New Company Dancer Melissa Fernandez: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Ballet Hispanico kicks off its 2012-13 season on Monday when Company dancers begin rehearsing a new work with Spanish choreographers Inma García and Meritxell Barberá. As the summer ends, we welcome three new dancers to Ballet Hispanico: Major Nesby, Melissa Fernandez and Martina Calcagno.

Melissa, originally from Miami, graduated from The Julliard School in May 2012. She’s had an exciting summer as she waited to join Ballet Hispanico. She shared her summer vacation with us:

This warm and eventful summer has come and gone as quickly as a midday rain storm. This past May I graduated from The Juilliard School and found that outside of the invaluable but protective bubble of an arts conservatory there is a whole wide world to experience and explore.

Shortly after graduating I had the privilege of performing one last time as a member of The Juilliard Dance Ensemble in Beijing, China for the Beijing International Ballet Competition gala. While in Beijing I experienced so many exhilarating events such as walking (more like hiking) a portion of the Great Wall of China. Once my journey to the other side of the world was complete, I happily traveled back home to my family in Miami, FL where we spent quality time reconnecting and sun bathing by the crystalline shore of the Gulf coast.

Then came the most uplifting and exciting news of the summer! I auditioned once more for Ballet Hispanico and was thrilled to hear that Mr. Vilaro wanted to hire me for the 2012-2013 season! I’ll never forget the joy in my heart as Mr. Vilaro took me to meet Greg Stuart, our Company Manager, who the following day so kindly helped me sign my very first professional contract.

Finally, my summer concluded with a week long trip to Kodak, Tennessee where I spent my time hiking the expansive Smoky Mountains, exploring impressive underground caves and of course creating beautiful memories with friends.

In a nutshell my summer can be described in one word, “blessed.”

I’ve been blessed with experiences that have helped me grow not only as an artist but as an individual. As I begin my first season with Ballet Hispanico I pray that as I engulf my self in my craft and in learning from my fellow company members I will be as fulfilled and inspired as I was when I walked the Great Wall, hiked a portion of the Appalachian trail or spent quality time with family and friends. I have a strong feeling that I will.

You can meet all of the Ballet Hispanico dancers on our website!

Company Dancer Lauren Alzamora: How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation

All summer, we’ve been checking in on our dancers on their “vacations.” Up next, we hear from Company dancer Lauren Alzamora!

Hello friends! I hope you’ve been enjoying the summer as much as I have so far…… Since our final show of the season in Prospect Park, I have been catching up on some much needed rest and relaxation. I find that my body really appreciates some days at home where I can just lay low and hang out with my cat, Conan. In fact, I will include a picture of how he and I like to stay cool (well, mostly him…..).  He is a special needs cat, and sometimes he needs a little extra help bringing his body temperature down on these hot, humid days. I call it “kitty kooler” or “kitty on ice.”

After a day or two at home I feel the need to get moving again.  I teach Pilates and Gyrotonic year-round, as much as our rehearsal/performance/tour schedule will allow. But the summer is a particular time when I can teach a bit more and also take other teachers’ classes.  There is always something new to learn!  It is one of my favorite ways to cross-train during our season, as well as a great way to stay in shape off-season.

Something else that has kept me busy is assisting my friend Maryana Hordeychuk who has been pursuing her Masters in Digital Photography from the School of Visual Art in NYC.  After collaborating on a few projects last year, she asked me to be her thesis advisor for her final project. It has been wonderful to see the culmination of all her hard work, and it is satisfying to know that I was an integral part of the whole process.  This is a photo of some of the images from her thesis, entitled “Tabula Rasa,” which will be featured in a gallery exhibition in October 2012.

Maryana and I also drove out to Fort Tilden beach where we did a photo shoot with fellow company dancer, Mario Espinoza. Two of the images we caught are shown below.

I have also taken a few ballet technique classes with the advanced level at the Ballet Hispanico summer session – it is wonderful to see young dancers working hard and taking in all of the information that the BH faculty has to offer.  Caridad Martinez taught a particularly humbling 2-hour technique class on Monday….. I hope the students take advantage of being in her class  – she will make you strong and has such a wealth of knowledge to offer!

I am currently in Aspen, CO where I am visiting friends and also helping my boyfriend pack up to move to NYC! We are going to take about 4 days to drive across the country together.  This is a very exciting time for us and I am thrilled to share it with all of you!  So I guess that is about it….. drink your Coco water and take a visit to the beach if you have a free day. Some of the BH dancers and I took a trip to Long Beach and it was so lovely – even on Saturday, the crowds weren’t too bad and the ocean was heaven on earth!

Company Dancer Mario Espinoza: How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation

After the Ballet Hispanico Company members took their final bow of the season at Celebrate Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago, they certainly didn’t retreat into hibernation for the summer! Although they are technically on break from their rigorous Ballet Hispanico schedule, our dancers stay active, dance, teach, and have fun throughout the summer.

