Ballet Hispanico and NOBA

Deputy School Director Nicholas Villeneuve and some of the Ballet Hispanico Company members have traveled down to Louisiana to teach at the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) for their summer residency.

Nicholas has been teaching in New Orleans for the past week. He comes back to New York this week, but he will return to NOBA for the final showings of the summer. He has shared his experience so far:

Nestled in a quaint corner on St. Charles Ave. in a spectacular old guest house, I have been here for a week enjoying warm southern hospitality. Ballet Hispanico and the New Orleans Ballet Association have partnered once again to lend some of New York’s strongest tutelage to New Orleans. Later this year, Ballet Hispanico is slated to perform on on NOBA’s bill. The NOBA summer residency consists of two members of Ballet Hispanico’s main company, Vanessa Valecillos and Jamal Callendar, along with myself teaching technique classes and creating works that will be showcased in their final performance at NOCCA on Sunday, August 4th.

Our presenter Jenny Hamilton has arranged quite the schedule as students are rotating on four individual tracks similar to our own intensive in NYC. I have had the pleasure of working with the more advanced student groups. While Richard Chen See, formerly of the Paul Taylor Company (and an Instituto Coreográfico panelist!), is setting an excerpt of Esplanade on the green track, I have created a new work for the purple track titled “Incantations.” The work explores a calling of souls and chanting to new life while paying homage to the deep rooted rituals and spirituality of the south.

Such rich and vast plethora of cultures exists here, you can feel it in the streets as you drive by the stunning mansions, churches and old buildings along every street. I have enjoyed thoroughly my experience this last week and will be returning to NYC this week to revisit our own summer intensive with Director, AnaMaria Correa. Fortunately for me, I will be coming back to NOLA to see my students’ performance on the 4th. This experience is a great opportunity for both the students of NOBA and the organizations. The students in New Orleans are privy to a wide variety of highly trained and accomplished artists and companies. Ballet Hispanico and NOBA bring much knowledge to these young dancers and aid their professional development throughout the four-week dance residency.

Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro has had a long standing relationship with NOBA and pledges to deliver only the best to each community that his company visits. I would say this residency is on its way to success, and I can’t wait to see the final performances. I have handed off my work to the amazing dancers of Ballet Hispanico today. I know when I return it will be terrific.The students have attended all my classes thus far with an eagerness and a fire that inspires me. Each day I am able to see them improve a bit at a time. I enjoy teaching and I am honored to pass on the legacy that was once given to me!

Till next week, NOLA!

Reporting from the beautiful sunny south,

Deputy Director, Nicholas Villeneuve

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Dancers Joshua and Vanessa Bring a Little BH to Guatemala!

In May, Company dancers Joshua Winzeler and Vanessa Valecillos traveled to Guatemala City, Guatemala to work with the dance students at Dance Studio. Last year, the entire company traveled to Antigua to perform at the Festival Internacional de Cultura Paiz 2011. On this trip, however, Joshua and Vanessa were on a different mission: to bring their professional experience and dance wisdom to young and eager-to-learn students.

Vanessa and Joshua reflected on their incredible experiences, and we are excited to share their with you! It’s amazing what our dancers are up to, so we hope you enjoy learning about what BH dancers do in their “free” time! You can find more information about Dance Studio on Facebook. Enjoy!

From Vanessa:

Joshua and I traveled to Guatemala City on May 21. We stayed at the house of Laura Galvez and her family. They truly made us feel at home! Laura is the director of the jazz program that Dance Studio has.

I taught all the ballet classes, and Joshua taught the contemporary classes. I had students who ranged in age from 7 years old to teenagers. I enjoyed all of the students! Some of the classes were high levels and very challenging.

I love to see the young ones that have a lot of potential paying so much attention and really listening to me. I find so much satisfaction in them really understanding dance at such a young age. For the older students, it was great to see them working so hard because they were given an opportunity to see what else is out there in the dance world and not just what they see on an everyday basis.

My biggest challenge was to teach ballet class to the jazz students. Most of them have never had ballet before. So I had to start with the basic positions and postures rather than the more difficult technique. And I only had one day to do it!

One evening we went to a dance challenge that was being held at El Teatro Nacional, a beautiful theater, where a lot of the dance schools compete. It was very interesting to see because it showed us the various levels of the different schools. (By the way, Dance Studio won first place in ballet and third place in jazz and hip hop!)

A great moment for me while being there was going to Antigua on Saturday afternoon. It brought great memories of when I went there with Ballet Hispanico last season!

I am looking forward to going back in the near future to teach at Dance Studio again and to see the great friends that we made while being there.

From Joshua:

The facility where we taught was amazing! It was sort of a country club, with a pool, karate, a gym, a spa, spin classes…the works. After we got there, we observed some of the classes we would be teaching. Vanessa taught Ballet, while I taught Contemporary dance.

