San Antonio, Mexico City, back to St. Louis!

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and different emotions. On one hand, we launched our  2010-2011 season, which promises to me an incredible one, with the likes of Houston Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, MOMIX, the Joffrey Ballet in our Nutcracker at the Fox, and furthermore STOMP and Billy Elliot the Musical, and SPRING TO DANCE® FESTIVAL 2011. On the other, we had to deal with the financial issues that are affecting many in our field due to the low attendance experienced during our current season. Excited about finding some answers for the latter, and thrilled about the response our 2010-2011 season has had so far with our season ticket holders, I am able to reminisce of 12 fantastic days spent in San Antonio, Texas, and in Mexico City.

The first experience I had lived before but I had forgotten how rejuvenating and inspiring it can be. I had been asked to adjudicate the Southwest Regional Dance America, which covered Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. In all I visited 24 companies that were to take place in this festival. After three weeks of traveling about and looking at their work, I was to put together three programs to be performed during the festival in San Antonio.

The first performance was exclusively dedicated to Emerging Choreographers, and I was amazed at things I saw. Coming out of nowhere, some really unusual ideas were being formulated that boded well for the future. Still, many of the works needed direction and were not completely up to par, but the fact they were searching for things was fascinating.

The other two performances were to showcase all 24 companies. My job was to choose the best work they had to offer and make sure the two programs flowed with excitement and quality. Though the level through the region is very high, not all works I had seen measured up, so putting together two programs that flowed was not easy. But I think I accomplished the deed. Throughout, what was most joyful was to see the spirit of the young dancers (almost 700 of them) taking classes with new teachers, sharing ideas and enjoying not only each others’ company but each others’ work. The teachers who serve this region (and all others) are the feeders of talent to the great companies we enjoy not only during Dance St. Louis’ series but throughout the country’s major companies.

No sooner did the last performance end than I was back on a plane this time, to Mexico City. This place has always fascinated me. I was surprised this time by how clean it was, the amount of construction that was going on, the crowded nature of the restaurants, and the spirit of the people. It seems to be undergoing a great renaissance, with of course an enormous amount of security visible to prevent any wrongdoings.

Having enjoyed walking throughout the city (to avoid the most horrendous traffic jams I had ever seen), I managed to accomplish much. I was there to speak to members for the Cia. Nacional de Danza about a project I hope to bring to St. Louis, a work created by me and three Mexican artists—Rafael Cauduro, Eugenio Toussaint, and Berta Hiriart—with costume designs by Judanna Lynn. The discussions were started and we can only hope they will flourish. I was then invited to see a performance of the company, an abbreviated version of The Sleeping Beauty performed outdoors using the Castillo de Chapultepec as part of the set and background. It was a cold night and I could not help but feel for the dancers. The performance is done at popular prices and certainly is an opportunity for the people to see productions of this nature. The company looked to have very good dancers although that evening’s performance left me wanting more out of them. I felt myself drawn all evening to one of the character players who danced the Master of Ceremonies, rather than to the lead dancers. His carriage and commitment were obvious and in style.

Meetings with the Embassy had to be postponed because Mrs. Obama flew into town for an official visit that lasted a couple of days. I decided to travel to Cuernavaca and meet with Rafael Cauduro, a most reknowned painter and sculptor in Mexico and also the designer of the work in question. His house is an island of beauty and is surrounded by some of his work. He is a charming man and was thrilled to know that he had been commissioned to paint a three story mural at the House of Justice a la Orozco, Rivera or Siqueiros. No sooner was I back in Mexico City that I ran to see the work. Impressive, powerful and out of the ordinary. It is marvelous to see how in Mexico visual arts are so much part of their daily life. Bellas Artes had a great exhibit of Magritte and it was crowded with young families of small means, talking and discussing the work with their children. An amazing site.

I met and spoke with a few other dance creators but the best time was spent with Tania Perez-Salas.  Our audiences in St. Louis fell in love with her work when we presented her during my second season at the helm of Dance St. Louis. She is preparing some exciting new work which I hope to get to see next September or November and find a way of bringing her back to our city.

Finally, meetings over, I gave myself the treat of spending a couple of days for myself in the company of friends. I had a marvelous time visiting other museums and parks, and simply feeling the hassle and bustle of the city. Exciting.

But reality called and on Sunday the 18th I was flying back, having left beautiful memories behind and with exciting prospects to look forward to.

And now, I focus on SPRING TO DANCE. The excitement that is Dance St. Louis, bringing you the Most Beautiful Sport in the World—the best the world has to offer in dance, and this time the best our region has to offer, in three evenings of sheer excitement, novelty, and beauty come May 27, 28 and 29 at the Touhill. If you read this and live here, join us at the Touhill this Memorial Day Weekend.

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