Dancing On

Changing of the Guard

Dalí Ballet Company welcomes new artistic director

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After 19 years, countless students, more than 50 productions and three locations, Dalí Ballet Company of Ruidoso, formerly Ruidoso Dance Ensemble, turns the leotards, tap shoes, ballet barres, hopes and dreams of young dancers to a new generation.

Deborah Rogers, the inspiration and guiding force of premier dance opportunities to the community, officially retires this month as artistic director. Her hand-picked successor is Yespari Miller, international premier danseur, choreographer and instructor, formerly with El Paso Ballet Theatre.

Rogers, as all the dancers know her, recalls with joy how many students spent a major part of their childhoods under her tutelage and relishes every memory.

In 2001, she moved to Ruidoso to open the first nonprofit dance school and studio, the Ruidoso Dance Ensemble, bringing years of experience as a professional dancer, master choreographer and instructor to Lincoln County. Her professionalism attracted dancers from all over southern New Mexico and Arizona, providing a unique opportunity for local young people.

"Generations have passed through these doors and some have grown only to bring their kids to share their experiences in dance," said Robert Phaup, Dalí executive director, who is also retiring. 

His 42 years in stage production with major dance companies and concert tours all over the U.S. resulted in a tenure with the Spencer Theater in Alto as technical director. There, he became acquainted with Rogers and Dalí.

“Together we saw a great opportunity to combine our professional skills and through this nonprofit organization, provide a unique experience for the children and community of Lincoln County,” Phaup said.

Miller said it’s a challenge to keep up with “the amazing work done by Ms. Deborah.” But his background shows him well-prepared for that challenge.

A graduate of the prestigious National School of Art in Havana, he has studied under world-renowned teachers from Cuba, Argentina and Spain, dancing the roles of Escamillo in "Carmen," Sigfrid in "Swan Lake," Sugar Plum Cavalier in "The Nutcracker" and Birbanto in "Le Corsaire." He taught in Chihuahua and Coahila, Mexico before joining the El Paso Ballet Theatre (EPBT), where he taught for four years.

"I knew of Ruidoso only as a tourist place.” Miller said. “It wasn't until Marta (Katz, executive and artistic director of EPBT) told me of Dalí Ballet company. I saw a performance and was amazed by its talent and professionalism." 

Miller taught part-time at Dalí for nearly a year, commuting from El Paso while still with EPBT, until he decided Ruidoso's students were his future.

"Dalí Ballet Company is very fortunate to have found Yespari Miller,” said J'Lane Zamora, incoming president of the Board of Directors of Dalí Ballet. “His high energy and caring personality bring new energy and excitement to our studio.

“Mr. Miller is a very sought-after teacher who will take our studio to the next level,” Zamora continued. “We will miss Ms. Deborah. We appreciate everything she has taught our children and how her kind heart touched us all. We will miss Bob's wisdom behind the scenes. We wish both of them the best of luck in their new ventures.”

Dalí plans many performances for the 2019-20 season, including their stunning "Nutcracker" on Dec. 21 and 22 at the Spencer Theater in Alto, preceded by “Clara's Tea” on Dec. 7. Ruidoso community activities include a float in the Aspenfest Parade Oct. 5 and Christmas Jubilee Nov. 8-10.

Miller and his cadre of instructors teach all levels of dance disciplines: ballet, pointe, jazz, contemporary, tap and Irish. The studio offers Hapkido, the Korean martial art, as well. Registration for all classes begins now at the studio at 143 El Paso Road in Ruidoso, 575-257-3753. 

Yvonne "EV" Lanelli is an adventure writer/photographer and can be reached at EVLanelli@yahoo.com, evlanelli.com.

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