Joyce 2014: For Vanessa, With Love from BH!

Danzon 4 (c) Christopher Duggan - Copy

Vanessa Valecillos and Jamal Rashann Callender in DANZON. (c) Christopher Duggan

In addition to an exciting line-up that includes one World Premiere and live music, our upcoming New York Season at the Joyce Theater is especially noteworthy as we pay tribute to our beloved company dancer Vanessa Valecillos, who will be retiring later this year. Vanessa has played a huge role with the company since Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro came on board at Ballet Hispanico, but her journey with Eduardo started long ago in Chicago when the two first met. Eduardo himself offered this thoughtful reflection on this very special dancer:

I met Vanessa Valecillos in 1997 on a Fourth of July weekend by the waters of Lake Michigan. We were meant to meet. We began to work together as I found that her amazing technique and dramatic instincts were rare to me. No other dancer I had worked with previously could drum up the very soul of Latin passion while subtly fusing it with classical line and modern sensibilities. We made duets together, we danced together, she discovered my choreographic idiosyncrasies and molded them for me to catalog in my mind. In essence, she became my muse. Yet there was more to her than just artistic inspiration, with an uncanny ability to bring others into the folds of a vision–she began to collect people for our work. Audience members, supporters, friends and donors all gave in to her magic. Seventeen years later, we continue the work.

This Joyce season we will pay tribute to my first muse with a devoted performance that demonstrates her talent and abilities to inspire. Please join us on Sunday, April 27th, as we honor Vanessa’s lifetime work as an artist. An unforgettable evening for such a remarkable woman.

– Eduardo Vilaro, Artistic Director

“No other dancer I had worked with previously could drum up the very soul of Latin passion…”

Program D of the Joyce Season, which takes the stage on April 27th at 2 pm, has been specially programmed to celebrate Vanessa’s departure and features Edwaard Liang’s moving duet, A Verme. Vanessa and fellow dancer Jamal Rashann Callender debuted this work at the Fire Island Dance Festival in 2012 and are looking forward to performing the work again in light of this special, personal moment for the pair. Vanessa and Jamal gave their thoughts on A Verme here:

A VERME at the 2012 Fire Island Dance Festival. (c) Rosalie O’Connor

A Verme is a rare and special treat for me because I have the opportunity to perform with Vanessa. As it will be performed in program D of the Joyce season, I am delighted to have our moment together on stage. It’s a perfect piece to perform because like our friendship and partnership, our connection will never go away. The duets speaks exactly to that matter. Two beings who always find one another in different life times. Though she is moving on, we will always find each other and dance together. This is for you Vanessa. Thank you for everything you have taught me. It has been an honor and extreme privilege.

-Love, Jamal

A Verme. I am very grateful to perform this beautiful work by Edwaard Liang. The music and movement speak for itself. For me, it is about souls- those souls that I have touched and the ones that have touched me, wherever they may be. I am very excited to perform it with a very special person from the last 3 years of my career, Jamal Callender.

The work reminds me of a quote from one of Pablo Neruda’s poem “Pero hacia donde vaya llevare tu mirada, y hacia donde camines llevaras mi dolor.”

-Vanessa Valecillos

Thank you, Vanessa, for all that you have done for Ballet Hispanico! We have loved watching every moment of you lighting up the stage. Mil gracias!

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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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