Aileen Idalia Villalba and Dr. Jennie Creer-King, BYU Theater Ballet Co-artistic director
and dance faculty
In October 2002, the leader of the Latin Section from BYU Living Legends asked me to choreograph a new Paraguayan dance for their upcoming season. After accepting the request I met personally with Living Legends’ former director Janelle Christensen to introduce myself and to find out what expectations she had of me and of the dance.
Paraguay has always been known for its beauty in music, graceful movements in dance, colorful, lifegiving costumes, and men and women that dance with the soul. Much of the beauty in Paraguayan music is attributed to the different rhythms mixed with sounds from the forest. This mix of rhythms and sounds are immortalized by the Paraguayan harp, guitar, and flute. It is in these sounds that all the magic of the dance is found. Good music produces a magical dance. Further, Paraguayan dance is recognized by its amazing music and the graceful movements of its women. Its style is based on dances originating in the rural parts of Paraguay. Also part of the style, is the use and movements of the arms coordinated with the use of long skirts, graceful head and shoulders movements. Sometimes depending on the dance, arms and fingers movements could be used to imitate the movements of flying birds.
The idea of this project was based on my desires to create a dance that would fuse the style of the traditional Paraguayan dance with classical ballet. I also hoped that it would bring on stage the grace and beauty of Paraguayan dance movements and the delicacy and posture of classical ballet. After much researching I found the perfect music that would suit exactly the necessities of the dance: fast, enthusiastic music, harp and guitar sounds accompanied with beautiful natural sounds, and a mix of different rhythms that will make the audience feel like they want to join the dancers. The name of the music is “Carreta Guy” which means old carloads. It represents the life of men and women who work in the farms and fields during harvest time. The music honors them for their hard work and what they do. With the music selected the project started to take shape.
As any inexperienced choreographer this was a great challenge, especially since it was for such a prestigious dance company as Living Legends. This dance will be performed in national and international tours, and it will stay in its repertoire for many years, so the quality of the dance was very important and essential. I had to think and create a dance that would catch the audience’s attention and emotions to the point that they could feel the culture or imagine so close that they felt as if they were actually in the country. It also had to be a dance that would fuel the fire inside the souls of the dancer’s and make them live the dance they were performing.
Movements had to be fast and defined, but also delicate and graceful, with coordinated steps and turns. Of course, all movements should be performed according to the music’s rhythms, sounds and speed. As any creation, each beginning is always difficult. Some of the problems I found my self having were the lack of inspiration and creativity since I had to mix two different styles but still maintain the tradition of one. I spent more time trying to find the right steps and movements that would suit best the sounds and rhythms. Also, the time factor was a problem due to the many different schedules that had to be coordinated. Further, sometimes the dancers would not show up for rehearsals or would not cooperate, which made the project to proceed slower. Nevertheless, we all worked together on this project and the dancers found time even during the holidays to complete the project thus, making a significant contribution to this work. Personally, I learned how to teach choreography and become creative.
When teaching choreography it is very important to know that trying and trying, doing and undoing choreography is part of the job. When I thought of new movements I wanted, before adding them to the dance, we had to test them many times until the steps looked good on the dancers and matched the rest of the dance. Once that part of the choreography was clear, I could move on to the next part. When a dance is done it is hard to believe that something simple and beautiful could take so much effort, hard work, and long nights of dreaming and thinking. Nevertheless, after the hard work and sacrifice from the dancers and the choreographer, the dance is rewarding and successful. My teaching experience was very positive and helpful and I know it will provide a strong base for my future in my career as a dancer and choreographer.
At the end, this was an amazing and valuable experience as I was able to learn while developing my talents in dance, sharing the knowledge and passion for my culture with others. The project turned out to be more rewarding than I expected. I am an undergraduate student but with this project more opportunities will come and I will feel more confident and prepared to work in this field. I will look forward for more opportunities to choreograph more creative works and keep growing and learning in the career I love.