Lula Washington Dance Theater working with local dance students |

Lula Washington Dance Theater working with local dance students

Courtesy photoSamantha Maciel is a 17-year old senior at Truckee High School.

TRUCKEE, Calif. – For anyone who may have missed the first five professional dance companies to perform locally, make sure you do not miss the sixth! What makes these presentations so special is that in addition to every dance company providing critically acclaimed performances; every one of them also provided week-long residencies to work with local dance students.

The list of talent from all over the world performing here in the mountains is impressive and includes those normally found on stage at the Kennedy Center or the Palace of Fine Arts.

To recap this world class talent: Project Bandaloop performed on the side of the Resort at Squaw Creek (yes that would be on the side), followed by Kunst-Stoff from Greece, Yaelisa Caminos Flamicos from Spain, BARE Contemporary Dance Company who performed their version of West Side Story and Na Lei Hulu from Hawaii who performed traditional and contemporary Hawaiian dance at Regional Park in Truckee. Each performer has been awe-inspiring and an incredible honor to present as part of AFtS programming. This Friday’s performance by Lula Washington Dance Theater will be no exception to the AFtS rule of stellar!

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Samantha Maciel, a 17-year old senior at Truckee High School and local dance student at InnerRhythms Dance Theater. She has participated in four of the five dance residencies AFtS has brought to the region. Samantha will also participate in this week’s intense rehearsals under the direction of critically acclaimed Lula Washington Dance Theater – Yes “THE Lula” who is here as part of LWDT’s grant from James Irvine. Here is what Samantha had to say about the residencies so far:

“Project Bandaloop was really rewarding because each of us were given permission to bring ourselves to the creative part of the choreography. Amelia was very directive once she saw what we came up with, but really she allowed us to create our own pieces and that was very cool to do under the direction of a professional choreographer. Amelia also had us dancing outside and using the landscape at the Resort at Squaw Creek as our stage, so we were working on stairs, off rocks and trees and at the end on golf carts! It was great to perform outside of the box of a stage. I would have to say Bandaloop was the most creative experience.

I really loved Kunst-Stoff’s work because it was so interesting, like their choreographer Yannis, HE is interesting. The first time we had rehearsal he said “Don’t flirt with the audience – let the audience flirt with you” which seemed unusual. He was very creative but also a perfectionist and had us running in circles for long periods of time to make sure we were running in the piece exactly how he wanted us to run. The opening piece was incredible and it was fantastic to train under this very meticulous choreographer – I learned a lot.

BARE Contemporary Dance … well (she starts laughing) I just loved them! I still love them – they are not only great dancers but great people. They reminded me a lot of InnerRhythms because they are like a family and treat each other like family. Working with them was so much fun and so inspiring. I would like to be in touch with them again. Choreographer Mike Esperanza actually taught a master class to a friend of mine at the University of Washington and it was so much fun to share our experiences together. By far the most fun and inspiring of the residencies.

Na Lei Hulu – I have to say that was just so awesome. We worked with Patrick to learn everything. He was laid back in the sense that traditional hula is relaxing – but it was so much more than that. He taught us not only about the traditions of authentic Hawaiian dance but also the customs and the language for us to chant. The entire company was so wonderful and generous. The day of the performance when we met the company of 20 plus dancers they had us hug every one of them. Then each professional dancer took the time to dress each student in traditional clothing and gave us leis to wear and to keep. It was such a personal and wonderful experience.

I am so excited and nervous about this week’s residency with Lula Washington. I’ve been watching her videos online and am amazed at her work. I cannot believe I will get to work under her direction. There is a lot to be learned in four days and her style is so different from anything I have ever done. I want to meet this challenge and bring my best self to the dance floor with such an awesome choreographer. I want her to be proud of all of us.”

– Raine Howe is executive director of Arts For the Schools.

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