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Audiences heard the dance and saw the music

Katherine Liljestrand was Princess Aurora and Michael Dennis Dunsmore was Prince Dsir in Ballet Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty.” (Courtesy of jeff geise)
Katherine Liljestrand was Princess Aurora and Michael Dennis Dunsmore was Prince Dsir in Ballet Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty.” (Courtesy of jeff geise)
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The dance scene in Albuquerque and Santa Fe continued to grow in breadth of styles this past year, expanding international input with artists and companies from Africa, Japan, Mexico, Croatia and Spain, even exploring movement that soared through the air on ropes and trapezes. Mixed-media collaborations between live dance, film and sculpture stretched the imagination and creativity of artists and audiences.

Local ballet companies reached new high levels of performance, enriched by imported artists from time to time, and inspired by exposure to some of the country’s most innovative choreographers. The University of New Mexico dance program included experiments with film, and restaged choreography from a work by Martha Graham.

The Festival Flamenco Internacional returned with an expanded program of workshops and concerts, and the local regional festival, Wild Dancing West, revealed an astounding experience of filmed dance as a revelation of dance art within our national life.

In February Debra Landau presented a concert of aerial dance in her AirDance Art Space theater titled “Fear of Falling” that linked metaphors of floating, swinging and falling with contemporary and classical concepts.

“NOVA,” the UNM dance faculty concert, opened Feb. 26 and included a marvelous silent dance film by Donna Jewel set outdoors on an Albuquerque vacant lot, spoofing early Albuquerque and Route 66. Maryanne Newhall and Eric Newton reset an excerpt from Graham’s “Dark Meadow” on gifted student dancers. Vladimir Conde Reche’s “Loss of the Absent,” based on poetry by Brazilian Clarice Lispector, expressed an intense focus on interior emotional states.

The Ballet Repertory Theatre presented “The Sleeping Beauty” in March, choreographed by Alex Ossadnik, whose innovative stagecraft skills transformed characters on stage as an act of witchcraft.

In May, Julie Brette Adams presented “One Woman Dancing” at the Santa Fe Playhouse, a bravura performance of five pieces, filling the stage by herself with expert dramatic perceptions of contemporary life. Her “Jisei No Ku” was a highlight of linear beauty using a paper sculpture as both costume and prop.

On June 16 the 14th Annual New Mexico Tap Jam appeared at the National Dance Institute’s new Hiland Theater. Founder Bill Evans returned with tap star Jason Samuels Smith and dancers from local dance studios to perform in this exciting redeveloped dance space.

The Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet summer season opened with the company performing three pieces of stunning choreography — Norbert De La Cruz’s “Square None”; “Last,” the world premiere of a commissioned piece by Hubbard Street choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo; and Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto’s whimsical “Kiss Me Goodnight.”

Julie Brett Adams presented her “One Woman Dancing” concert in Santa Fe. (Courtesy of bill heckel)

“An Evening of Film and Dance” came to Wild Dancing West on June 8 with Victoria Marks explaining her creative process of filming dance as a pertinent exploration of human experience. Her “Mothers and Daughters” worked with 10 familial pairs in England, many of whom had never performed before. Close-up filming of facial expressions melded perfectly with gesture and group movement. “Men,” by seven oldsters from Alberta, explored frailty of mortality compared with the infinite character of landscape. “Veterans” was developed within a combat rehabilitation program in Los Angeles.

The Festival Flamenco Internacional opened June 15 with its 25th year in Albuquerque with a stunning performance by Spanish choreographer/dancers Rafael and Adela Campallo. Later in the week Yjastros joined the international guest artists in the final Fiesta at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

On July 13 the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet opened its 2012 season in Santa Fe with three contemporary ballet works commissioning and performing a world premiere of “Last,” by Alejandro Cerrudo from Spain, who is now the resident choreographer for Chicago’s Hubbard Street Company. This amazing ASFB Company of dancers continues to astound with its technique and versatility.

Ballet Pro Musica 2012 returned in August with the National Ballet of Mexico and the La Catrina String Quartet. This sixth festival, produced in Albuquerque by general director Henry Holth, continues to fulfill its mission to “hear the dance and see the music” with new eyes and ears. The quality of performance could be favorably compared even to that of the New York City Ballet. Artists from both media were superb, with choreography in both classical and contemporary styles.

The fall season in September introduced a new approach to the “Journeys” initiative at the North Fourth Art Center with three solos by South African choreographer Vincent Mantsoe that formed a discourse with Albuquerque poet laureate Hakim Bellamy on how geography and culture influence the creative process. The next evening progressed similarly with Japanese choreographer Kota Yamazaki. Mind and body were equally stimulated by both.

“Dracula, a Love Story,” choreographed by Patricia Dickinson Wells for the her Festival Ballet Albuquerque, brought out two themes in this spooky presentation: cruel and bloodthirsty revenge, and the power of love to follow a soul through the centuries. It is becoming a seasonal regular like the Christmas “Nutcracker” ballets.

Four local dance companies produced their version of “The Nutcracker.” New Mexico Ballet presented the more classical version based closely on the original 19th-century ballet by Lev Ivanov. It was accompanied by the New Mexico Philharmonic.

“Nutcracker on the Rocks,” by Shira Greenberg for Keshet Dance, was an exuberant and inclusive evening of dance with a cast of 100 dancers and students of all abilities. Ballet Repertory Theatre’s “Nutcracker” was a charming and more intimate production by artistic director Katherine Giese with a new slant on the traditional story.

“The Nutcracker in the Land of Enchantment,” choreographed by Dickinson Wells for the Festival Ballet of Albuquerque, explored the classic theme in an 1890′s New Mexico setting. It opened Dec. 21 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center with the Figueroa Project accompanying.

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