At four, NMDT is growing up fast

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By Special to the Monitor

New Mexico Dance Theater (NMDT) School and Performance Company, directed by Susan Baker-Dillingham, will begin its fifth year of professional-level dance instruction Aug. 18.

Registration day for the 2008-2009 year will be held 10 a.m.-2 p. m. Saturday at the NMDT studio located at 149 Central Park Square (between Curves for Women and Hair Experts).

NMDT was founded by Baker-Dillingham in August 2004 at the White Rock Complex.

From those initial 17 students four years ago, participation rates at NMDT have increased by leaps and bounds. Last spring NMDT ended the year with 175 students.

“I believe our growth is due in part to the excellence of the NMDT faculty,” Baker-Dillingham said. “Each of the four permanent instructors, including myself, had lengthy careers in professional dance, and impart to our students the wisdom and technique we learned. Our attitude is positive, warm and professional, and it shows in the students.

“If you don’t begin working with quality instructors as a youngster, it is usually too late to go back and retrain. Dance, like music or serious athletics, is a time-sensitive activity. Proper technique must be instilled at a very early age to insure quality down the road,” Baker-Dillingham said.

The faculty bios of NMDT instructors are impressive. Baker-Dillingham, for example, danced professionally with Louisville Ballet, Balletmet Columbus, Ballet Austin, and Michael Mao Dance in New York City, rounding out a 20-year career.

“I worked with so many world-renown directors, choreographers, costume designers, set designers, lighting designers, and conductors, I can’t help but incorporate that creativity and share it with my students on a daily basis,” Baker-Dillingham said.

NMDT associate director Daren Savage provides an excellent male role model to the team.

“Daren focuses his energies on boys and men’s ballet and partnering classes,” Baker-Dillingham said. “Daren was a principal dancer with Tennessee Festival Ballet, Balletmet Columbus, and Ballet Pacifica. His knowledge of partnering is especially important in the development of the NMDT students.”

Carol Liebmann returns to NMDT for her fourth year of tap instruction.

Liebmann, who takes time every summer to refresh her tap technique in New York, also teaches at the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet.

Her favorite aspect of the NMDT students is how well rounded and versatile they are.

“The kids are so smart and due to the coaching they are receiving at NMDT,” Liebmann said. “They adapt very easily to differing styles of movement. It is a pleasure to teach them.”

The newest member of NMDT’s permanent faculty is Selena Offenberg, who serves as administrative director as well as instructor.

Offenberg, a native of Germany, moved to Los Alamos with her husband last year and is impressed with the quality of the students.

“She is a perfect fit for NMDT,” Baker-Dillingham said. “We are pleased to have her expertise and it’s wonderful to have a European influence at the studio. She is an excellent instructor in both ballet and jazz, and will teach both.”

Offenberg performed with Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Staatstheater Nurnberg, Paul Henry Dance Company London, and Concert Dance Theater Munich.

Another major facet of NMDT’s growth is its focus on original productions.

“NMDT is made up of two entities,” Baker-Dillingham said.

The NMDT School is a for-profit LLC and the NMDT Performance Company is a nonprofit 501/C3 organization.

Both the School and the Performance Company provide students at least two performance opportunities per year.

If Los Alamosans have attended any NMDT Performance Company productions, they immediately see Baker-Dillingham’s gift of telling stories through dance. From two seasons of Mixed Bill productions, to her full-length versions of “Dracula,” to her most recent original production, “Snow White,” Baker-Dillingham pulls no punches when it comes to providing the best for her company.

Upcoming Company productions include her original “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “Cinderella.”

Students aged 4-11 enrolled in the NMDT School will again also have a chance to perform an original work. “The Night Before Christmas,” choreographed and rehearsed by Offenberg, will be presented at Fuller Lodge during the Winterfest weekend.

“Enhancing lives through the art of dance is NMDT’s mission and we look forward to a busy and productive year,” Baker-Dillingham said.

For more information on NMDT, call 920-9134 or visit www.nmdt.org on the Internet.