Both Vanessa and I had a lot on our plates. Most of my classes consisted of ballet-trained dancers who had never taken a Contemporary class in their lives, some not knowing what it was. Their technique reflected that of Ballet: poised, light and not very fluid in their movement quality. I had about 3 classes with them that each lasted an hour. I utilized the some Horton and Limón technique along with some Bartenieff fundamentals. I felt like it was important that the dancers knew the endless possibilities that the body could move in. How to release into the floor. To transition from one movement into another effortlessly. How to suspend or sustain a movement. How to dance from your core and not just the arms and legs. All terms vital in the dance world.

At first these dancers were timid and laughed at what I was showing them. They were uncomfortable and embarrassed that they might make a mistake. It was important for them to know that class was not only a place to discipline yourself in technique and style, but also a place to explore new ways of moving and discovering what works best for your body. It was obvious that these dancers were intimidated by Vanessa and me—“the professional dancers from New York and Ballet Hispanico”—but we were still human and had once been in the same place they were. They started opening up, and the shift of energy was like night and day. The girls were hungry and willing to learn. It was amazing to see such a vast change in their quality of dancing in such a short amount of time.

I went there with a goal. If I was able to teach them ONE thing, whether it be a new term in dance or a new way of dancing, I would have done my job. And that I did. One dancer asked me, “Why do you dance”? I replied, “Two reasons: one, dance is a gateway that allows me to forget about everything that happens in this sometimes mundane world and I am able to express myself in whatever way I chose. And two, I believe dance to be another form of communicating though the movements of our body.” It was something so powerful and profound to them. I could see it in their eyes. It was like they saw dance as a hobby at first and then realized that there was so much more dance had to offer. The icing on the cake was receiving status updates via Facebook or Twitter about how Vanessa and I have helped not only the dancers, but also the teachers to see dance in a new way. We have lit a brand new fire in them and that they are ready and willing to go the distance to achieve any goal they set for themselves. We are very optimistic that we will have another opportunity to reunite next year and create another successful workshop like this one.

I would also like to thank Nicholas Villeneuve for this amazing opportunity. Originally, Nicholas planned on going on the trip, but was unable to travel because of the School of Dance recital. He referred Dance Studio to me, and I am so thankful I was able to take advantage of this amazing experience.

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A Look Back at 2011

As we enjoy the success of our performances at the Apollo Theater this past Saturday, December 17, all of us at Ballet Hispanico are feeling proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in 2011: a record Gala fundraiser in April; the launch of BH2, our second company for pre-professional dancers; record proceeds at our Junior Society benefit; and of course, our debut at the Apollo.

Former Company dancer and current BH2 Rehearsal Director (and 2nd floor office cutie) Nicholas Villeneuve has been with Ballet Hispanico long enough to have witnessed many of the organization’s milestones. He has also experienced a year of many personal changes. And so as we near the end of 2011, who better than him to say a few words about this year of transitions? And might we add how lucky we feel to have him with us in the External Affairs and E&O office!

It’s hard to believe that 2011 is drawing to an end, a year which saw numerous significant accomplishments being made at Ballet Hispanico.

A very famous song quotes “what a difference a day makes.” Well, let’s take it further and say “what a difference a year makes!”
Trial, turmoil and pensiveness always seem to arise when we are on the cusp of greatness. Not only have we finally begun to see the amazing growth of the Company via our new artistic leader, Eduardo Vilaro, but the School has grown by leaps and bounds in it’s tutelage and the Education & Outreach department now houses the official second company of Ballet Hispanico, BH2.

As a former Company member I have witnessed the institution go through a myriad of changes, inventing and reinventing itself on the wheel. We have always had a strong voice in the community and a plethora of riches in the Latino diaspora to infuse into and onto anyone that comes into contact with us. Finally the vision is at its clearest and we continue to climb, waving our banner proudly and valiantly in the winds of education, preservation and artistry.

Having been given the opportunity to run and direct the second company, education and creativity have always been strong passions of mine. To be able to mold emerging artists–teaching them tricks of the trade, giving them survival tools that I have gathered along my journey, and refining their technical abilities–has left me overjoyed, satiated and with a huge sense of accomplishment.

More often than not we doubt ourselves and question our capability and integrity when put to the test. However, the more we choose to run from the challenge the more it seeks you out. I feel I have been molded and mentored by three people that have made me capable of stepping into these shoes and without hesitation start this upward climb to develop a new, vibrant and valuable sector of Ballet Hispanico. Linda Kent, Eduardo Vilaro and Tina Ramirez have taught me the values of this art form and equipped me with the armor to pass on not only the gift of dance, but of what it is to breath and give life to something that you believe in. BH2 may be only an embryo, but the outreach and audiences that we have achieved in our short sojourn is unbelievable and it proves that if there is a will, there’s a way.

