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

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Rodolfo Mendez
Between Heaven and Hades
Far from the purgatorial stasis of the title, Ballet East's program revealed significant journeys

Jonelle Seitz, Dec. 7, 2012

'Hear Me/See Me'
'Hear Me/See Me'
Giving young immigrants a chance to tell their stories

Robert Faires, July 6, 2012

More Ballet East Dance Company
All Over Creation: First Flight
All Over Creation: First Flight
The thrill of seeing a young artist take that great leap forward creatively

Robert Faires, Dec. 9, 2011

Arts Review
IN under & Through
Deeply felt tributes to the late dancer Lucia Rodriguez shaded Ballet East's program

Jonelle Seitz, Dec. 11, 2009

More by Robert Faires
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Lessons and surprises from a career that shouldn’t have been

Sept. 24, 2021

"Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams" Tells the Story of an Artist
The first-ever museum exhibition of Daniel Johnston's work digs deep into the man, the myths

Sept. 17, 2021


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

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle