Island University Celebrates Art of Dance with 18th Annual Bailando Dance Festival

Published: October 04, 2017

Island University Celebrates Art of Dance with 18th Annual Bailando Dance Festival

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – This year marks the 18th anniversary of the Bailando Dance Festival. The festival, which is a partnership between Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Corpus Christi Concert Ballet’s Dance Initiative, endeavors to share the love and joy of dance to the local community through a series of master dance classes and evening performances on Thursday, Oct. 5, through Saturday, Oct. 7. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.

Each year, the festival brings in professional dancers from across the state and country to participate and teach the master classes. Also attending this year is an international dance company called IMAGODANZA – Costa Rica.

“Bailando offers a ‘big city’ experience to our Coastal Bend by bringing in dance and choreography professionals,” said Jilissa Cotten, Associate Professor of Dance and Bailando event organizer. “Saturday night is a celebration of dance, offering the audience a diverse program from our professionals and some local flavor, too.”

Since its inception in 2000, the Bailando Dance Festival has inspired Islander students to broaden their horizons. One such student is Christopher Niesner, a senior theatre major who is minoring in dance. Niesner, who has participated in the festival previously, will once again take part in all Bailando has to offer including the many master dance classes, which offer a wide range of styles from hip-hop and jazz to classical Indian dance and African fusion.

“During the semesters we usually only have the same few types of dance classes available,” said Niesner. “It’s a blast to learn other dance styles from incredibly talented performers from around the world.”

This year, Niesner will be submitting his own choreographed dance piece into the festival. His 80’s workout video inspired comedy routine, titled “Buns and Thighs: Super Edition,” has been a long labor of love that he has worked on for more than three months.

“We started practicing the piece towards the end of July,” he said. “Even before that, I was planning out everything before rehearsals began.”

Niesner’s piece will make its debut Thursday – the first night of Bailando’s evening performances. He says he’s looking forward to opening the festival and getting feedback on his work.

“After each concert on Thursday and Friday, judges critique the choreographers on their formations, movements and use of style,” said Niesner. “Then if they really like your piece, they’ll ask you to come back for the big gala performance on Saturday night.”

Niesner encourages his fellow Islanders and members of the community to come out to the evening Bailando performances.

“These performances are truly eye opening experiences,” said Niesner. “A few years ago, I saw a Bailando performance featuring dancers from the Austin Ballet. It was the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen and I still get goosebumps just thinking about it.”

Niesner is expected to graduate May 2018. After graduation, the Austin-area native plans to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. He says he’s thankful to have found the Theatre and Dance program at A&M-Corpus Christi, one he calls a “hidden gem.”

“I didn’t dance at all in high school, but now that I’ve had all this practice in college, I feel more confident and comfortable in my body,” said Niesner. “Dance has expanded my world and given me another skill in my proverbial toolbox. I’m so thankful to Jilissa and my other dance instructors for pushing me to be the best version of myself.”

Tickets to Bailando’s evening concerts range from $12-18 for general admission, $7.50 for students and $5 for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi students with a valid SandDollar$ ID. Master dance classes are free for Islander students. For more information, or a full list of master classes, visit