When Lorraine Spiegler joined CityDance in 2008, she had a vision for the prestigious Washington conservatory. She planned to design an inclusive and flexible dance repertoire that goes beyond the traditional, ballet-centric education that gatekeeps the professional dance world. Spiegler is the founding artistic director of CityDance Conservatory, a nonprofit conservatory that trains young artists living in the greater Washington area to pursue dance professionally. The company attracts aspiring dancers from all corners of the DMV and also hosts international students from as far away as France, Brazil and Australia for CityDance’s intensive courses during the summer. For Spiegler, witnessing her students grow and develop their interests within the dance community through CityDance’s training has been immensely gratifying. She notes one alumnus, Mariano Zamora González, who now dances with the internationally acclaimed Ballet Hispánico, as particularly inspiring.
More Than a Love for Movement
Zamora González, known to his peers as Nano, lets the fluidity of his movement speak for his emotions on stage.
A professional dancer now based in New York, he says, “It feels very surreal sometimes, very energetic. I like to think I’m a very detail-oriented dancer, [and know] where to place every single part of my body correctly in space.”
From the age of 9, Zamora González has expressed himself through dance. He took hip-hop classes at a local studio in San José, Costa Rica where he grew up, which sparked a love for movement that he explored when he moved to the DMV at age 14. When he started at CityDance, Zamora González began to experiment with other styles, including ballet, jazz and contemporary.
“I don’t love words; I prefer to dance,” he says.
He now tours as an apprentice for Ballet Hispánico, a New York-based company that celebrates Latinx culture through performance and community engagement. At the end of this year, his experience will come full circle: Zamora González will return to D.C. with Ballet Hispánico to perform the Argentinian piece “Doña Perón” at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Learning from the Masters
The contacts he made while training at CityDance were fundamental to Zamora González’s growth as a professional dancer. In his final year of high school, he had the opportunity to work with critically acclaimed choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa at a CityDance summer intensive. Now, in his first year touring with Ballet Hispánico, Zamora González is again working closely with Lopez Ochoa on “Doña Perón.”
“Doña Perón” tells the story of Eva “Evita” Perón, former first lady of Argentina, who is also known as one of the most captivating and controversial women in Argentinian history. Performed to live music by composer Peter Salem, the piece illustrates a biopic portrait of an infamous Latin American figure.
“It’s been such a wonderful experience for me to [connect with] my Latino community,” Zamora González says.
It’s parallel moments like these that inspire a broader perspective for Spiegler.
“This cycle is beautiful, fascinating, inspiring — it just feels so right to know that [Zamora González] actually had his first contact [at CityDance].”
At The Kennedy Center, director of dance programming Jane Raleigh similarly appreciates the quality of talent the DMV produces.
“It is always exciting and meaningful for us at The Kennedy Center when we see full-circle moments taking place on our stages,” she says. “When students are raised and trained at this high level and then return as professional dancers in some of the best dance companies in the world, it is a point of pride for us to highlight their talent.”
At the conservatory level, CityDance prides itself on developing a curriculum offering the next generation of performers the flexibility to pursue a dance career that rings true to students’ interests.
“Interactions with guest artists and companies [helps] inspire our young dancers to dream, envision and actualize [their goals],” Spiegler explains. “Ultimately they will create the future of dance by elevating the communication of transformative ideas for humanity to consider.”
Today, young dancers have the ability to express their talent outwardly, whether in-person or online. By helping develop students’ expression as dancers, CityDance aims to positively contribute to the dance community — not just in Washington D.C., but across the United States.
“We really believe they’re [the] creators of the new dance world,” Spiegler says. “We want to give them as many tools as we can [to help] them self-actualize.”
Mariano Zamora González will perform “Doña Perón” with Ballet Hispánico at The Kennedy Center from November 30 to December 3. Follow Zamora González on Instagram @nanozamora and learn more about Ballet Hispánico at ballethispanico.org or @ballethispanico.