Founding L’Atelier is a great point of pride for me, my own modest contribution –a small grain of sand in a vast dune—to my Bahia Blanca and Argentine community. It brought me many years of happiness and such cause to rejoice, and I truly feel that my students and I built L’Atelier hand in hand.
20 years have passed since L’Atelier Centro Creativo de Danza opened its doors. L’Atelier was born from the need to create in Bahia Blanca, the need for a common space for dance and creativity. My goal was to provide a space where dance could be taught both as an academic discipline and as a means of expression, a place devoted to the perceptual, physical, aesthetic, and creative development of artists, a place where students could learn to integrate head and heart, and a place where the body (the container of our soul) could be cultivated as an instrument through which to express our existence.
I was 18 years old and I wanted to dance through life. From 1994 to 2000 I directed the school until I decided to augment my studies in choreography by traveling to New York to study. I never returned from that trip. An unquenchable thirst for knowledge drove me out of my nest.
My heart fills with joy and nostalgia when I look back and think of all those moments of intensity, great memories, and life-long friends. The never-ending classes with my faithful assistant, Soledad Gutierrez (we always knew what time we started dancing and rehearsing but never knew what time we finished!); the fun and intense rehearsals with Pamela Lenzu and Anibal Vitale; our two trips to Chile (replete with mothers, makeup, admirers, even signing autographs!); founding L’Atelier Contemporary Ballet with Pamela and Araceli Perez; the creative collaborations with Nando y los Chicos, Maryta Berenguer, Juancho, the group Vocal Acento, Carmelo Fioriti, Patricia Galassi … I could go on and on!
Creating a supportive and inspiring meeting place for artists is not easy, but it is necessary – especially in a country like Argentina, where everything is constantly in flux. It is not easy, but it is necessary to create a place that:
– Makes everyone feel included, heard, and respected.
– Evolves each day, responding to the needs of the community.
– Enables one to grow personally and professionally each day.
– Reflects upon and tends to the needs of teachers and students.
– Cultivates, stimulates, engages, and develops an audience for dance.
– Works with the community, public welfare institutions, hospitals, and public schools to organize events that raise funds to benefit these organizations.
– Offers guidance and advice to other provincial, regional, and national dance schools.
– Provides affordable training to the public.
– Teaches self-discipline, work ethic, dedication, self-respect, and respect for others.
– Cultivates a joy of learning and stimulates self-confidence and self-esteem.
– Develops sensitivity toward the arts.
Besides teaching dance at L’Atelier, I organized talks with doctors of nutrition and kinesiology, who generously donated their time to educate students on how to prevent illness and injury in an effort to provide a comprehensive program.
When I opened L’Atelier in 1994 we had just five students; the next year we had 60, and the next 120. It was an explosion! At the beginning I was my only employee: I taught five classes a day, and I was in charge of everything from administration, press, and marketing to cleaning and maintenance. I also formed a small dance company for children and teenagers, which took part in youth musical shows and regularly danced on television shows.
I was young and enthusiastic.
In 1997 and 1998 we were invited to dance and conduct workshops for a whole community in Chile. These tours were produced by the town of Ovalle. We made a big impression on our audience, which waited after our performances with roses and thank you notes.
In our home city of Bahia Blanca our impact was extraordinary as well, for in addition to teaching dance classes, we offered a full range of complementary subjects, including French, dance history, history of ballet, makeup, dance pedagogy, and repertory. By completing a number of years of courses, our students could earn teaching certificates as ballet teachers. We were registered as a private school. The training we offered was comprehensive. Today we offer a certificate in dance performance exclusively.
Angel Fumagali, the critic, historian, teacher, and archivist of the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, is just one example of the caliber of faculty L’Atelier has counted among its ranks.
It was an honor to have created L’Atelier, and I am so proud that my sister, Pamela, has made it her own, embracing my dream by continuing to care for and develop L’Atelier.