All summer long, we will be bringing you insider looks at how our Company members spend their time off!

This week, dancer Mario Espinoza shares with us all about his fun in the sun!

From Mario:

“I’m currently relishing in the marvelous New York summer as I take advantage of the free time, spending long, relaxing days by the Atlantic ocean shore in Long Beach, NY. A few snacks and plenty of water, in combination with a good sun-screen and fluffy literature, are sufficient to let the hours pass by like the cool, salty breeze.

Time has been invested exploring the hours of the night. I stay up later than normal on weeknights, spending time with friends that come to visit. My friends are also on their time off, and they come to experience the city that never disappoints. I love hosting dinner and rooftop parties at home, exploring neighborhoods and finding treasures in flea markets. The fun seems to be never ending!

Another exciting endeavor has been working on photography. Having beautiful and willing friends a plenty, there have been many collaborations where gorgeous beings have allowed me to capture their essence and beauty. In my TUMBLR you can see some of the images I have captured this summer and in earlier days.

At the moment Justin and I are planning a trip to East Africa. Justin and I will be traveling to Uganda and Kenya, which is very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. This will be our second visit to Africa this year, but it will be a first to these countries. In January we were in Egypt and Ethiopia, so the current nerves are most like those of an explorer-one that thrives in the thrill of a first experience.

I look forward to sharing more stories and pictures upon my return!”

Photo Credit: Maryana Hordeychuk 2012

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!

Company Dancer Vanessa Valecillos: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Throughout the years, I have learned that it is very important to keep the body and mind very healthy while being off season.

I like to stay active physically. I took Ballet classes the first 2 weeks that I was off and on top of that I was going to a gym for cardio purposes and to use the steam room and sauna. I was trying to be done with all the activities by 1pm so that I could enjoy the company of my family.

I love to travel and this summer I was able to go with my boyfriend to a very isolated place in Nicaragua by the ocean front. It was very peaceful, but hard to get to even a gym. We went there for 5 days, so I decided to give myself a yoga class and some pilates mat exercises every day that I was there. I also went swimming for about a half hour each day. It is not the same as dancing, but it is definitely a good way to keep active and it is very easy on the joints and back.

It was very peaceful so I was able to read a lot which I find great for the mind.

After Nicaragua, we went to Caracas, Venezuela for 4 days. We went there to visit family and to celebrate my parents’ anniversary. This was a trip to visit family and old friends, so I didn’t do any physical activity at all. But I am ok with that. I feel like you have to appreciate family and those great moments of being able to be all together. To me, that brings great joy and keeps me motivated for the future.

Upon returning to the States, I started taking Ballet class again to get ready to go to New Orleans for 2 weeks. I had the pleasure of working with two of my friends and fellow dancers Rodney Hamilton and Nicholas Villeneuve for NOBA (New Orleans Ballet Association). We spent the 2 weeks teaching, creating works for the students and rehearsing for the final performance of the summer intensive. It was a great experience working with such an amazing staff and great students!

And the last 2 weeks of the time off I had, I spent on getting all my requirements for the beginner’s mat certification at Power Pilates. I am in the process of getting certified to become a Pilates instructor. I am also studying French and I am loving learning new things.

Even though I had a great summer, I am very excited to start my third season with Ballet Hispanico.

-Vanessa Valecillos


Company Dancer Lauren Alzamora: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I had a very enjoyable summer and even managed to escape part of the East Coast heat wave by traveling to Colorado to perform as a guest dancer in the Aspen Music Festival. While in Aspen, my boyfriend and I took a beautiful 4-hour long hike, through fields of wildflowers, to Grizzly Lake, a small glacial lake at about 12,500 feet of elevation, near the continental divide. Luckily we didn’t run into any bears, though there had been recent sightings in the area.

Although my retreat to the mountains was wonderful, the highlight of my summer happened in Manhattan. In addition to my full schedule with Ballet Hispanico, I teach pilates, both privately and at a studio in Chelsea called Kinected Center. Each year Kinected hosts an anatomy intensive in conjunction with distinguished faculty at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine called FAMI Workshop (Functional Anatomy for Movement and Injuries). I helped organize the workshop for about 90 participants this year and also got to attend. We spent four full days listening to lectures and navigating the Gross Anatomy Lab, where I got to hold a human heart, touch the spinal cord, and see what a hip replacement looks like (among many other things). The unique design of the human body is so incredible – it was a life-changing experience to have the opportunity to “look inside.” The experience has made me further appreciate what we, as dancers, accomplish with our bodies, often defying what nature intended for us. It is a reminder to take care of the body I have, and also to assist my fellow dancers in doing the same!

