Paul Mejia

Dallas DanceFest Profile: Mejia Ballet International

Paul Mejia, former artistic director of Fort Worth Dallas Ballet and Metropolitan Classical Ballet, discusses his latest project and performance for Dallas DanceFest.

published Friday, August 29, 2014

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Paul Mejia working with students at his studio in Arlington

Arlington — Olga loves Paul and Paul loves Olga. And why not? The two met 11 years ago when Paul Mejia was co-artistic director with Alexander Vetrov of Ballet Arlington, later named Metropolitan Classical Ballet. Olga Pavlova made a dazzling debut in February 2003 in Bonjour Brel as a guest artist, and then the company capitalized on her flawless technique, casting her in four of the five ballets performed in October of that year. She joined the company as a principal dancer in December.

Vetrov, a famous Bolshoi Ballet star, had known Pavlova well, having seen her perform with Grigorovich Bolshoi Ballet and the Russian Imperial Ballet.

Alas, Metropolitan Classical Ballet folded in 2009 except for two feeble stabs at The Nutcracker. So that was the last we were to see of Pavlova.

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Paul Mejia

The Peruvian born Mejia is not one to give up, though, and formed Mejia Ballet International. And that is where Pavlova fits in, and why she will be making her Dallas debut Saturday night as part of the Dallas DanceFest. She will be dancing Mejia’s tricky and demanding Webern Pieces with her husband Yevgeni Anfinogenov. “We’d made cuts to Webern Pieces to make it fit with the 10 minutes allotted to each piece,” Mejia says.

“I love Webern Pieces,” Pavlova says. “It is very special for me. It is both elegant and simple. I can present it in many different ways, unlike say Giselle where you can’t change anything. In Webern Pieces it’s not about the steps, it’s about the movement and the connection with the music.” Even though the ballet had to have cuts, Pavlova says it looks complete.

Pavlova tours a lot and recently staged Mejia’s Violin Concerto in Moscow. She also teaches occasionally at Ballet Conservatory in Dallas and Gayle Corkery School of Ballet in Fort Worth. (Incidentally Gayle Corkery is where Bruce Wood took his first ballet lessons.)

“She is a pleasure to work with,” Mejia says. “I don’t have to direct her. She is the ultimate artist, extremely musical. Ballet to her is her life.”

While his Mejia Ballet International is still in its early formative state, this year it will branch out beyond San Antonio to two more Texas cities, and will have two different shows at Texas Hall on the University of Texas Arlington campus in the spring and fall of 2015.

“I really created a school and company for my children,” says Mejia, whose history with George Balanchine and ballerina Suzanne Farrell is legendary.

His 14-year-old son Roman is already primed to make a splash, studying at the prestigious School of Ballet in New York this summer and was invited to stay for a year. “He’s too young,” says Mejia, “maybe next year.” Mr. Vetrov came from Russia to work with Roman this summer. His 13-year-old daughter Isabella is also serious about ballet, while his youngest son Laszlo has little interest.

His wife Maria Terezia Balogh was the brilliant star at Fort Worth Ballet when Mejia was artistic director and brought the company to new heights with its mix of Balanchine and his own works. Now Balogh teaches class—“she is much better at it than I am,” Mejia admits.

Last Monday I got a glimpse of her style: demanding but encouraging. I also had the pleasure of seeing Roman dance; his smile said everything as he bounded across the floor with wicked energy and then executed whiplash turns.

The contrast between great artists like Pavlova and young talent like Roman is great, but it also is what keeps ballet alive. Someday we will see just how far Roman stretches his wings.


» Olga Pavlova will perform Webern Pieces Saturday night as part of the Dallas DanceFest.

» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.

» Companies performing Friday night are: Dallas Ballet Company, Ewert & Company, Rhythmic Souls, Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, Indique Dance Company, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Texas Ballet Theater, Southern Methodist University Meadows Dance Ensemble, Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

» Companies performing Saturday are: Chamberlain Performing Arts, Chado Danse, Houston METdance, Avant Chamber Ballet, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Rep I and II companies, Tarrant County College Movers Unlimited, Mejia Ballet International, Bruce Wood Dance Project

» The Dance Council Honors are Sunday at 2 p.m., honoring Nita Braun, Ann Briggs-Cutaia and Joe Cutaia, Buster Cooper, Dylis Croman, Suzie Jary and Beth Wortley, with performances by Ballet Ensemble of Texas, Bruce Wood Dance Project and 2014 Dance Council Scholarship Recipients.

» Look for more stories about the Dallas DanceFest this week. Below are links to profiles of some of the dance companies that we've published:

 Thanks For Reading

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Dallas DanceFest Profile: Mejia Ballet International
Paul Mejia, former artistic director of Fort Worth Dallas Ballet and Metropolitan Classical Ballet, discusses his latest project and performance for Dallas DanceFest.
by Margaret Putnam

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