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ARTS NOTES

Dance steps into Mexico's spotlight

August 31, 2003|Lewis Segal

Since it was created in 1966, the Art Academy of Mexico has been the most important association of artists in the country, honoring achievement and innovation in architecture, art history, graphics, music, painting and sculpture -- but never dance. On Sept. 25, though, ballet choreographer Gloria Contreras will be inducted into the academy, and she plans to accept with a speech describing her attempts to upgrade the image and practice of contemporary classical dance in her native land.

Although she has choreographed for 14 companies, including the New York City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Contreras, 68, is best known to local audiences from appearances at Cal State L.A. and California Plaza by Taller Coreografico de la UNAM, the company she founded in Mexico City in 1970 and has sustained since then. On Friday and Saturday, members of the company will dance her classic "Huapango," along with a selection of short pieces and excerpts, at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

Contacted at her home in Mexico City, Contreras spoke of the "big fight to get recognition for contemporary dance in Mexico, and my life is proof of this fight." Induction into the academy, she said, is "a step to opening the door for many other choreographers and dancers in Mexico by acknowledging that new dance is something serious and important."

-- Lewis Segal

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