8th May 2021
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Armando Luna: Dancer and Choreographer – Theatre People

Armando Luna
By Mitch Stark

Hello everyone! This week, I’m so pleased to introduce you to ballet dancer and choreographer Armando Luna.

I met Armando while designing projections for Jack the Ripper at the Savannah Ballet last year—which showcased his extraordinary creativity and dedication to his craft. Armando’s dance career spans over 35 years and he taught and produced over 50 works for the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education.

Hope you enjoy Armando’s dance and theatrical musings as much as I did and have a great weekend!

Atlanta Ballet dancer, choreographer and producer Armando Luna and his team of ballerinas.

What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)

It could be any show! Mostly, I enjoy a performance in which the artists are so engaging that I feel a connection with them somehow, then I have an experience or a moment that lives on long after the show is over.

What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre/ballet?

As a dancer, one of my favorite experiences has nothing to do with anything technical at all. Nothing bravura. It was when I was the Prince in Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella with BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio. It was a beautiful production, the costumes, sets, and lighting were excellent. The company was well-rehearsed and the performance was going so well. We are in the moment of the ballet where Cinderella arrives at the ball. She has a beautiful carriage pulled by students from the school dressed as unicorns and Prokofiev’s score is played magically by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Then, Cinderella (Paige McFall), is escorted out of the carriage. She walks to center stage, then steps into an exquisite fifth position on pointe, and looks at me. I was so enraptured by that moment. I think the entire audience was too. It was a moment in the theatre where all the hard work and elements come together to create a moment that lasts in the hearts of everyone who was there. Creating a lasting moment in the performing arts is a culmination of hours of dedication from so many people!

What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)

I have seen all kinds of slips and falls, some of them, my own. However, the biggest fails (for me), have to do with a costume or prop not working properly. One fail that comes to mind, is when I was performing The Nutcracker on tour. In this version, the mechanical girl and boy doll in the first act were dancing for us. Everything is fine, until the final pose, which ended in a lift. As the boy doll put the girl doll down, they somehow got stuck, rear to rear! Being true professionals, the dolls stayed in character. The dolls tried to walk, but they were really stuck! They moved up, down, and sideways, nothing worked. All of us on stage had a hard time keeping our composure and Drosselmeyer was so flustered, he forgot to get the dolls. Thankfully, the person who played the butler gathered his senses and helped the dolls off stage and the audience roared. Fortunately, the audience thought it was part of the choreography.

Why do you love ballet?

I love ballet for different reasons: The list is long, but mainly ballet is a great teacher. The list is in no particular order.

– I love the discipline of improving my body in a way that is artful yet physical.
– Ballet is challenging physically and mentally.
– Ballet teaches me to work well with others, via listening to my peers, taking corrections from teachers, and have an open mind.
– Ballet teaches me to forgive myself when a step or movement does not go as well as I expected.
– Ballet teaches me to keep trying.
– Ballet helps me be creative when I choreograph.
– Ballet teaches me to respect my elders because their experience is invaluable to the future.
– I can keep going

Theatre/ballet is for…

NON-THEATERGOERS

The performing arts are for the non-theatergoer who would watch a movie at home rather than see a free performance in the park. They might enjoy the experience and keep a moment in their hearts forever.

Armando Luna

More About Armando

Armando Luna began his training in Houston, Texas with Margo Marshall then with Soili Arvola and Leo Ahonen. His professional dance career spans 35 years. He danced professionally with Ballet Austin, BalletMet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Atlanta Ballet. He toured with Ballet Spectacular, performing with Rudolf Nureyev and Alexander Godunov and performed as a guest artist with Irish National Ballet and Ballet Arizona. He has partnered notable Ballerinas Cynthia Gregory and Marianna Tcherkassky. Since his retirement as a dancer from the Atlanta Ballet in 1998, he has continued to perform character roles in John McFall’s The Nutcracker, Michael Pink’s Dracula and Romeo and Juliet, Christian Holder’s Transcendence, Yuri Possokhov’s Don Quixote and Bruce Well’s Beauty and the Beast.

Armando has been the principal teacher of the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education since 1998. Many of his students have moved on to dance professionally with Atlanta Ballet, New York City Ballet, Houston Ballet, Alabama Ballet, and Texas Ballet Theatre. As an award winning choreographer, he has worked in the US and Europe and has created over 50 works for the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, ranging from Classical, Neoclassical, and Contemporary Ballets to story ballets such as Babar the Elephant, which was performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

His ballets have been featured at Chautauqua Dance Salon, CPYB’s Choreoplan, Regional Dance America’s Festival Gala and JCM’s ArtCAN, to name a few. In addition, he has created works for many college dance programs which include Emory University, Texas Christian University, Goucher College, and Agnes Scott College. Armando received his BA in Dance from KSU in 2015 and is currently working with the classic rock band Kansas, choreographing a pas de deux danced to their famous song Dust In The Wind as the band plays live. This work premiered in Atlanta in 2018 to begin the Point of Know Return tour, then was performed in Nashville, and most recently in 2019 on the west coast. Armando is also in the planning stages of a collaborative project for Earth Day 2020, with his son, Dante Luna, who is a musician and composer in Los Angeles.

Published in collaboration with TheatreAve
Also by Mitch Stark:

Barb Hilt: Director, Designer and Teacher – Theatre People

Ray Palasz: High School Drama Teacher – Theatre People

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