Grasping the physical light

Academy of Performing Arts to perform 'Reverie' at the TCA

By Dena Miller
Posted 12/7/18

Northern New Mexico has always been known for its light, inspiring artists across the many genres to migrate here and experience for themselves that for which the region is famous.This …

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Grasping the physical light

Academy of Performing Arts to perform 'Reverie' at the TCA


Northern New Mexico has always been known for its light, inspiring artists across the many genres to migrate here and experience for themselves that for which the region is famous.

This weekend, another kind of light will star alongside the extraordinary talents of the Academy of Performing Arts, home of Taos Youth Ballet, when it premieres the original production "Reverie" at the Taos Community Auditorium. Hailed as "a rich and dreamlike ode to masters of light and sound, (composer) Claude Debussy and (dancer) Loie Fuller," it is certain to draw audiences into a wonderland of sensory delights.

The production opens Friday (Dec. 7) at 6:30 p.m. Performances are also scheduled for Saturday (Dec. 8) at 2:30 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. Admission to each is $10, $8 for seniors and children 12 and under. Children 2 and under are free.

Prior to the premier of "Reverie" audiences will enjoy a first act featuring several family-friendly contemporary, tap, hip-hop and ballet performances by the students. The second act will spotlight what is the Youth Company's first full-length contemporary ballet.

"Reverie" is set to the music of Debussy who, along with Fuller, ignited European stages in the early 1900s. His music is universally recognized as a revolutionary emancipation, using the piano as he did to capture in sound the visuals of shimmering sunlight on a pond or the moon's luster against a velvet midnight sky.

Debussy's music was a perfect marriage with Fuller's unique dance movements and improvisational techniques which remain an influence in modern dance even today. Fuller illuminated her voluminous, ethereal costumes using a variety of lighting methods, the effect of which had never before been seen.

Together, these two artists created some of the most captivating theatrical events of their time. Indeed, Fuller became the de facto icon of the art nouveau epoch. You may not recognize her name, but you most certainly have seen her likeness depicted dozens of times by the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Amber Vasquez, founder of Taos Youth Ballet and choreographer of "Reverie," noted that the production will also experiment with flowing skirts and fabrics that reflect light and projections, thanks to the creativity of the school's lighting designer, Casandra Romero.

"Restaging (sic) the work of Loie Fuller is tricky because there is no known video footage of her performing," Vasquez explained. "There is, however, some footage of unknown imitators of the day as well as an understanding of her early modern dance vocabulary. She kept precise lighting notes as well as having several copyrights for her lighting and projection techniques. With some research, this allowed me to piece together, to the best of my ability, my interpretation of a Loie Fuller work."

There is yet another light that will brighten the weekend: All proceeds from the performances will benefit Community Against Violence.

"I have been working with the teen company members on a separate project about social issues directly related to their lives, and the idea to raise money for our community was brought up," Vasquez said.

"Part of our dance schooling involves the use of writing exercises, so we can hear and understand what kids see as their issues," she continued, "and we can work on getting those issues out in the open in a safe and comfortable way without labels, and just freeing them to dance and create art."

Those exercises also led to a deepening awareness among the students of the need to give back to the community. "I gave them a list of possible options for organizations who we could donate to, and it was a unanimous decision to donate the proceeds from the show to CAV." During the recent CAV radiothon at KTAO, Vasquez appeared on the air to announce the pledge and explain its conception.

The benefit performance is also a "coming out" party for the newly drafted Academy of Performing Arts program. The school recently reestablished its business model from a typical dance studio to a collaborative one. This new structure provides each teacher with the opportunity to share in the directorship, duties and training while building their own individual program.

Romero, who is also a collaborative member and teacher, stated, "This reorganization has created an opportunity for every member to have influence on the direction of student training as well as the business as a whole."

Teacher Allison Prival also noted that the school is "a place for learning and nurturing hearts. I feel this environment epitomizes the collaborative in its constant effort to keep the 'love to learn,' as well as technical training, up and running."

"Reverie" is a reminder that light encircles us in many forms. It can be a moment in nature, when a sunset glows so strikingly it named the mountains surrounding Taos. It can be a moment of artistic ingenuity that illuminates a stage and the dancers upon it. Or, it can be the light of giving and the holiday spirit. Enjoy the performance and be blessed with the notion that you are surrounded by them all.

The Taos Community Auditorium is located at 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. You may purchase tickets at the door, but since these performances tend to sell out, it's advisable to reserve in advance by calling the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052. Also, visit


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