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¡Bailamos!: Nacho Duato’s Compañía Nacional de Danza to debut in San Francisco at the end of the month

by Becca Hirschman

February 1, 2008

Nacho Duato’s Compañía Nacional de Danza will soar in and make its San Francisco debut at the end of February. Duato studied at the Rambert School in London, Maurice Béjart’s Mudra School in Brussels, and The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York before pursuing a professional career, dancing with the Cullberg Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater before trying his hand at choreography in 1983. Since then, he’s created renowned works for companies all across the globe, and his company, based in Madrid, Spain, is known for its strong dancers and unpretentious style, boasting 27 dancers and a well-regarded second company.

Kayoko Everhart, a dancer with the main company, trained for several years here in San Francisco and graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her formal dance training, performing career, and current experiences with CND in advance of the company's West Coast visit.

How did you get started in dance? What is your background and training?

The women in my family were very much involved with dance. My mother danced in a well-known theater/dance group in Tokyo, my aunt and cousin were competitive ballroom dancers, and my grandmother did traditional Japanese dance. Her last show was at the age of 92... I think she's about 96 now. I trained [for] nearly 10 years under Kay Englert at Washington Contemporary Ballet in Tacoma, WA. Then, in 2000, San Francisco Ballet School offered me a tuition scholarship to join the school. I had attended two summer programs with SF Ballet School before attending the [residency] program.

You studied at Washington Contemporary Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, working with well-known dancers and artistic directors. How did your training prepare you for a professional career?

My training at WA Contemporary Ballet gave me a strong base in classical ballet as well as in contemporary movement. Without it I wouldn't have gotten into SF Ballet School. I was given many opportunities to perform with the company while I was in San Francisco, and that definitely help to build an awareness of how everything functions in a professional company. The most valuable training I received was the time spent on stage and of course the time spent preparing for the performances.

Prior to Compañía Nacional de Danza, you danced with Tulsa Ballet and CNDII [the “second” company of CND]. What were these experiences like, and how do they differ from CND?

Tulsa Ballet is a mixed rep company, meaning they do a wide range of pieces from classical to modern. It's very interesting to have to constantly change styles. Being in CND2 was a great experience. It's a group of 14 dancers all between the ages of 17-24 from many different countries so we all had a lot of fun touring together. CND2 performs most of Nacho's older pieces, as well as choreographies by CND1 dancers, other up-and-coming choreographers, as well as pieces by the Co-Artistic Director of CND2 Tony Fabre. The atmosphere in the first company is very different from the second. The dancers are older and more experienced, so there's a lot I can learn just by watching and being around them. Because there are twice as many people in the first company, the group is not as closely knit. It did take some adjusting in the beginning.

What spurred your move to Spain and your inclination to join CNDII and, ultimately, CND?

I was given my first opportunity to dance a Nacho Duato piece (“Arenal”) while I was at Tulsa Ballet, and I quickly fell in love with the style. It's organic, and I felt very comfortable doing his movement. After some urging from a close friend, I decided to fly to Madrid for the audition. I didn't know much about the company at the time, and had never been to Spain, let alone Europe, but I knew I would be happy dancing his ballets. After being in CND2 there was no question about wanting to be in CND1.

Here in the U.S., companies often hire international dancers. How has your transition from American to European life progressed? And what differences or similarities have you experienced? How's your Spanish?

Naturally, I was ecstatic about joining CND2 and moving to Spain, but at the same time it was very unnerving to be in a country where I had no friends or family, and where I didn't speak the language. I started studying Spanish right away, but it took about a year to feel comfortable using the Spanish that I had learned. These days I can understand nearly everything and speak well enough to express myself. The lifestyle in Spain is comfortable and laid-back, but there are many smaller comforts that I miss about the US like all the 24-hour stores and huge number of choices at the supermarket.

What are some of your favorite works to perform? And will you be dancing any of them on tour?

While I was dancing with CND2 my favorites to perform were “Arenal,” “Na Floresta,” and “Rassemblement” (which I'll be performing on February 21). My current favorites with CND1 are “Herrumbre,” “White Darkness” (February 21), and “Por Vos Muero” (February 24).

Describe one of your favorite moments with CND and/or CNDII.

I was lucky enough to join CND1 in the middle of last season (January, 2007), and my second tour with the company was to Yokohama, Japan. It's where my sister and nephew live, and it's just next to Tokyo where I was born and where my mother's family lives. My parents flew out from Tacoma, Washington, to see the show. I was completely nervous because it was my premiere with the first company, and it was the first time for all of my friends and family in Japan to see me dance, but in the end it was a great and memorable experience! I'm really thrilled that my 96-year-old grandmother got to see me perform.

With your, albeit brief, return to San Francisco, are there any places you hope to visit? Or favorite restaurants or places in the city you aim to revisit?

Most important on my agenda is to get in contact with old friends. It's been six years since my last visit to San Francisco, and that was only for a few days. If I have any time left after that I'll probably rediscover the city a bit.... walk around Fisherman's Wharf, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, or Ocean Beach. Maybe I'll even ride a cable car, which I never did when I lived in San Francisco.

You can see Compañía Nacional de Danza February 20-24 (off-day on February 22), 2008 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Compañía Nacional de Danza is presented by San Francisco Performances.

Program A, February 20-21 includes:

Rassemblement - (Music Toto Bissainthe from Haitian folk songs)
Castrati - (Music Antonio Vivaldi [Nisi Dominus RV 608; Stabat Mater RV 621; Salve Regina RV 616; Concerto RV 439 “La notte”], Karl Jenkins [Palladio])
White Darkness - (Music Karl Jenkins [Adiemus Variations, String Quartet No. 2])

Both performances are at 8 PM.

Program B, February 23 (8PM) and 24 (2PM) includes:

Gilded Goldbergs – US Premiere (Music: Robin Holloway)
Gnawa (Music by Hassan Hakmoun/Adam Rudolph (Gift of the Gnawa, Ma’Bud Allah)
Por Vos Muero (Music: Old Spanish music—fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (Cançons de la Catalunya millenària—
El Mestre, popular music of Catalonia by La Capella Reial de Catalunya, directed by Jordi Savall; Canciones y Danzas de España; and España, Antología de la Música Española)

More information can be found at San Francisco Performances’ website,

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