Ballet East Dance Company: Reclaiming the modern in a pomo world

Rodolfo Mendez wants us to remember that before there was postmodern, modern dance ruled

Chika Aluka
Chika Aluka

It may seem odd to imagine something "modern" being forgotten, but that looks to be what's happening in dance, according to Rodolfo Mendez. The artistic director of Ballet East Dance Company says he sees a generation of dancers growing up with little or no knowledge of modern dance, as it was developed in the early and mid-20th century by the likes of Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Lester Horton, and José Limón. Their specific styles and ways of working have been somewhat displaced in the four decades since postmodern dance's experimentations began to take hold. For dancers growing up in a pomo world, that's the prevailing standard.

So Mendez, who trained with such prominent figures in modern dance as Alvin Ailey, Milton Myers, and Joyce Trisler, has made it part of his 30-year mission with Ballet East to ensure that young dancers know the differences between movement that's modern and pomo. And in getting his charges to "get" modern, he occasionally calls in his old friend Regina Larkin, another student of Trisler's who went on to become artistic director of the Joyce Trisler Danscompany. Larkin has been back in Austin this fall to help prepare Ballet East's current production, The Sameness of Change. With dances by area choreographers Melissa Villarreal, Danny Herman, Sharon Marroquin, Gina Patterson, Amberlee Cantrell, Elizabeth Palmer, and Ananda Moss, as well as Larkin, the show is one Mendez hopes will serve as "a reminder and restoration of modern dance's traditional feel, look, and flavor."


Ballet East presents The Sameness of Change Nov. 29-Dec. 2; Thursday-Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm; at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Rd. For more information, call 385-2838 or visit www.balleteast.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Rodolfo Mendez, Ballet East Dance Company, modern dance, The Sameness of Change, Regina Larkin

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