I have reveled in watching these 10 aspiring dancers figure out their passion and sell themselves to this art completely and unselfishly. And this program is certainly the way to reach demographics that the first company cannot penetrate, and help maintain our organizational mission of fostering education in the arts.

I feel very blessed to be in my seventh year with this organization, and to have been able to wear so many hats and be so many things on so many occasions. I have sold my soul to dance and in so doing to this institution. I will be forever grateful for the love, generosity and lessons that I gain daily and I feverishly anticipate the next growth spurt in 2012.

As I shared with Eduardo recently about his new work Asuka, it reminds me of immigration mixed with a sense of infectiousness. We as a people of many diverse races arrive with so much to offer, wondering if we will ever “get in,” be accepted or make it. Yet, because of the gift, we take a chance and before we know it we are infected with influences wherever we lay our roots and grow. The movement is infectious, the music is infectious, we Ballet Hispanico are infectious wherever we go and for that we will prevail.  This work marks that new period and our time to reap the benefits of well-laid plans.

Let us continue to dream and make this home the best it has ever been!!!

Nicholas Villeneuve and the BH2 dancers


First Pointe Shoe Fitting!

Ballet Hispanico School of Dance Administrator Jessica Prohias recently accompanied the students in our Pre-Professional Level 3B class to their first pointe shoe fitting EVER! Read on for details and pictures of the day that every ballerina-in-training dreams of…

It was an exciting day on Saturday, October 29, 2011. Despite the cold and snow (only the fourth time to snow in New York in October), our Level 3B students trekked over to the Capezio store on 51st and Broadway to be fitted for their first pair of pointe shoes! Caridad Martinez (BH’s Pre-Professional Coordinator) and I decided to make this a group fitting, as a first pair of pointe shoes is a huge deal for a developing dancer. As a milestone in our dancers’ young lives, please see both parents and student’s experiences of the day below:

“My first day going on pointe was….. AMAZING! Honestly, if you really try hard in ballet, when you actually go on pointe, it will be a breeze. Of course, wearing the pointe shoes felt odd at first, but then it got easier. Plus, it was REALLY EXCITING! At first, I sort of felt like a duck, I admit that. I felt like I was flopping around in big pink clown shoes. But then later I felt comfortable, and it was a really fun experience.”

-Elizabeth Weinstein

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BH2’s First School Performance: A Total Success!

Those of you following us on Facebook know all about BH2, Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro’s training initiative for young and talented dancers. For you newer fans, BH2 is Ballet Hispanico’s second company, created to help pre-professional dancers develop their artistry and prepare them for a life of learning in the professional dance field. As a component of Ballet Hispanico’s Education and Outreach (E&O) division, BH2 expands the reach of the main company by providing performances, workshops and lecture demonstrations to schools, community centers and organizations.

On Wednesday, October 5th, BH2 performed at the Portledge School in Locust Valley. Principal Alan Cohen invited Ballet Hispanico as the featured assembly for Hispanic Heritage month. Our E&O team (Nicholas, Franchesca, AnaMaria and Josh) were on site to ensure the experience was engaging, well-presented and fun. In a gym packed with students and parents, the Portledge School was transported on a journey through Cuba, Brazil and Mexico. The kids were particularly blown away; click on the pics below to see their adorable handwritten messages to the dancers!


Curtain Call: Final Thoughts From an E&O Intern

Liza Cardinal’s internship in our Education & Outreach department has come to an end; we miss her already!  But not all is lost: Liza kept a blog this summer to document her experiences at Ballet Hispanico, and she would love to share it with our readers.  Below is a message from Liza, and you can read all of the insider E&O scoop at her blog

My name is Liza Cardinal. I am a rising senior at the University of South Carolina where I am majoring in Dance Education and performing with the USC Dance Company. A Montgomery, Alabama native, I started training at the age of three.

I have been interested in teaching since high school. The University of South Carolina is one of a few schools that offer a degree in Dance Education with K-12 certification. I declared Dance Education my major at the start of my sophomore year. It was one of the best decisions I have made.

At this juncture, I am researching graduate programs in Arts Administration. I feel very strongly about the role of dance, and art in general, in the lives of all people. Regardless of what shape my future takes, art advocacy will always be an important part of what I do.

I was excited to have the opportunity to intern with Ballet Hispanico in the Education & Outreach Department. I kept a blog during to document my experiences, as well as offer a perspective on dance education through Ballet Hispanico’s eyes. I hope this blog gives some insight into what great opportunities BH offers, and the value it places on dance education and outreach in the community and beyond.