Meet our artists: Ballet Theatre of Maryland
Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.
We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. We recently sat down with Dianna Cuatto of Ballet Theatre of Maryland.
How did you first hear about Young Audiences?
My predecessor joined Young Audiences before I came to Ballet Theatre of Maryland 12 years ago, and it was my first experience with the organization. Other dance companies that I worked with hadn’t done anything like it, so I did my research and found that I really liked Young Audiences’ mission statement and philosophy. When I completed my first Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) seminar, I found it very helpful for connecting education with art to help students better their lives.
What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve brought to students with Young Audiences?
Seeing the impact the arts can have on so many lives is the most memorable part. When we go out to schools, we see how it touches the lives of the students we are able to either perform for or work with during an arts-integrated artist-in-residence program. We have learned so much from Young Audiences and have gained tools that we use in our other educational program offerings, too.
There are a lot of students who have never had exposure to ballet. Do you find that bringing classical ballet to schools can be a unique opportunity for students?
Absolutely. Whenever I ask a school what they hope the students will get out of a program, they want their students to have that exposure to a real ballet. One thing that Ballet Theatre of Maryland does that’s different from other ballet companies I’ve been a part of is that we actually bring a real ballet to the students so they can have that experience. It’s very rewarding and our dancers enjoy doing it. The students express how much they love it. Some students may never have known that they enjoy ballet if they hadn’t been exposed to it during one of our programs at their school.
How does your art form connect students to what they are learning in school?
We do a lot of literary and historical pieces. For example, our assembly “Pirates of the Chesapeake” is based on pirate history. We also have an assembly, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and other programs that may relate to what they are studying in school. There is also the production of excerpts from “Excalibur” which we call the “Medieval Festival.” We mirrored it after a mini-Renaissance festival so students get experience with coats of arms and other material they learn about from that time period through dance.
How do the lessons and skills you teach students through your art form apply to their everyday lives outside of the classroom?
It seems that everything we do relates to their everyday lives. Our most popular assembly, “An American Journey through Dance,” teaches students about the many different cultures in our country. They are able to experience aspects of those different cultures through dance. There is something about the emotions and passions through the expression of dance that provides tools to understand each other, which is a very powerful thing for all of us. There is a culture embedded in all of the art that we do, and it is our place to pass it on.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?
One aspect would be the opportunity to see what other colleagues are doing, and how they are using the arts to impact children. Just being a part of the roster and being involved with different schools to see what children are able to gain through our programs is so rewarding. When you put all of the roster artists together, it creates a great tapestry of wonderful things students are able to experience in all of our different areas.
Why do you believe dance specifically–or the arts in general–is important for every student to have access to?
Our motto is: “Dance is a language more powerful than words.” No matter what language children speak, they can understand what you’re saying through dance. This is true for many art forms. We can communicate and break down barriers through that powerful language. It’s not just that studies show how art impacts students and helps them learn, it’s that we know the arts engage students in all of the senses, allowing them to experience it first-hand so they learn more intensely. When something engages all of your senses, it is easier to remember and apply it to other areas or circumstances. Art provides all of the learning tools that different children need because they learn in different ways.
Keep an eye out for more artist interviews! See all artist interviews to-date here.