TAHOE CITY, Calif. — I’m a dancer and choreographer living in New York City, which is full to the brim with inspiring sights. Just the other day I was walking in Union Square and I stumbled upon a full orchestra of nearly 60 people playing a symphony.
But sometimes inspiration can be hard to spot. I see my city everyday, so sometimes I forget that I should be impressed. Plus, it’s really loud, hot and dirty here in New York during the summer. It’s hard to hear yourself think.
To me, Tahoe is a creative oasis. Being close to nature and surrounded by eager artists motivates me. I am so lucky Christin Hanna has brought me here to work with her dancers at Tahoe Youth Ballet.
I like to make dances. Where does inspiration for a dance come from? That depends on many factors: who you ask, how much sleep they’ve had, or what they’ve had for breakfast.
I’ve been creating dances for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid and the commercial for California Raisins aired, I didn’t think about what a delicious snack raisins make (especially when you line them up in a river of peanut butter resting inside a stick of celery ... mmmmm). Instead, I had a vision of a great production number I could create using “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Go ahead, look it up on YouTube ... be inspired.
At age 6, my plan was to get my classmates together, show them how to do “The Egyptian” (which is obviously the most complimentary step for that music) then wow the world.
Today, my process only differs slightly. I am always on the lookout for inspiration. It my come from a song, an experience, a masterpiece in a museum, or even a commercial on TV. Exactly when inspiration will strike is less predictable.
For me, the initial idea is always the hardest part. Once I have the idea, I move my body, I watch my dancers move theirs, and the rest will usually fall into place. I was raised to believe that the harder you work and focus on a task, the greater your final product will be.
The thing about inspiration and creativity is that, if you work too hard to find it, it tends to run away like a mischievous child. Sometimes you have to relax your brain and allow it to walk in the front door.
I guess what I am trying to say is that there is no mathematical equation that will give you a successful piece of choreography. It is a matter of trial and error, and of tastes when it comes to the viewer.
What I did at age 6 is what I do today. The only difference is that by this point I have run my choreographic experiment many times, equating in more trials, several errors, and even a few successes along the way.
I’m not quite sure where inspiration will strike from this time around, but I do know that I have recently become obsessed with the word “hype!” So I have decided, that this is what this dance shall be called.
You may be thinking “Wow, this Valerie character sounds a little crazy!” Well, the answer to your question is “yes.” All artists are a tad kooky in the head. But I’m proud to be part of that tribe because I get to take what is in my mind and try to explain it in a tangible way.
If my dance resonates with someone, then it’s as if my mind is linked with theirs, and we will share an inseparable bond forever. Looking forward to bonding with your mind at the Tahoe Dance Festival.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
Tahoe Youth Ballet’s founding Artistic Director Christin Hanna and frequent collaborator Constantine Baecher have turned the company’s annual August performances into the inaugural Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, Aug. 14-16.
The festival has partnered with the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and will feature two main stage performances at the Gatekeeper’s Museum, and three days of free classes, meet-the-artist events, and demonstrations throughout Tahoe City.
Guest artists include Baecher, Kristina Berger of Erick Hawkins Dance Company, and Yannis Adoniou’s Kunst-Stoff from San Francisco. For information and tickets, visit www.laketahoedancefestival.com.
Valerie Salgado is a freelance dancer and choreographer in New York City and was the assistant choreographer of season one of the hit TV show “Smash.”
“The thing about inspiration and creativity is that, if you work too hard to find it, it tends to run away like a mischievous child.”