On our second day in Cancún, we took two master classes at the Talulah Centro Integral de Danza. The first was with a jazz teacher from Spain, who taught us a sassy, upbeat combination. Despite the fact that the studio had no air conditioning and the heat in the room was oppressive, it was incredibly fun, and I loved having the opportunity to share the space with pre-professional students from other countries. Although the teacher conducted the class in Spanish, we were able to understand what she was saying through the movements of her body; we all spoke the language of dance. That afternoon, we took a ballet class with Cynthia Harvey, a former prima ballerina who danced with American Ballet Theatre. Although the class was much more familiar stylistically, it was still a wonderful learning experience.
The International Dance Encounter sponsored performances at two different regional theaters that weekend. We had spent the three weeks prior to the trip preparing two pieces to perform in the shows. One of these was a neoclassical work choreographed by our director, and the other was a contemporary work choreographed by another dance professor. The timespan to create these pieces and clean them (a dance term used to indicate how we work toward precision of steps, timing, and artistic intent) was relatively short, and our rehearsal schedule was quite intense during this period.
Once in Cancún, however, it was time to focus on performing! On Friday night, we performed in Playa del Carmen, a city about an hour from Cancún. The OU dancers had a private dressing room, and we spent the afternoon hanging out together before the performance. This setup was rather deluxe compared to the following night, when we were crammed together with the other performers in more narrow quarters. However, despite the limited space to get settled and warm up, it was nice to be able to interact with the other dancers and support one another before going onstage. There was a wonderful sense of community between all of us, and in the spirit of sharing our art with one another.
Saturday night’s performance was held at the theatre in Cancún, and in addition to the smaller dressing rooms, both the backstage area and the stage itself presented new challenges for us to navigate. One of the difficult aspects of touring dance is that you never quite know what the circumstances of the performance space will be. The stage at this theatre was raked, meaning that from the middle of the stage to the base there was a gradual declining slant. This changes where you need to place your center of balance, and in just one technical rehearsal we had to make this adjustment. There were also stairs that had to be taken to get from one side of the backstage area to the other, and having to fly up and down these two flights tested our ability to make the quick crossover at the end of our first piece. We were able to confront every challenge with grace, however, and focus on the magic of performing. And in this case, the magic of performing for an audience in a new and wonderful place.