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Conversations with Christina Valdez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Valdez.

Hi Christina, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My name is Christina Valdez. I am the owner and artistic director of Crescendo Conservatory. Crescendo Conservatory is a ballet conservatory in Olathe, Kansas. I have always loved to dance. As a child, I would beg my parents for dance lessons.

Unfortunately, dance lessons are very expensive. I wasn’t able to take a proper dance class until I was 17 years old, when I was old enough to pay for my own lessons. I have a degree in dance from Texas Woman’s University. It was always my dream to own my own dance school. 1996 – 2001, I owned a dance studio in Plano, Texas. 2001 my family moved to Overland Park. 2001-2014 I taught a few dance classes and focused on raising my family. August 2015, I opened, (with my former business partner) Crescendo Conservatory – August 2015 – June 2020 Crescendo was a partnership. The school quickly grew. We produced The Nutcracker Tea Party in partnership with The Arts and Recreation Foundation of Overland Park every year. We had a dance company that performed throughout the Kansas City Area. In 2018 and 2019, we were invited to perform at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Future Stages Festival. In 2019, I choreographed a ballet – Notte Stellata, which got a lot of attention on YouTube. It was inspired by a Japanese Figure Skater. We were featured in the Japan Times newspaper and on the Olympic Channel – twice. Things were going very well until the pandemic.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
COVID Challenges – March 2020. We had to shut down all live classes due to the pandemic. In June, my business partner decided to resign. We were at the end of our lease and were planning to relocate the business. We had been saving for years to be able to afford the move. I had to make the decision to keep going or to close the business. I have a great passion for dance, and I felt like I was not at the end of my journey.

All performing artists struggled during the pandemic. I taught ballet classes via Zoom for a couple of months. I knew we had to come back to live classes. On my own, I began to create COVID protocols bring back one class at a time. With the help of our amazing students and their parents, we relocated the business in the middle of a global pandemic in one week. We opened at our new location in September, and I became the sole owner. I doubted that we would be able to produce any live performances during the pandemic. I continued to look for ways for my dancers to keep performing. In December, we produced our Virtual Nutcracker via YouTube.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
This is the mission statement for my dance company – Crescendo in Motion. At Crescendo Conservatory, we are inspired by and celebrate artistry in all its forms. We strive to redefine the relationship between art, music and dance and to celebrate dance on our own terms. Looking back over the history of music, dance, and visual art, we combine the past with present to reach new audiences. During this global pandemic, Crescendo has turned to new avenues to share our love of dance via digital platforms. We will define a new legacy and move forward with purpose and focus.

Black Swan Ballet https://youtu.be/0OPBzyqV054. Making of Black Swan https://youtu.be/lobpmfdeCFY

In January 2021, I decided to choreograph a new dance – Black Swan, music by the Korean Pop Band – BTS (one of the most famous bands in the world). Maybe because I came to ballet later in life, I don’t feel constrained by the traditional definitions of ballet. I choreograph to what resonates with me. I chose not to let anyone define what is “art” for me. BTS’s Black Swan is a beautiful piece of music and the message inspired me, especially during the pandemic.

BTS’s Black Swan song is based on the quote Martha Graham Quote “a dancer dies twice, once when they stop dancing, and the first death is more painful.”

As I contemplated closing my ballet studio the summer of 2020, I thought, “What’s my thing?”. If I am no longer a dancer, teacher, choreographer – Who am I? As artists, are we able to continue to keep doing what brings us passion in the middle of a global pandemic? We fight against the shadows to keep our art form alive.

We faced many challenges. How could I choreograph a dance for 47 dancers in the middle of a global pandemic? This quote kept repeating in my head… “It always seems impossible until it is done” – Nelson Mandela

In early January, I scouted locations to film our dance throughout the Kansas City area. We were very fortunate that Union Station allowed us to film in their iconic Kansas City location. The second location we found was at the West Bottoms, Kansas City. I began teaching choreography in February. We filmed the ballet in early March.

Once we released Black Swan Ballet, it went viral. No one had attempted to choreograph a ballet to BTS’s music. Why? Because it is Korean music? I was very proud of the fact that BTS’s huge worldwide fan base (The ARMY) liked our ballet. Black Swan currently has over 376,000 views with over 2000 positive comments from around the world – Malasia, Bangladesh, Germany, Africa, Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, France, Korea, Japan, Singapore, India, Russia, Poland, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Phillipines, England, Iraq, Peru, Thailand, India, Denmark and the USA.

In April, I gave a preview of Black Swan to all dance classes at Crescendo. One little ballerina sat amongst the older dancers in a pink tutu & sparkling tiara, mesmerized by the ballet. When it was done, she immediately told her teacher, “That was BTS. That was my language. The big girls danced to a song in my language.” She was so proud that day. Representation matters – even in ballet. I have a video of Sol on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @crescendodance. Black Swan Ballet is my proudest accomplishment.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
It was a huge risk to decide to persevere and keep the business going in the middle of the pandemic. The summer if 2020, I struggled with that decision for months. I am cautious, Type A person. Could I keep a performing arts-based business going in the middle of a pandemic? It was not easy. There were many sleepless nights. My main concern was the health and well-being of my dancers. In the end, I took the risk and decided to stay open- without my business partner. Crescendo Conservatory was one of five schools selected to film at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Virtual Future Stages Festival. Yesterday, June 12th, Black Swan, opened the festival. My school is thriving, my dancers are beautiful and I am very proud of them. Perseverance, hard work, passion, risk – It was worth it.

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Image Credits
Photography by Nicholas Shea

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