La Academia Repertory Workshops and Specialized Studies

Students expand their studies with specialized guest artists from across the field of dance.

 Guest Artists for the 2020-2021 School Year


January 16, 2021

"Deshojando Flores" Heelwork and Choreography with Olivia Serrano

12:00-1:25pm ET | Specialized Studies in Spanish Dance Levels 4A-5

Ensemble Español Soloist & Rehearsal Assistant, Olivia Serrano is a Chicago native. She started dancing ballet, modern and jazz at age ten with the Chicago Park District, under the direction of Katia Marzolf Borione, Sarah Glover and Rebecca Pollok Reddick.

In 2003, she began her formal Spanish dance training with Dame Libby Komaiko and Ensemble Español’s Youth Company, and became an apprentice to the professional company in 2004. She was promoted to Company D‹ancer in 2005.

Olivia studied extensively in the U. S. and at the Amor de Dios Flamenco Dance Academy in Madrid with teachers Juan Mata, Ana Gonzalez, Raquel Gomez, and Paloma Gomez. She became Rehearsal Assistant to the Ensemble Español’s professional company, teaching and assisting in regular rehearsals.

She has been showcased in choreographies set by Paloma Gomez such as Nuevamente Vivir and, as a soloist, in Gomez’ Córdoba. Olivia has collaborated with other company dancers on such works as Anhelo del Alma. She choreographed and performs in Deshojando Flores, which was presented at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival’s Inside/Out dance series in 2015. She has been a guest artist to the Luna Troop Dance Company, under the direction of Sarah Glover-Heston, in 2012 and 2015.

She continues to perform nationally and internationally with the Ensemble Español, and is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Audition Season Prep with Michelle Manzanales and Kiri Avelar

2:00-3:25pm ET | Repertory Workshops Levels 3B-5

Michelle Manzanales is a choreographer, dedicated dance educator of nearly 30 years, and former dancer originally from Houston, Texas. Before being named Ballet Hispánico’s School of Dance Director in December of 2016, Michelle was in the midst of her seventh season as the company’s Rehearsal Director & Artistic Associate. She currently serves on the National Association of Schools of Dance’s (NASD) Committee on Ethics, has served as a juror for the Nebraska Arts Council, Individual Artist Fellowships, a panelist for Dance/NYC's #ArtistsAreNecessaryWorkers Facebook Live Series: Arts Educators Leading the Charge, an adjudicator for the Independent Study in Choreography Showing for Ailey’s BFA program, and was honored to be part of a round table planning dialogue supporting Carnegie Hall’s major education project All Together: A Global Ode to Joy’.

Manzanales has served on the faculties of Ballet Hispánico, Lou Conte Dance Studio, University of Houston, Rice University, Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, and has been a guest artist for the Puerto Rican Classical Dance Competition, Professional Work Sessions at STEPS on Broadway, the Joyce Master Class Series at Gibney, the Taylor School, New Orleans Ballet Association, Generation Dance Festival Houston, Artisan Ballet Company, Regional Dance America, Festival de Danza Cordoba-Youth American Grand Prix, Houston’s Kinder High School for the Performing & Visual Arts, along with numerous other dance studios, schools, and college dance programs nationwide and internationally.

With choreography a close second in her heart to dance education, Ms. Manzanales is excited to currently be in process for a newly commissioned work she is creating for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, poised to premiere in 2021. Michelle’s choreography “…isn’t just about one girl’s experience; it applies to everyone, of any gender, and of any culture,” said CriticalDance. Her most recent premiere was of CautivadX, a dance film she choreographed, edited, and directed for Noche Unidos, A Ballet Hispánico Night of Dance and Unity in June 2020. Another recent work, If by Chance... which she created for the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 75th Anniversary Gala in December 2019, “unspooled dreamily atop and between the tables” (-Courtney Escoyne, Dance Magazine). Manzanales created Con Brazos Abiertos for Ballet Hispánico which premiered in the company’s 2017 spring season at the Joyce Theater. This “savvy but deeply sincere meditation on her Mexican-American background” (-Marina Harss, New York Times) has since toured worldwide to critical acclaim including its inclusion in New York City Center’s 2018 Fall for Dance Festival.

