Name: Chris Bloom
Born & Raised: Shenandoah Valley, VA
Joined BH: August 2013
What experience, mentor, or teacher supported your passion for dance?
In my early years, I received excellent training and encouragement from my first teachers, including Nela Nieman, Gennadi and Susan Vostrikov, Melissa Largent, and Chris McNamara. In 2017, I attended the Giordano Summer Intensive. Through classes with Elijah Gibson, Eugene Peabody, and Eddy Ocampo, I realized I wanted to dedicate my life not only to classical ballet, but to contemporary dance as well. This was a pivotal moment in my life.
Later at the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, Martin Løfsnes, Milton Myers, AnnaMarie Forsythe, Stephanie Batten-Bland, Sidra Bell, and Camille Brown all had large influences on the way I move. When I was in the Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, Gregory Dolbashian, Igal Perry, and Enzo Celli gave me the keys to understanding partnering and floor work. This has been integral to my success at Ballet Hispánico. Since coming to BH, Michelle Manzanales and Gustavo Ramírez Sansano have revolutionized my work as a dancer. No other people have had greater influence.
When did you know you wanted to pursue dance?
For me, knowing I wanted to be a professional dancer came in two parts. When I was 12, I really liked watching Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Michael Flatley. I was intrigued by their suave and commanding manner, and as a drummer, I thought tap was really cool. So, I started taking one hour of tap and one hour of jazz per week at the Blue Ridge Studio for the Performing Arts in Berryville, Virginia.
I loved to dance, but I was also an accomplished soccer player and drummer (I was 12 years old the first time I performed with my band in a nightclub). I thought my soccer coach, music, and dance teachers were all urging me to pick one area to focus on, but I could not decide. What clinched it for me was the movie Center Stage, which I saw at age 15. There is a scene where Cooper (Ethan Stiefel) and Charlie (Sascha Radetsky) get into a ballet trick battle, not so subtly motivated by their rivalry over their shared love interest. They are sweating in the studio, flinging pirouettes, double tours, and rivoltades at one another in quick succession. The bombastic strength and athleticism of this scene was it for me. I quit playing soccer, stopped drum lessons, and started ballet training 15-20 hours per week.
What is your first, favorite, or most memorable performance?
My first ever performance was at Daniel Morgan Middle School when I was 12 years old. I am pretty sure I did a jazz number to Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics and a tap number to The Lion Sleeps Tonight by the Tokens.
I am lucky to have had a lot of memorable performances in my career. Some were beautiful because they were a colleague’s farewell show (When Mario Espinoza retired, the entire company wept throughout our performance of Con Brazos Abiertos by Michelle Manzanales). Others because of the excitement of presenting new work at an amazing place (The premiere of Somrerisimo by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa at City Center’s Fall for Dance). Some because of the electricity of the audience connection that night. Others are hilarious because of costume malfunctions, slips, trips, and falls. The Company’s performances in Tromsø, Norway, Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Vail Dance Festival, and the filming of CARMEN.maquia by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano at the Mesa Arts Center for PBS Great American Dance are amongst my proudest performances.
Why did you choose to come to Ballet Hispánico?
What drew me to Ballet Hispánico was the repertory. During my first season, there were creations from Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Edgar Zendejas, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, and Artistic Director & CEO Eduardo Vilaro. At the same time, we were performing Jardi Tancat by Nacho Duato. When I sat with Mr. Vilaro after my audition and he listed the choreographers for the coming season, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
The mission of representation and community engagement has kept me at Ballet Hispánico for eight years. I am proud to be part of an organization that works to include rather than divide, to represent, to honor, and to cultivate.
How do you see dance progressing as an art form? What impact do you feel you or your generation of dancers will have on the field of dance?
I think the dance world is moving toward greater equity and health, both mentally and physically. That will be the legacy of now. There are many different generations of dancers working toward this goal, so it would be wrong to say it is my generation alone doing the work.
There is an enormous push in the dance world at large to weed out toxicity, racism, and other unhealthy practices. Surprisingly, dancers have always been both the most important and least important part of the dance world. Dance would not exists without us, but we are often the lowest rung in organizations that care little for our health, wellbeing, or equity. In the dance world right now, there is a broad questioning of why that is and what can be done about it.
Ballet Hispánico is actively involved in this change on multiple fronts, and there are other organizations doing similar work. In addition, the working dancers of today are far more active in calling out bad policies and abuse than I have ever seen. I think what we are moving toward is a dance world that, for the first time, may value dancers the way they deserve to be valued. As human artists.