-Lauren Alzamora

My boyfriend and I at the top of the hike: Grizzly Lake in Aspen, CO

Company Dancer Donald Borror: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Since we ended the season in June, doing some amazing work with George Cespedes, it has been quite the eventful summer! The main event would certainly be teaching at the BH Summer Intensive here in New York for all of July. I taught men’s ballet technique, elementary modern, and three levels of improvisation… and though challenges came from different places then I expected to find them, I loved learning from my students and in turn helping them grow. Check out my blog post HERE to read about some remarkable work done by my advanced improv class.

In the evenings while I was teaching, I had the amazing opportunity to work at the Metropolitan Opera House, presenting flowers to principal dancers from ABT and the Mariinsky company onstage during the bows following each performance. After watching them perform from the wings, I congratulated these unbelievable artists in front of over 4,000 people every night for 3 weeks (and practically wore out my tuxedo ☺). I also stayed in shape by taking different open ballet classes, and doing a mix of Pilates and Gyrotonic instructed by fellow BH dancer Lauren Alzamora. In the midst of this, I managed to find some much needed breaks from the frenetic energy of New York and traveled with family to Cape Cod and the Caymen Islands, which was a real treat to have time with both my family and in such beautiful places.

Now, I am so excited to be back and busy in the studio… there’s nothing like being reenergized after a break to really help kick into high gear!

-Donald Borror

Follow me on Twitter! @donborror

Me holding a new turtle friend at the Cayman Island Turtle Farm

Company Dancer Christian Elán Ortiz: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

This past summer was truly one I will never forget. After a wonderful first season with Ballet Hispanico, my body and mind were ready for some rest and relaxation. Early in the summer I traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to visit my family, and the beauty of the island was breathtaking.  I felt fortunate to experience the pristine beaches, majestic mountains, and lush forests of Oahu.  Of course, sharing it with my loved ones was all the better.

After two weeks in paradise I returned home to New York City feeling reinvigorated (and tan)! Summer in the city is a wonderful time, and I enjoyed various concerts and artistic events.  I saw DJ Kingdom at Rockaway Beach, attended several outdoor dance performances, and waited in line 5 hours to see the stunning Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met. What is also great about summer in the city is the myriad of dance classes offered, and I took ballet class with several wonderful teachers.  In the end, I was ready and eager to begin my second season with BH!

-Christian Elán Ortiz

Christian rocking the paddleboard in Hawaii this summer!

Welcoming our new Company dancers for the 2011-12 season!

The Ballet Hispanico Company dancers have been back in our studios this week from their summer break, looking all rested and refreshed, and eager to start their rigorous rehearsals.  Our building truly hums with a different kind of energy when they’re around!

This year we are thrilled to have four new lovely faces joining us: Jamal Rashann Callender, Andrea Salamanca, Kimberly Van Woesik, and Joshua Peter Winzeler.  Read on for their bios and (gorgeous) pictures.  We are equally thrilled to have the following returning dancers with us: Lauren Alzamora, Donald Borror, Rodney Hamilton, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Min-Tzu Li, Christian Elán Ortiz, Vanessa Valecillos, and Jessica Alejandra Wyatt.  Stay tuned next week for journal entries from each of them on what they did during their summer vacation!

Jamal Rashann Callender

Jamal Rashann Callender began dancing at Ballet Tech in New York City. He attended the Professional Performing Arts School/The Ailey School under the late Denise Jefferson, while dancing at The Restoration Dance Theatre and the Harlem School of the Arts. Jamal also attended Perry-Mansfield and Springboard Danse Montreal. He graduated from The Juilliard School under Lawrence Rhodes, and has worked with The Atlanta Ballet, Peridance Ensemble, Buglisi Dance Theater, Formal Structure Inc., and Hubbard Street 2. This is his first season with Ballet Hispanico.

Andrea Salamanca

Andrea Salamanca graduated from The School of Incolballet in Cali, Colombia. Andrea joined the professional company of Incolballet in 2005, under the direction of Gloria Castro Martínez. Performed works by choreographers such as Jorge Amarnte Tangos, Yanis Pikieris Mirages, Rayneth Meredith, Gonzalo Galguera, Patrick D Bana, and Edward Lock. In 2008 she participated in Incolballet’s tour in Spain and in Cali’s II International Ballet Festival. This is her first season with Ballet Hispanico.

Kimbery Van Woesik

Kimberly Van Woesik graduated from Southern Methodist University. She has trained at Chamberlain School of Performing Arts, American Ballet Theater, Miami City Ballet, the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. Performed works by Ben Stevenson, Twyla Tharp, Arthur Mitchell, Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, Alison Chase, Jessica Lang, Adam Hougland, Gerald Arpino, and George Balanchine. This is her first season with Ballet Hispanico.

Joshua Peter Winzeler

Joshua Peter Winzeler was born in Miami, Florida. He began his ballet training with The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet and the Miami Conservatory. He furthered his training with the School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. Joshua graduated from New World School of the Arts receiving his B.F.A. in 2011. Joshua has performed works from Martha Graham, Darshan Bhuller, Robert Battle and Michael Uthoff, to name a few. This is his first season with Ballet Hispanico.