Choreographer Michael Escovedo was a dancer in the company from 2014-19. During that time he choreographed four works that hailed critic praise for the company. We sat down by phone to talk with him talks about honoring his grandmother’s memory while staying true to the person she was in his work Broken Bridges. This work will appear on the Building Bridges Together film on November 21, 2020 with BlueWater Chamber Orchestra.
Photos: Jackie Sajewski (2020)
Dr. Carlson originally came to you with a challenge to reimagine or take inspiration from Heinz Poll’s Elegiac Song also set to music by Shostakovich. What inspired you by his work?
When I first saw Heinz Poll’s Elegiac Song, I was drawn to the loneliness of the piece. My heart broke watching a woman fight her way through emotion, loss and exhaustion. While we were setting Elegiac Song, my grandmother’s Alzheimers began to get worse. I started to see my grandmother in this woman, and I started to connect their journeys. At this point I began listening to Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, the same music used for Elegiac Songs, and it became a coping mechanism for everything I was experiencing. The high tension and contrast within the music helped me tell the story, and helped my process my emotions. To my surprise a year later Dr. Carlson asked me to choreograph, when she did, I was more than ready to share.
The ballet was choreographed in 2017 after your grandmother passed away. Tell us how she inspired the piece.
My grandmother’s passing was one of the first close experiences with death that I had. At that time I was also coming to terms with my own mortality, and what my impact on the world would be. As I grew, I began seeing qualities in myself that were very similar to my grandmother, and most of these qualities were not necessarily good. While making Broken Bridges, I wanted to validate both of our existences. I wanted to show that there is dignity in life no matter how torturous it can be. And the beauty in human beings, even if they are covered in layers of abuse, illness, and misfortune.
This is an immensely personal ballet about your family. How do it feel to see it on stage again?
I actually have mixed emotions about making this piece public. Put myself out there is one thing. I didn’t realize what the impact would be on my family to witness their experiences on a stage. I so grateful for a supportive family that loves and appreciates the work that I create. The piece became healing work for all of us and helped us all grow to understand each other on a deeper level. I am so proud of this piece and will always be filled with an array of emotions every time.
How did you come to the title for the ballet?
One of the main themes of the piece is the loss of connection. These include familial, personal, and even mental connections. My father used my grandmothers first name, Bridgette, and the idea of breaking connections to create the title Broken Bridges.
Given the ballet is being performed for film vs stage what do you hope people will see in the work?
I hope that our audience can see the amount of detail within the piece. Every single step has meaning to it, and there is so much story told through motifs and symbols. I also hope everyone gets a close look at the main dress. My mother, Shawna Hinton, designed and created it, and it is beautiful and perfectly fits the the theme and emotion of the piece. Finally, I hope that the audience will be able to connect with the emotion of the piece and the emotion of the dancer
What did you most enjoy about working with Verb Ballets?
This company is my family. We have all seen each other at our best and our worst, and those experiences bring an authenticity to our work that I cannot find anywhere else. There is not another company on this planet that understands me, my mind, and my intention as well as Verb Ballets does, and there isn’t another company that I would trust with a work like this.
After retiring from Verb Ballets what are you up to now?
After leaving Verb I moved back near my family and took on the job of Conservatory Manager at the Colorado Conservatory of Dance. I continue to choreograph and I always have a piece in my back pocket ready for Verb!
Michael was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He took his first ballet class at the age of 9 at Colorado Conservatory of Dance. After that first class, he knew ballet was his calling. At the age of 15, Michael left for New York City to train with the School of American Ballet. While in New York, Michael worked with many of the dance worlds greatest, such as instructors, such as Jock Soto, Peter Martins, Darci Kistler, and Albert Evans.
In 2014, Michael launched his professional career by accepting a position with Verb Ballet in Cleveland, Ohio. Michael has performed with Verb Ballet in many countries, including Taiwan and Cuba. Michael has been featured in numerous works such as Tarantella, Don Quixote, Adam Hougland’s K281 and many more. While in Cleveland, Michael began his professional choreographic career. He has choreographed countless works on different companies and schools in Cleveland, with his most famous pieces are Broken Bridges, Baby Birds, and The Leaving Song.
In 2019, Michael moved back to Colorado and began working at Colorado Conservatory of Dance as the Conservatory Manager, but continues to dance, teach, and choreograph nation wide.