Sweet inspiration NMDT’s ballet recital honors the board game Candy Land

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By Kirsten Laskey

In celebration of Los Alamos’ 60th anniversary, The School of New Mexico Dance Theater (NMDT) will present its fifth annual spring recital. “Games and Puzzles” will be presented at           7 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. Saturday. Both performances will be presented at the Duane Smith Auditorium and will include recital dances by students in all levels of classes offered at NMDT.

“Games and Puzzles” was inspired by the board game Candy Land, which was developed 60 years ago by a woman named Eleanor Abbott in San Diego, Calif., as she recovered from polio. Candy Land was the most popular toy during the decade of the 1940s and still proves to be popular. This year’s “Games and Puzzles” recital also provides many other family fun games for students to dance to including Twister, Monopoly, Concentration, The Game of Life, Clue and many more.

“Games and Puzzles” features 27 dances ranging from creative movement, to jazz, tap, partnering and all levels of ballet. “It is especially important to me that our creative movement and youngest students share the stage with older, more advanced students. Watching older dancers and being involved is the best way the youngsters learn,” said NMDT director Susan Baker-Dillingham. NMDT also provides two performances for each student involved in spring recitals. “This opportunity provides a second chance to feel the stage, the costume, the lighting and most importantly, what it is like to be in front of a large audience,” she said.

NMDT teaches dance on a weekly basis to more than 192 students and this spring, six of those students will graduate from NMDT and Los Alamos High School. “Every year, we honor each graduating senior with a special dance,” Baker-Dillingham said. “Last year only one NMDT student graduated, but this year we have six and each will perform a solo,” she said. The graduating senior portion of the recital is inspired by the game Masterpiece.

Caroline Trent, who composed the music for her own senior dance on the harp, will perform “Escape” with choreography by Selena Offenberg. Elizabeth “Ed” Dombek will perform “Jordania,” a modern solo also choreographed by Offenberg. Chelsy Smith will perform her own tap choreography to the song    “Walking on Sunshine.” Senior Natasha Roberts will perform a musical theater piece choreographed by Baker-Dillingham to “All That Jazz,” from the hit musical “Chicago.” Larissa Fortson focuses mostly on ballet and will perform a solo variation from the ballet “Paquita” with choreography by Marius Petipa. Senior Bethany Sullivan will bring the recital to a close as she performs Baker-Dillingham’s choreography to Loreena McKennit’s, “Dante’s Prayer,” which culminates with the entire group of graduating seniors together on stage. “It is sure to be a tearjerker,” said Baker-Dillingham.

NMDT will also welcome special guests to their recital this year: the Los Alamos Hilltappers. “Brooke Davis, an advanced tap student at NMDT, approached me earlier in the year to ask if the Hilltappers could perform with us,” Baker-Dillingham said. “I didn’t see any reason why they shouldn’t and NMDT is very excited to host them.” The Hilltappers will perform the game of Uno, to the dance “One” from “A Chorus Line,” with choreography by Marilyn Foster.

Tickets for “Games and Puzzles” cost $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and are free for children age four and younger. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Village Arts or at the door 45 minutes prior to performance times.

NMDT is located in the heart of downtown Los Alamos at 149 Central Park Square. Please call 920-9134 for more information regarding summer programs, summer term, fall term, and upcoming auditions for the NMDT Performance Company, which will present both “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and “Sleeping Beauty” in the 2009-2010 season.