Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the Artistic Director and Choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble.
In August, I interviewed Tom Mossbrucker, Artistic Director of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. I was excited to speak with him because ASFB is unlike most ballet companies: while they function under the tradition norms of hosting technique classes, employing highly trained classical ballet dancers, and performing all over the world, they are not your typical ballet company. The pointe shoes are gone, the tutus are gathering dust, and they are more concerned with presenting work that is fresh, not recycled.
They are what Mossbrucker likes to call a hybrid organization: a ballet company that also presents other dance companies in their communities. And communities is meant to be plural, because just like their name indicates, they have two homes, one in Aspen and one in Santa Fe.
With offices and a ballet school in both locations, Mossbrucker spends most of his time on the road. His next stop: Dallas. ASFB will perform three works (all of which are having their Dallas premieres) on September 10 at the Winspear Opera House. Which is exciting for both the city and the audience, and inspiring to emerging choreographers.
Danielle Georgiou: How did the company come about?
Tom Mossbrucker: It was really organic, because we didn’t have any preconceived notions. We just give the dancers good work to dance, we treat them with respect…We took all the good experiences that we had and tried to utilize them…and all the bad experiences we had, we tried to avoid those.
DG: As a young choreographer, I think your mission to promote new and emerging choreographers is a wonderful idea. It’s difficult for a choreographer to find a place to present their work…
TM: Yes. That’s what we want to do, as well as building relationships with choreographers. For instance, one of the pieces that we are bringing to Dallas is by Jorma Elo [“Overglow”], who has worked with us before. In fact, this is his fourth piece for the company. We’ve created a nice relationship with him, so whenever he comes back, he goes deeper and deeper into the work, and he knows the dancers very well, so he really highlights their strengths.
[They are also bringing a piece by Nicolo Fonte (“Where We Left Off”) that is very ballet based and one by Jiri Kylian (“Stamping Ground”).]
DG: I saw that the company offers a Folkorico program. Was that an idea from the beginning—that you wanted to have this youth-orientated programming—or did it come later?
TM: It happened pretty early on. Dance companies are always looking for a way to reach out and involve the community. In our community, there’s a large Latino population, a lot of immigrants from Mexico who brought their children…and one of the things that they had to give up when they came to the States was giving up their traditional folk dance. A lot of the parents took it in school in Mexico, but when they came here, that option wasn’t available. So we started offering this program.
It began small, with just a two-week workshop. But there was such a huge response, that we developed it and developed it, and now it’s huge! We do it in Aspen and in Santa Fe. What’s great about it is that the kids get to learn about their own culture.
DG: Here in Dallas, we also have a huge Latino community, and we have a Folkorico group, which works to preserve the folk tradition, but also teach it to a wider community. I had a really great time learning the movement in high school…I still don’t know how they manage with those huge skirts, but it was so much fun! It was great to learn about another culture in such an interactive way.
TM: Yes, when we started it, we thought it would be great too. We thought that one thing it would do, would be to bring people together, bring the children together…what we realized is that it is teaching the Mexican children about their culture. They don’t know about it because they have had to assimilate themselves to the American culture. So to see them in those beautiful costumes with headpieces and dancing the different dances from all the different regions, seeing the pride and the confidence that they gain, it’s really rewarding.
And we really try to involve the parents. We teach it in the public schools and the schools kept saying, “What can we do it get the parents involved?” And all of a sudden, with this program, they come to the PTA meetings…they do all sorts of activities for the program; it’s really amazing how the parents and the schools have embraced it.
DG: You definitely keep yourselves busy.
TM: (laughing) Yes, we do!
And lucky for us, Dallas is on their touring schedule for 2011.
(The interview was conducted on behalf of Art+Culture Magazine, September edition. The full interview can be found in print in the magazine.)