The NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance (CFD), a cultural community partnership of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission and the New Orleans Ballet Association, in collaboration with Friends of NORD, begins its annual Summer Intensive dance program today at Tulane University’s McWilliams Hall. This summer’s program is the strongest and most ambitious to date, and incorporates three distinguished artistic directors in residence over four weeks. Guest faculty includes Ballet Hispanico Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro; Ballet Hispanico dancers Vanessa Valecillos, Rodney Hamilton, and Nicholas Villeneuve; Complexions Contemporary Ballet Artistic Director and co-founder Dwight Rhoden; Complexions dancer Clifford Williams; Rebecca Stenn Company Artistic Director Rebecca Stenn; and Christina Johnson, former principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem and current Ballet Mistress and teacher for Complexions and Armitage Gone!
Additional faculty includes local artists: Gilbert Rome, Maritza Mercado Narcisse, Barbara Hayley, Aline Neves de Souza, Millette White, Courtney Ross, Cheryl O’Sullivan, as well as accompanists on piano and drums. The diversity in style and training of the guest artists in this year’s Summer Intensive represents a unique opportunity for artists, students, and audiences in the New Orleans area to celebrate the excellence and outstanding repertoire of both classic and new works.
The Summer Intensive is an extension of the CFD’s pre-professional program that allows 90 dance students ages 9-18 to train alongside local and guest artists. To qualify for the program, students must have at least two years of ballet training and are selected by audition in the spring. The tuition-free program includes daily technique classes in ballet and modern, and workshops in nutrition, other dance forms and choreography. It is designed to give advanced students the opportunities to broaden their understanding of various dance styles, to study with world renowned guest artists in an intimate, dynamic environment, and to make friends with other youth from around the region.
“It is rare that students, especially at this age, have the opportunity to study with guest artists, but even more rare that they will study with three artistic directors of major companies, an internationally renowned ballet dancer, and such esteemed faculty of local artists – all in one summer,” said NOBA Executive Director Jenny Hamilton.
Ross, who studied with the CFD for six years, just completed her freshman year in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. “As a student of the CFD I learned that with a great work ethic, dedication, and humility, I can be successful not only in dance, but in any career path I choose to take,” said Ross. “Returning to CFD as a teacher will be a great experience. I am excited to step into the studio and be the teacher and not the student. As a student of the CFD, I realized my passion and love for dance. Now here as a teacher, I hope that I will be able to spark that same light in the students.”
Vilaro and Brooklyn-based choreographer Ronald K. Brown, both of whom have been part of NOBA’s Main Stage Series multiple times, handpicked the CFD as a forum for piloting and refining the educational components of Espiritu Vivo, a new Ballet Hispanico-commissioned work by Brown that explores the intersection of the African and Latino Diasporas in the Caribbean and Latin America. During the intensive, Vilaro and two Ballet Hispanico dancers will offer technique classes, a lecture, community interaction, and a series of movement studies and workshops that explore the choreographic process and cultural context developed through the new Brown work.
Ballet Hispanico and Ronald K. Brown have worked and performed in New Orleans several times over the past few years. In November 2008, Ballet Hispanico visited New Orleans to perform on NOBA’s Main Stage and to conduct a one-week residency in New Orleans public schools. In addition, Vilaro, who was artistic director of Luna Negra Dance Theater at the time, participated in the Summer Intensives in 2005 and 2006. Ronald K. Brown’s company Evidence has appeared on NOBA’s Main Stage Series in 2002 and 2007, and conducted extensive residencies in the schools and with the CFD. “Working with the students of the New Orleans Ballet Association has always been a treat for me, and I am thrilled to be returning this summer to be a part of a program that enriches the students’ lives,” said Vilaro.
Johnson, who spent a four days working with the summer intensive last year, is returning for an extended two week residency. “I’m so thrilled to be back a second time to teach in the NOBA summer intensive. I love the eagerness and hunger of the young dancers,” said Johnson. “It’s beautiful to see the different age ranges and how they assimilate, digest and take in the information and instruction from the world class teachers and performers that NOBA has so beautifully and elegantly brought together.”
For more than a decade, the summer intensive has trained students throughout the community, and for the third consecutive year, the program has increased to four levels to support the demand. Past guest artists have included Toni and Uri Sands of TU Dance, Robert Battle, Urban Bush Women, Pascal Rioult, choreographers Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman-Davis, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Luna Negra Dance Theatre, PerksDanceMusicTheatre, and Urban Ballet Theatre. All of the current and past guest and local artists have a deeply rooted commitment to working with youth that is core to their company’s and personal mission.
On July 29, the students will have the opportunity to perform alongside the internationally renowned Ballet Hispanico in a culminating public concert featuring two works by BH dancers and the premiere of new works learned by the students. The performance on Friday, July 29, will be at 7:00 pm at NOCCA’s Freda Lupin Memorial Hall. Tickets are $10, and are available by calling NOBA at 504.522.0996.
NORDC/NOBA Center For Dance
Currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary, the NORDC/NOBA Center For Dance is a cultural community partnership between the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) and the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA). Founded in 1992 with seed money from the Freeport-McMoran Foundation, The CFD was born out of a need to make dance accessible to all school-age children. A program that began with just 30 students now has an annual gross enrollment of more than 750 children at 5 NORDC centers and three partner sites citywide. With a core curriculum of ballet, classes are open to any child in Orleans Parish with a demonstrated interest in dance. Through a professional faculty, master classes by NOBA Main Stage artists and other visiting artists, a mentor program and field trips, the CFD works with each child to cultivate dreams and strengthen futures. The NOBA programs are a recipient of the 2005 Louisiana Governor’s Arts Award, 2005 Big Easy Classical Arts Award, and 2002 Coming Up Taller Award by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.