dance forms, and is thrilled to be working at Ballet Hispanico.

yo recuerdo…after Instituto

Nicholas Villeneuve’s yo recuerdo is currently in performance over at @tribecapac this week for NYC students. Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro shared his thoughts of the how far the work has come since the piece was created at January’s Instituto Coreográfico.

The theater at the Tribeca Arts Center at the Borough of Manhattan Community college is full of many memories for me. It was there that I performed my first lecture demonstration when I first joined Ballet Hispanico as a dancer and it brought back many memories of dancers, technicians and staff. Although it has now been almost two years at the helm of Ballet Hispanico, there are still those surreal feelings that only history and and unimaginable possibility can bring to all of us.

So, it was with great excitement that I sat as yo recuerdo, a new work by company member Nicholas Villeneuve, premiered yesterday at the Tribeca Arts Center and accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Nicholas was the last choreographer chosen to participate in the pilot year of the Instituto Coreográfico and his lab time helped him develop this new work. The orchestra’s conductor, Damon Gupton, was amazing and so accommodating to the dancers needs, in particular keeping the tempo sane! The music Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas by Astor Piazolla was the glue for the collaboration between the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and Ballet Hispanico.

The young audience was perfectly behaved and as usual were very happy to express their likes and wonder at the dancing. The work started quietly and without giving too much away Nicholas has created a world of memory, fun and humanity. There are three sections or three seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring) played by the orchestra, so Nicholas chose to develop the fourth season (Summer) in silence. That silent section works as an introduction to the world of Nicholas’ creation and instantly we were swept away by swooping limbs and elegant lifts with touches of gestural material that gave a nod to each of the seasons. The dancers relate to each other and their interpretation leads us through this world of passion while their technical lyricism astonish more than just the 8 year-olds in the audience.

As always I am thrilled by how the Ballet Hispanico dancers mold themselves into every situation and every choreographer. I wish I could share this performance with everyone, but these performances are dedicated for the students who participate in the Orchestra’s outreach programs.

Stay tuned and soon we will let you know when it will be performed publicly!

Search the ‘Instituto Coreográfico’ tag on our blog to find more entries and videos about the artistic process!