Inside Kiest Park Rec Center in Oak Cliff, Giovanna Prado of Mosaic Dance Project of Dallas is wearing wedge heels and instructing the 16 dancers she hand-picked for Dallas DanceFest. She is also dancing right alongside them. It’s been a few months since the dancers last performed this eight-minute number and it was for a dance festival in Indiana. The style of dance is folklorico — a Latin American dance that emphasizes folk culture with some ballet characteristics — and the eight female dancers all wear different colored skirts which they use almost as an accessory to the dance, moving the skirts with their arms.
“The skirts are heavy,” Prado says. “They’ve been practicing with weights.”
Before rehearsing the Dallas DanceFest piece, the dancers go across the floor practicing clogging. Prado yells, “Listen to the beat. Uno, dos, tres, cuatro.” Throughout the night, she switches between English and Spanish and there is zero confusion among the dancers. The dancers range in age. The youngest, Prado's daughter, is 12 years old (“The youngest dancer I’ll allow,” Prado says). Other dancers are in their mid-30s — one proudly says he’s been dancing with Prado for 15 years.
“They are skilled in different ways. Some are comfortable with folklorico and I’ll throw some modern into the mix for the others,” Prado says.
The dancers are giddy and joke around with one another and Prado. After going through the entire eight-minute routine, Prado instructs the dancers to start from the beginning. One dancer jokingly says, “I forgot the first part.” Everyone laughs and the music begins.
The Mosaic Dance Project of Dallas will perform Friday night as part of the Dallas DanceFest, an annual event that returned to Dallas last year after a hiatus. Dancers from Dallas and surrounding cities and states will showcase their talents to an audience at the Dallas City Performance Hall. Throughout Labor Day weekend, more than 150 dancers will perform a wide array of dance styles, including ballet, hip-hop, theatrical and more. Some companies have been rehearsing for months and some had to quickly perfect their routine before taking it to the stage this weekend.
Chamberlain Performing Arts
It’s a different environment for the ballet company at Chamberlain Performing Arts in Plano. Instructor Carter Alexander quietly says, “OK, ladies. Quick, quick.” The girls and women, ranging in age from 13 to mid-20s, find their places and begin to walk through the routine.
There’s no chatter among the dancers and they simply nod to acknowledge Alexander and his directions.
As the ballet company prepares to perform for a crowd in Dallas City Performance Hall, every detail is looked at. Alexander pays attention to every motion, down to a small flicking of the wrist.
A few minutes into rehearsal, Alexander tells the girls to gather around him.
“What are you trying to tell us with the movements,” he asks the girls. “Everything has to be big or else it won’t make it past the end of the stage.”
The ballerinas have to adapt to the smaller room in which they practice. While two of the girls leap toward the front for their solos, a line of other ballerinas moves backward to accommodate.
If these girls are anything, they are poised, talented and disciplined. They seem to know they've made a mistake before Alexander even has a chance to point it out to them. When Alexander is focusing on one girl and a certain move, the other girls stand near the wall. They don’t sit. They don’t chat. Some take a sip of water and rehearse by themselves. Once Alexander announces that night’s rehearsal is finished, the young women clap and then individually curtsy to Alexander and thank him.
The Chamberlain Performing Arts will perform Saturday night.
LaQuet Sharnell Pringle
Inside 101 Howell St., LaQuet Sharnell Pringle instructs five other dancers from the local Bruce Wood Dance Project. It’s the Monday before the big performance at Dallas City Performance Hall and it’s only their second full-company rehearsal. Pringle has to rely heavily on the dancers, who she calls “dope and smart,” so they can successfully carry out the six-minute piece.
Pringles hesitates to attach a specific genre to the piece, but finally lands on theatrical as maybe opposed to modern or contemporary or jazz.
“Instead of speaking with words throughout the entire thing, we’re speaking with our body halfway through,” she says.
While watching the piece, it’s apparent one of the couples represents turmoil, with the female dancer kicking when her partner lifts her and another couple seems to display love and affection, stopping occasionally to slow dance and hold each other.
The piece begins with Pringle speaking to the audience, then she dances alongside the five other dancers and closes with another monologue.
While rehearsing the piece, one dancer mistakenly begins a movement an 8-count too soon. There are a few giggles, but the dancers continue.
After they are finished, Pringle says to the dancer while laughing, “I kind of love that you messed up. I kind of love it.”
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Pringle has an easygoing attitude throughout the rehearsal. Graduating from Booker T. Washington High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, she went on to have a successful Broadway career — she danced every animal role in the Broadway version of The Lion King. Then she moved to Austin and taught dance for two years. However, she says Dallas is a Mecca for dance and the arts.
“(Teaching) gave me a sense of patience that I wasn’t allowing myself, both as an artist and as a teacher,” Pringle says. “It’s slow and steady wins the race.”
Pringle and her dancers will perform Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
For tickets to Dallas DanceFest, visit ticketdfw.com.