November 2013, Volume 17, Number 4

Cultural Spotlight


Gracefully Leaping to Center Stage

In a rapid transition from graduation into great jobs, 2013 alumni of New World School of the Arts (NWSA) at MDC are making their mark in the dance world by already working with some of the country’s most prestigious companies.

Stephanie Fuentes, who created the first student-choreographed work for NWSA’s beloved Rising Stars performance this past spring, has joined the Graham II company. The acclaimed group, based in New York City, performs the work of the legendary modern-dance pioneer Martha Graham.

Dual Roles

Working both behind the scenes and in the spotlight, NWSA alumnus Justin Pérez has been overseeing administration of the Joffrey Ballet School summer programs in New York, Los Angeles and now Texas, where he also is performing.

“After completing the BFA Program at NWSA, Joffrey offered me the position of chief administrator,” said Pérez. “With the rigorous curriculum and demanding rehearsal schedule I had as a student at NWSA, I knew I was thoroughly prepared for the job.”

Pérez also now has been asked to join Nimbus Dance Works, a contemporary dance company based in Jersey City, N.J. Directed by Samuel Pott, the company performs work by such leading international choreographers as Pedro Ruiz, Huang Yi and Randy James.

Westward Bound

Further west, NWSA graduate Alyssa Thompson has joined Salt Lake City’s Repertory Dance Theatre, which just celebrated its 48th anniversary as an anchor component of Utah’s arts community and regularly performs an eclectic repertoire of works by prominent choreographers.

“I am grateful to NWSA for teaching me the importance of learning and preserving classical modern dance,” said Thompson, who attributes her strong training to helping her advance so quickly in her professional career. 

A Dream Fulfilled

Johan Rivera, another outstanding member of the Class of 2013, has been invited to join Ballet Hispánico. Now celebrating 42 years of dance and culture, this New York City-based company is recognized as the nation’s leading Latino dance organization.

“When I was at NWSA, I dreamed of being in Ballet Hispánico, and now I’m a member of the company,” Rivera said.

Too Good for Words

In other exciting NWSA dance alumni news, Class of 2004 graduate Melissa Toogood has been nominated for a prestigious Bessie Award as Outstanding Performer in choreographer Pam Tanowitz’s work The Spectators at New York Live Arts and Rashaun Mitchell’s Interface at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Toogood, who performed with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 2007 through its final performances in 2011, has performed recently in the work of fellow NWSA dance alum Rosie Herrera and is working on projects with a number of other choreographers.

Capturing the eye of those in the know, Toogood was recently praised by dance critic Susan Reiter, who wrote in Dance Australia, “Clearly, choreographers are lining up to work with this compelling, eloquent dancer.”

— Staff Report


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