‘Urban Ballet’ comes to Clovis

Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

Though it’s a New York City dance troupe, the visitors to Clovis Community College have a flavor that is decidedly New Mexican in nature.

Urban Ballet is set for a 7 p.m. performance tonight at Marshall Auditorium as part of Clovis Community College’s Cultural Arts series. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for military/senior citizens/children.

The troupe is in Clovis for the first time.

“We always try and bring in very diverse performances,” CCC Director of Resource Development Stephanie Spencer said. “We try to present at least one dance program and this was a group that Christy Mendoza saw … and negotiated (on) bringing them to Clovis.”

Mendoza, the school’s cultural arts director, said she saw the Urban Ballet perform in New York and worked with a pool of New Mexico-based entertainment organizations to set up a series of dates for the troupe to perform in New Mexico.

“This show is infused with ballet and dances that are inspired by New Mexico,” Mendoza said. “The choreographer was raised in (New Mexico) and you can see the influence of New Mexico in his work.”

Daniel Catanach, the show’s choreographer and artistic director, said he grew up as the middle child of nine in Santa Fe and he’s been happy to deliver the show of New Mexico tales to his home state.

Previous cities on the tour include Santa Fe, Magdalena, Taos and Albuquerque.

“It’s been amazing,” Catanach said. “We’ve reached about 8,000 people. We’ve gone to places that I’ve never dreamed of. To be able to share the stories about New Mexico with New Mexico, it’s really been quite an event.”

One of the stories, “Of Dust and Bone,” is inspired by the work of New Mexico chicano poet Levi Romero, while “La Llorona” is a classic tale that Mendoza said every child of Mexican descent knows.

La Lloronoa, Mendoza said, is a spook story told by parents to get their children to behave. Catanach said the tale has some small variations because different families tell slightly different versions, and he is trying to tell a story to which the old and young can both relate.

“We kind of mix the genres and have a really good time on stage, presenting information that keeps the audience awake and having fun with ballet,” Catanach said. “We’re bringing in voices that have never been heard in classical ballet, like inner city youth.”

In the case of the Urban Ballet, Catanach felt that a genre normally dominated by European stories is now getting influences from across the world. But he doesn’t think those other influences make Urban Ballet less true to its roots than traditional ballet.

Catanach said if such doubts existed early on, they were dismissed years ago when Urban Ballet dancers also excelled in both the American Ballet Theater and the New York City Ballet.

“I doubt anybody in New York would ever question the technique that I teach or the technique that our dancers have,” Catanach said. “At this point, we’re not only showing what is real ballet, (but) we’re creating what is real ballet.”