Dance Around The World – Campeche, Mexico
Campeche is a beautiful colonial city found in the Yucatan Peninsula. Its history is rich with tales of pirate invasions. Around the city center, the cobblestone streets are lined with sidewalks that rise to the store fronts. In some places the sidewalks are so high above the street that steps have been added. The concrete buildings are seemly connected, creating a winding strip mall effect. Only brightly colored paint distinguishes one store front from the next.
I’m not sure if it’s typical for dancers to be clumsy, but I am! In order to manage my way around this city, I had to look where I was walking, so I wouldn’t trip. Funny enough, that’s how I discovered the Escuela Superior de Danza. Outside of the dance school’s entrance someone had carefully and clearly wrote “BALLET” in the cement. I immediately stopped, looked up, and saw the typical iron- lined window had been molded into the form of a ballerina. Peering through the open door, I saw girls of all ages dressed in their class’s colored leotards, pink tights, and identical hairband that matched their leotard. Excited and nervous, I stepped inside the studio’s lobby.
Inside I found a women sitting behind what I thought was the reception desk but later found out it was a candy store that shared the school’s lobby. I approached her with my terrible high school Spanish and performed a little port de bras. She understood right away. Moments later an older gentleman with a light yet strong body presence greeted me. In near perfect English, he invited me to attend a ballet or jazz class. I was stunned, he hadn’t given me a chance to tell him about my project or inquire about an interview. I explained that I wasn’t prepared to take class and didn’t have the proper attire. He said it wasn’t a problem, and that I could take class in what I was wearing… which was luckily a Lululemon top and my very light and flexible Prana pants. So it was set, I would take a ballet class at 6:00pm. I walked out the door, bought a water bottle and a pair of ballet shoes at a shop about a block away, and started to mentally prepare.
About a half hour prior to the class, I returned to the studio and waited. Nearly five minutes prior to class, I was escorted to the studio, and I introduced myself to the instructor. She was about my height, 5’2”, and had her gray and black hair pulled firmly in a low ponytail. She was dressed in all black, and carried a large turquoise fan that she opened with a quick flick of her wrist. The class was made up of teens, probably 15-18 years old, and split with one barre of girls dressed in black leos and pink tights and the other barre dressed in black leos and black tights. I stood at the end of the barre with the girls in all black, since I also wasn’t in the traditional ballet attire.
The students knew the first four combinations at barre, and so I followed along. Afterwards, the instructor would gesture with her hands and explained the next combination. Then class became a little easier for me because I finally understood what she was saying. The combinations were simple yet demanding and each combination strategically prepared us for the next; which I love. Not every teacher takes the time to coordinate their classes in this way. In my opinion, it’s that teaching technique that separates the “real” teachers from the ones who just want to get paid.
It was obvious that her students gained from her teaching method, too. They didn’t have any structural bad habits! No feet rolling inwards, no issues with their center, no hips were hiked… it was amazing! However, their incredible structural precision was accompanied with absolutely no expression in their port de bra and low extensions. I’m sure it’s there somewhere, but I was discouraged with this aspect of the technique class. If the instructor said 90 degrees, every student had their leg exactly at 90 and the port de bra was always in bras bas.
The thing that impressed me most about this school was its loving atmosphere with a down to business attitude. It was clear that all of the students were happy and wanted to be there, the instructor loved teaching, the faculty cared about their students, and they were enthusiastic about sharing their love of dance with a fellow traveling dancer. I really enjoyed my time at Escuela Superior de Danza, and I’m very thankful for their hospitality.
About the school:
Escuela Superior de Danza was the first dance school in Campeche, Mexico. Dancer and National Centre of Fine Arts graduate, Ana Rosa Cáceres de Baqueiro, founded the school nearly 62 years ago. The school has proudly trained 30 generations of teachers since its founding. Escuela Superior de Danza has seven studios and offers classes in classical ballet, methodology of dance, theatrical dance, jazz, hip hop, tap, character, National Folklore, and International Folklore including Irish, Hawaiian, and Arabian. The school is located on Calle 12 No. 193. Centro. CP24000 Campeche, Campeche, Mexico. To connect to their website, click here.
– The Offbeat Ballerina