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NORDC/NOBA Center For Dance Begins Star-Studded Summer Intensive

Media Contact:
Jessica Brown
Communications Manager
New Orleans Ballet Association | NOBA
504.522.0996 x204

NORDC/NOBA Center For Dance Begins Star-Studded Summer Intensive
Dance training program culminates with performance by students, local artists and Ballet Hispanico

New Orleans, LA –July 5, 2011- 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.

Guest Artist Bios

Dwight Rhoden

Dwight Rhoden has established a remarkably wide-ranging career, earning distinction from The New York Times as “one of the most sought out choreographers of the day.” A native of Dayton, Ohio who began dancing at age 17, Rhoden has performed with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Les Ballets Jazz De Montreal and as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Rhoden has created over 80 ballets for Complexions, as well as numerous other companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet, Miami City Ballet, New York City Ballet/Diamond Project, Philadanco, Minneapolis Dance Theater, and The Washington Ballet, among many others. He has directed and choreographed for TV, film, theater and live performances including So You Think You Can Dance, E! Entertainment’s “Tribute to Style” and Cirque Du Soleil. He has also worked with such high-profile artists as Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Kelly Clarkson and Patrick Swayze. Rhoden is the Resident Choreographer of North Carolina Dance Theatre and has lectured, taught, created works for and served as Artist in Residence at universities around the United States including New York University, Juilliard and The University of Mississippi, where his 2004 Racial Reconciliation Project was credited as a catalyst for dialogue in a community that has been historically divided. Rhoden is a 1998 New York Foundation for the Arts Award recipient and beneficiary of the 2001 Choo San Goh Award for Choreography. In May 2006 he received The Ailey School’s Apex Award in recognition of his extensive contributions to the field of dance.

Christina Johnson

Born in Vienna, Austria, Johnson began her dance education at age seven. She trained at the Boston School of Ballet, the School of American Ballet and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She was a member of the Boston Ballet for two years before joining the Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she rose to become a principal dancer during her 13-year tenure. She was a member of the Swiss companies, Le Ballet du Grand Theatre de Genève for five years and the Ballett Basel for two years. Johnson has been a featured guest artist with various companies worldwide, including the renowned Royal Ballet of London. She is a founding member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. After her performance career, Johnson has been sought after as a teacher, coach and ballet master, and has worked with companies such as the Washington Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Göteborg Ballet, Ballett Basel, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and Armitage Gone! Dance, to name a few. Johnson held the position of Rehearsal Director for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and is currently Rehearsal Director for Karole Armitage’s company, Armitage Gone! Dance in New York. She is guest faculty at the Princeton Dance and Theater Studio and the Greenwich Ballet Academy.

Clifford Williams

Williams began his dance training at F.H. LaGuardia H.S. of Art and the Performing Arts. He attended The Ailey School and The School of American Ballet, both on scholarship. He was a first level recipient of a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts award in 1998. In1998 he attended The Juilliard School, where he danced works by many choreographers including Lar Lubovitch, Hans Van Manen, Jose Limon and Mauricio Wainrot. In 2001 he was invited to join Dance Theatre of Harlem, and in 2004 Williams joined Complexions. He has danced works by Dwight Rhoden, William Forsythe, Nicolo Fonte and Jae Man Joo. Since 2004 Williams has assisted Director Dwight Rhoden on numerous projects including ballets for North Carolina Dance Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. He has also set Mr. Rhoden’s works on schools such as The Ailey School and NYU Tisch School for the Arts. In 2008 Williams left Complexions to dance as a Principal dancer with Compania Nacional De Danza under the Direction of Nacho Duato. During that time, he danced many principal parts and was featured in creations by Mr. Duato. Williams rejoined Complexions in 2009.

Rebecca Stenn

Dancer, choreographer, teacher, writer — Stenn founded Rebecca Stenn Company in 1996. The company has since performed to critical acclaim and sold out houses in over 50 cities in the US and internationally. As a principal dancer with Momix Dance Theater from 1989 to 1996, Stenn performed in over 30 countries and throughout the U.S. and appeared as a featured performer in films for Italian, Spanish and French television. Stenn is a founding member of Pilobolus Too, with whom she toured throughout the world from 1996 to 2002. She is a teaching artist for The Joyce Theater and The Lincoln Center Open Stages Program, and is on faculty at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts as Choreographer in Residence. She earned her BFA in dance from the Juilliard School and her MFA in dance from The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Stenn is the proud mother of two children, Jonah and Elie Weissman.

Eduardo Vilaro

Eduardo Vilaro joined Ballet Hispanico as Artistic Director in August 2009, following a ten-year record of achievement as Founder and Artistic Director of Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago. Building on Tina Ramirez' founding vision for Ballet Hispanico, he brings with him a commitment to dance, to education, and to fostering a deeper understanding of the rich diversity within Latino cultures. Vilaro is an accomplished choreographer, having created over 20 ballets for Luna Negra and others. As a former principal dancer with Ballet Hispanico, he has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Central and South America. He has taught master classes and worked with Ms. Ramirez to create and conduct arts education and outreach programs for New York City children; he subsequently created a broad range of educational programming for the Chicago community. Vilaro moved to New York City at the age of six from his native Cuba, and began his dance training as a teenager on scholarship at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. He also studied at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. He received a BFA in Dance from Adelphi University and an MA in Interdisciplinary Art from Columbia College Chicago, where he served as Artist-in-Residence at The Dance Center. Vilaro served on the Board of Directors for Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance. He was selected as Chicagoan of the Year in 2007 and Alumni of the Year by Columbia College in 2008.

Vanessa Valecillos

Vanessa Valecillos joined Ballet Nacional de Caracas under director Vicente Nebrada in 1989. After earning a BFA from the North Carolina School of the Arts, she performed with Southern Ballet Theater, Chicago Lyric Opera and Luna Negra Dance Theater, where she was a founding member. This is her second season with Ballet Hispanico.

Rodney Hamilton

Rodney Hamilton, a native of St. Louis, started his dance training at the age of 10 with Carr Lane, COCA, Alexandra School of Ballet and Katherine Dunham. In 1996, at the age of 14, Mr. Hamilton joined the adult dance chorus at The Muny of St. Louis. He graduated from The Juilliard School and is now in his ninth season with Ballet Hispanico.

Nicholas Villeneuve

Nicholas Villeneuve, a native Canadian, was raised in Kingston, Jamaica. An alumnus of The Juilliard and The Alvin Ailey Schools, his credits include The Lion King, Cortez Contemporary Ballet, and The Company Dance Theatre, Jamaica. He has performed works by José Limón and Hans van Manen, is on faculty at Perry-Mansfield, and guest teaches at The Juilliard School and at Ballet Hispanico. This is his sixth season with Ballet Hispanico.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which believes that a great nation deserves great art; a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans (ACNO); a Community Arts Grant made possible through the City of New Orleans as administered by ACNO; a grant from the Louisiana State Arts Council through the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the NEA. Complexions is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Division of the Arts. The Ballet Hispanico residency is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Division of the Arts.