When Dulce Escobedo, co-director of Tijuana’s Conservatorio de Danza Mexico, began touring ballet schools around the world with her sister Marianna and father, she was looking for models to construct an ideal space for multidisciplinary teaching and performing in Tijuana.
“The CDM building [which opened in 2016] was designed and built to conform to international requirements for dance spaces with an eye toward the integral development of a dancer,” she says. “The conservatory has a library equipped with a broad selection of dance history, literature and visual arts materials, a gym and Pilates studio—all of this contained within a self-sustaining ecological structure.”
Several dance teachers add further dimension to the CDM students’ education by chaperoning them to Cuba’s yearly Encuentro Internacional de Academías para la Enseñanza del Ballet [International Ballet School Teaching Encounter]. “CDM is unique because of its international focus. Students are able to travel to other countries, such as Cuba, Spain and the U.S., to expand their cultural background and enrich their training,” says Escobedo, who also invites guest teachers from Cuba to Mexico on a rotational basis, as well as such recognized teachers as Maria del Carmen Hechaverría and Philippe Vivenot, and guest professionals Rolando and Daniel Sarabia, James Gotesky and Sebastián Vinet.
CDM continues to forge links with Mexico City, Monterrey and Puebla, to strengthen the country’s cultural heritage. Escobedo adds, “We have even established the tradition of celebrating International Dance Day by mounting our own festival, co-sponsored by the school and underwriters from cultural and governmental agencies. This project is aimed at showing students and the general public the relationship of dance to other disciplines by advancing theoretical and practical knowledge through activities such as photographic exhibitions, book presentations, conferences, intensive workshops, film works, documentaries and open classes.” CDM has also hosted talks by guest dance historians such as Cuban dance scholar Dr. Miguel Cabrera (and myself, Toba Singer).
As a dancer, Escobedo received her classical ballet, Spanish dance and contemporary training at the Gloria Campobello Dance School, begun by Margarita Robles Regalado. She has also studied flamenco with Lizt Alfonso in Cuba and the Flamenco Amor de Dios school in Spain, and Gaga through workshops with Ohad Naharin in Israel and at Orsolina 28 in Italy, and the Gloria Kaufman School in Los Angeles.
Her choreographic work includes The Great Lockdown, performed at Mexico City’s Teatro El Milagro and the Centro Estatal de las Artes in Tijuana; Escenarios Alternativos, at Bread & Salt in San Diego; and the filmed work ROSA in 2021. She is also an underwriter of the FONCA (Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes—National Fund for Culture and the Arts), which supports arts development in Mexico.
Here, Escobedo talks about her role models and the turning point in her training, and shares her advice for dance educators.
On her most influential teacher: “Margarita Robles Regalado, who taught me from childhood to adulthood. The discipline and the rigor with which she danced and her professionalism are extraordinary. She instilled in me, by example, her great vocation for teaching. I also admire my teacher Lizt Alfonso for her mettle and the strategist she is, and for the simplicity and humility with which she involves everyone, and has developed her company Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba into a Cuban cultural institution. She sees each situation as it presents itself—seeking the positive and the opportunity it offers to grow and improve her artistry and her school’s and company’s legacy.”
On the most helpful correction she’s ever received: “Whether it’s teaching or creating choreography, my teacher Margarita would say: ‘A good teacher never lets you keep going if you are doing something wrong. The teacher must stop and correct you.’ I do both, inside and outside the studio. It makes such a difference in the quality of the work!”
On the biggest turning point in her training: “During my undergraduate studies in dance, where training was very rigorous in ballet class, pointe class, repertoire, contemporary and Spanish dance, I also taught young people. I created choreography for them and learned to manage and organize performances and conferences related to dance. This combined experience gave me a clear idea of my abilities, opening up new opportunities for me to develop.”
On how she knew she had a bright future in choreography: “I have enjoyed choreographing since childhood. I have two sisters and three brothers. Marianna has a dance degree and works as a dancer, teacher and choreographer; Alita is a lighting and set designer; Rolando, José David and Emiliano are engineers. When we used to play as children, I’d set choreographies on them using my mom’s old rock cassette in Spanish. Through this process, I discovered so many possibilities, which is what I like most about creating pieces. From one idea, a thousand more can develop to tell a story or simply to do something beautiful with the body in motion. The possibilities are endless.”
Her advice for educators in 2022: “We must strike a balance between our generation and the next—those that are here and those to come. We must remain firm in our values and show respect to our students and other teachers. We must also demonstrate discipline and punctuality. These simple values sometimes get lost, but if we continue to stick to them, the results will prove worthwhile.”
Her goals for the future: “I’ll continue growing and improving CDM together with my sister Marianna, so we can strengthen ourselves and offer a better dance education to our community. As an artist and choreographer, another aim of mine is to position myself internationally and situate the work of my Tijuana Dance Company here and abroad.
“Also, the CalArts scholarship which was recently awarded to me for artistic merit will enable me to pursue an MFA in choreography. It both recognizes my artistry and honors my parents’ invaluable effort to afford me a dance education and career. My immediate goals are to use my graduate studies to acquire tools to specialize in work that interests me and continue learning and improving. I’ll keep creating work for Tijuana Dance Company, consolidate its repertoire and travel the world on the wings of dance.”
Translation from Spanish to English by Toba Singer