Other acclaimed works by Manzanales include her 2010 homage to Frida Kahlo, Paloma Querida, which was hailed a "visual masterpiece" by Lucia Mauro of the Chicago Tribune and was described by the Chicago Sun-Times as a “gorgeously designed, richly hallucinatory, multi-faceted vision of the artist.” Her 2007 choreography for Luna Negra Dance Theater, entitled Sugar in the Raw (Azucar Cruda), was applauded by the Chicago Sun-Times as "a staggering, beautiful, accomplished new work." Five of her works have been recognized by the American College Dance Festival, of which two were presented at the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC), for their National Gala; Pour Me Out in 2006 and The Letting Go in 2008. Manzanales’ choreography has been presented by Texas Contemporary Weekend (Houston, TX), Spring to Dance (St. Louis, MO), Festival de Danza Córdoba (Veracruz, Mexico), and Fort Worth Dance Festival (Fort Worth, TX).

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Kiri Avelar is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, scholar, and activist who focuses her work around collaborative community expression. She holds an MFA in Dance from Rutgers University, and a BA in Dance with honors from New Mexico State University. Her teaching philosophy is centered around culturally responsive pedagogy, student voice, and reflection, challenging students to own their learning experience, take risks, and believe in greater, diverse possibilities both inside and outside the classroom.

Ms. Avelar is a 2020 Jerome Robbins Dance Division Research Fellow for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Her scholarly research Descubriendo Latinx: The Hidden Text in American Modern Dance, looks at the absented presence of Latinx holding an integral role in shaping the foundation of modern dance in the United States. Her correlating artistic practice, The Intersections of Interdisciplinarity: Embodying the Borderless Experience, is designed to further provoke thought around the artistic, physical, and cultural borderless experience of Latinx artists in America, and immerses audiences in unique spaces to explore themes of ruido, Mestiza Consciousness, intersectionality, migration, and Latinidades through film, embodied oral history performances, interactive screendance, and soundscapes.

Having studied as a scholarship recipient at the Boston Ballet School, and more extensively in the New Mexico/Texas borderland region and Madrid, Spain, Ms. Avelar has performed with the Milwaukee Ballet, Cor Ignis Contemporary Dance, Sol y Arena Spanish Dance, American Bolero Dance Company, and as an independent artist. Her choreographic work has been presented in communities throughout New York City, the Southwestern United States, and Mexico, including El Barrio’s Artspace PS109, Jacques D’Amboise’s Arts Nest at the National Dance Institute, Ballet Hispánico’s Performances for Young People at the Apollo Theater and The United Palace, Teatro INBA in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Chamizal National Memorial Theater in El Paso, TX, Wortham Theater in Houston, TX, and the American College Dance Festival Gala in Laredo, TX.

Over the span of her 20 year career, Ms. Avelar has served on the dance faculties of El Paso Community College (Texas), New Mexico State University, Rutgers University, Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts (New Jersey), as a teaching artist in both private and public schools for New York City and in the El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juárez, Mexico borderland region, and since 2011 for the Ballet Hispánico School of Dance and Community Arts Partnership Program in New York City. She is the Founding Director of the Academia de Ballet Emmanuel, an after-school program providing quality dance education for the children of Hogar de Niños Emmanuel Orphanage in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México, where she resided for ten years. She has presented her work in dance education through workshops and conferences, including the National Dance Education Organization, NYC Department of Education, Face to Face Arts in Education Roundtable NYC, The Juilliard School Dance Division, American College Dance Festival, and the Congreso Internacional de Educación Física, Deporte y Recreación in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. She is a proud member of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) and the National Dance Education Organization.

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January 23, 2021

Flamenco with Jose Torres

12:00-1:25pm ET | Specialized Studies in Spanish Dance Levels 4A-5

Floor Barre with Victoria Vargas

2:00-3:25pm ET | Repertory Workshops Levels 3B-5

Repertory Workshop Levels 3B-5 & Specialized Studies in Spanish Dance Levels 4A-5


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