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Home on the stage

Margot Kaminski
Special to the Daily Nicholas Andre Dance Theater fuses American athleticism with a more classical conception of dance.
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BEAVER CREEK – For Nick Seligson-Ross, dancer and artistic director of Nicholas Andre Dance Theater, returning to Colorado offered a chance to give back to the community that once helped him on his way. Seligson-Ross grew up in the Parker-Aurora area, but left the state to pursue dance at SUNY Purchase in New York.On Thursday, Seligson-Ross and his company will return to the Vilar Center with an ambitious program of six pieces, one of which will be performed entirely by local students from the Vail Valley Academy of Dance. What’s more, the entire process of auditioning and rehearsing will have taken place within less than one week.Seligson-Ross, however, is excited to be back, and even more excited to work with the locals. “It’s tough out here. When you live on the East Coast, there are so many opportunities. I’m proud to be able to come back home and offer the same opportunity that was once offered to me,” said Seligson-Ross.

From baseball to balletSeligson-Ross’s career path has not been conventional. A self-described “huge Broncos fan,” Seligson-Ross was an avid athlete through much of his childhood. He raced GS and Super G for Team Breckenridge, and played as center fielder and shortstop for the baseball team at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora. For a while, he seriously considered a career in baseball. At 16, however, Seligson-Ross began dancing in earnest. His mother had occasionally placed him in ballet classes as a child, but his interest took off when he joined the Colorado-based David Taylor Dance Theatre company, touring with them for two years.The transition from being on the plate to on pointe wasn’t easy. “I feel that dance and sports relate a lot, but in our American culture, we tend to celebrate the athlete and forget that dancers are athletes,” said Seligson-Ross. “There’s not a big difference between the two, but it was very tough for me to go all of a sudden from being a jock to being a dancer. It was a challenge I had to overcome.”Seligson-Ross’s interest in fusing American athleticism with a more classical conception of dance has carried over into his career onstage. When he graduated high school, SUNY Purchase offered him a full scholarship and he accepted, but continued to play baseball competitively on the side. He graduated early from SUNY and joined Jennifer Muller’s The Works, touring around the world. He has been dancing with Peter Pucci, an ex-Pilates instructor, since 2002, and started his own company, NADT, in 2003.”I’ve been able to show the athletic side of dance,” Seligson-Ross said. “There’s definitely other stuff out there, not just classical ballet.”

NADT’s return visit features local dancersLast October, the Vilar Center took a chance on NADT while the company was still in its infancy. The performance was successful enough to merit a return visit, and this time, Seligson-Ross was asked to incorporate young dancers from the Vail Valley Academy of Dance. He chose to revive “Ever Running,” performed by NADT in its last visit to the Vilar Center, because its framework is particularly conducive to showcasing the personalities of individual dancers.”Ever Running,” set to Michael Nyman’s String Quartet No. 2, was inspired by the events of 9/11, which Seligson-Ross experienced while living in New York. The minimalist music begins fast and furious, representing the hustle and bustle of a normal Manhattan day. This is followed by a second section of slow Adagio, loosely representing the aftermath of tragedy. In the third section, the music and movement both build up again, showing how one triumphs and moves on, while remembering what was lost.This is the first time Seligson-Ross has had to work under such tight time constraints. He auditioned approximately 14 students on Friday, selecting one soloist, six dancers and two understudies. The selections were based on which students fit his movement best and, due to the nature of the project, which picked up the choreography the quickest.”This is the first time there’s a countdown,” Seligson-Ross said. “Every minute of rehearsal matters.”Bria Barker, 16 and a junior at Battle Mountain High School, will be performing as soloist. Barker has been studying ballet at the Vail Valley Academy of Dance since she was 3 years old. She said that Seligson-Ross’s choreography is “more athletic than traditional ballet or jazz. There’s a lot of running in it.” Rehearsals have been “both strenuous and enjoyable – more strenuous than usual.”

Despite time constraints, Barker is thrilled to be part of the production. When she saw NADT’s performance last October, “I liked it a lot. Their modern style is really different from other styles I’m used to.”Seligson-Ross returns the compliment, praising Barker, along with dancers Elle Friedman, Adrienne Powell, Debby Cohen, Amelia Stuart-Dilley, Molly Allard and Dane Leary.”The dancers are very well trained. They’re definitely up to the challenge,” said Seligson-Ross. “A lot of choreographers feel like they’re stopping down to work with kids, but I want to work with whomever I can work with, especially kids. I needed experience when I was younger, and people gave me a shot.”Thursday night’s repertoireIn addition to “Ever Running,” the company will be reviving two of its well-received pieces, and performing a world premiere. The evening will open with the world premiere of “If it Ain’t Baroque,” a little play on the love of dance, set to Handel’s Concerto Grosso. Seligson-Ross points out that so many of his pieces “really talk to dark, emotional, specific things. This piece is just plain fun to dance.”

The program will continue with Seligson-Ross’s solo “Your Eyes” and “Dwelling,” which NADT premiered at the Vilar Center on its last visit. After intermission, the audience will be amused by “And That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles,” a comedy piece-slash-crime drama set to Henry Mancini music (of Pink Panther fame). This will be followed by “Ever Running,” and the evening will conclude with “Between the Lines,” an 18-minute performance set to varied vocal music.”It’s about control, beginner strength and overcoming certain things going on inside,” said Seligson-Ross. “Everybody takes something a little different from it.”This is an athletic program of movement and music, a unique blend, like its director, of Colorado and New York. Seligson-Ross hopes the evening will broaden the dance audience and break down stereotypes. “Dance is not what you think it is,” he said.Music and movement

Nicholas Andre Dance Theater7:30 p.m. ThursdayVilar Center for the Arts in Beaver CreekCall 845-TIXS for ticketsVail, Colorado


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