In the Rearview

Black dance company on tour, wrestling wins and losses and the war on poverty's money problem


10 years ago - 'Body Language: Ailey II dance company speaks volumes'

By Deonne Kahler, Jan. 24-30, 2008

Professional dance is an art unlike the typical staples of the "art scene" in Taos. Instead of static paintings on a wall -- bursting with life though they may be -- dance literally stirs the body, its blood and bones.

"Consider dance and the elemental magic of a strong, lithe body weaving and leaping on a spotlit stage. When dance is performed with craft and artistry, it's nothing short of breathtaking," wrote Kahler.

That's what made one Tuesday in January a decade ago such a treat for the senses. The Ailey II dance company -- a group of young and mostly black dancers in a two-year residency founded by one of "the finest and most innovative choreographers of the 20th century" -- performed at Taos County Auditorium Jan. 29, 2008.

Alvin Ailey was born during the Depression in a Texas town a little north of Austin. As a child, he moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he got involved in a modern dance company. Ailey was a pivotal figure in bringing black dance styles into the formal American repertoire. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 and then Ailey II in 1974, though it was originally called the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble.

Ailey died in 1989 of complications from AIDS although the dance companies he founded -- and the philosophy of outreach to the young and poor of the world -- have flourished beyond his life.

The 2008 performance by Ailey II in Taos showed a bit of both. As Kahler wrote, the troupe is both a "premier dance company and a training ground for emerging dancers." After their residency, many dancers with Ailey II go on to perform with the "first company" or take on careers elsewhere.

The dance company's tour that year featured Ailey classics like "Revelations," perhaps his best-known piece of choreography, as well as world premieres. The first-time works included "Fragile" by Stephane Boko, "an exploration of the body…a reflection on the expressive emotional human body," Troy Powell's "External Knot," which "represent the journey of a young man proving his independence" and Christopher L. Huggin's "When Dawn Comes…" that illustrates the "grace of a woman searching (when) tomorrow's ground is uncertain."

Beyond the two-year residency for young dancers, the Ailey institutions, based in New York City, host a variety of camps, classes and on tour workshops to make contemporary dance more available to people outside the metros of the East Coast.

25 years ago - 'Taos defies Aztec; Garcia, Suazo pin'

By Matt Stauffer, Jan. 28, 1993

The final score of the wrestling matchup between Taos and Aztec may not have been the outcome folks wanted -- finishing with Aztec at 58 and Taos at 12 -- but the coach wasn't wrong in predicting strong showings by young wrestlers before the season finale.

Carlos Garcia (140-pound class) and Randy Suazo (189), "both of whom pinned their respective opponents, accounted for all the Taos scoring," Stauffer's story read.

"We lost most [Aztec] matches on points, and most of them were close. Our kids are coming through. You just have to consider who these guys [from Aztec] are," said wrestling coach Anthony Gutierrez.

Still, the coach praised the team. "All 13 kids did a great job," said Gutierrez, auguring the kids from Taos High School would go on to take a Triple-AAA wrestling championship. "They'll repeat. They're just too strong, too well coached."

That didn't turn out to be the case. The state championship at the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque landed Taos with a "seventh-place finish among some 300 wrestlers from 27 schools." It was a tough season, as a well-coached team of seasoned wrestlers became almost like a team of newbies after one young man decided to sit the season out, another had knee surgery and still another was forced off the team in the final weeks of the season.

But the tournament is not the only measure of success.

Garcia was named as one of two Taos High School 1993 All-Around Athletes, along with Emily Compton. Garcia "finished his career with 119 wins, third-most in state history. He won 91.5 percent of his matches during the last four years, placing at state every year," read a May 27 article.

50 years ago - War on Poverty programs 'told to listen, cooperate'

Staff Report, Jan. 25, 1968

When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the country would fight a "war on poverty" in 1964, his words became a nationwide policy that pushed federal money into economically depressed places like Taos County. But local war on poverty officials were told in January 1968, four years into the program, they needed to listen and cooperate more with the community.

In 1967, the poverty programs brought $432,540 into Taos County and created 139 jobs, the article read. Some of the institutions created during the war on poverty, such as Head Start, the free preschool for young children, are still serving low-income people even today.

The request came during the 1968 annual meeting of the Taos County Community Action Program. Ed Navorott, a special advisor from the state-level office that administered the federal funds, told the action plan's board of directors the guidance came "with the understanding that these projects would reflect more involved at the local level."

Locals were told to "coordinate their programs with other agencies."

The idea behind the request was simple, especially during a time with less paperwork and regulatory oversight: make the money stretch further, or as people like to say these days, "get more bang for the buck." Instead of measuring success by basic bullet points -- money spent or people-hours invested -- "the best criteria" for efficacy, he said, is the number of people who actually benefit from a program's operation.

While the War on Poverty intentionally expanded the government's footprint into underserved parts of the country, Navorott shared a novel measure of a program's impact: whether it could keep going if federal money "were suddenly withdrawn."

Programs that couldn't survive a budget shortfall at a moment's notice "could be seriously questioned," he said.

Regardless of his measure of success, few federal programs have hope beyond their immediate funding.

Though it wasn't the first time, some federal agencies in Taos got a taste this week of what its like to have their budgets left unattended by Washington, D.C. The federal government shut down Saturday (Jan. 20) at midnight because federal lawmakers hadn't reached a deal on a funding bill to keep the government operational. A short-term deal reached Monday (Jan. 22) by Congress meant offices could reopen again Tuesday, but they could face closure again Feb. 8 if lawmakers can't reach a longer-term funding fix.