Con Danza Delivers Dance Classes to Warehouse District

August 20, 2012

By Teya Vitu

Dance has been Cesar Degollado’s life since the day he arrived in Tucson 19 years ago to attend the University of Arizona.

Cesar Degollado at his Con Danza dance studio.

More accurately, Degollado was known as Cesar Rubio as he danced all these years with Ballet Tucson, taught dance to countless students and worked as a senior office specialist at the UA School of Dance.

Just recently, Rubio shifted to his mother’s maiden name, Degollado, and as Cesar Degollado has just this year given firm root to his own dance company, Con Danza.

Con Danza has been more “a concept” for the past five years, floating back and forth from Tucson to Sweden, with dance classes always in this borrowed space or that, and Degollado only able to devote part-time attention to his dream.

Con Danza became a full-time job for him last fall when his long-time jobs at Ballet Tucson and the UA School of Dance ended. Con Danza dwells in the world of ballet, contemporary dance and modern dance.

With his new name and new liberty, Degollado finally could give Con Danza a physical home base and an address: 119 E. Toole Ave. – the same multi-room warehouse hosting Borderlands Brewery and Borealis Arts, and the same address where the first Food Truck Roundup was staged in November.

“What I’m trying to do is establish ourselves as the face of contemporary dance and within that use our community engagement to bring dance to the community,” Degollado said.

Since May, Con Danza’s 18-strong repertory company of dancers has taken classes and rehearsed shows in the 1,200-square-foot dance studio the Degollado fashioned out of what was a freezer decades ago. Two, randomly offset skylights bath the studio with a cinematic glow.

Starting in September, Degollado wants to add public dance classes, ballet for teens ages 13 to 17 and jazz dance for adults. These classes will likely be on Thursdays, about 4 p.m. for the teen ballet and likely 7:30 p.m. for jazz dance.

“All our classes are $10,” he said. To sign up for classes, call 990-1683 or email condanza@gmail.com.

Degollado grew up in Mexico City and lived in El Paso for six years before coming to Tucson in 1993 to go to UA. Within days he met Mia Hansen, these days the executive director of Tucson Meet Yourself and a choreographer, producer, project manager and alumna of Up With People.

Right from the get-go, Hansen hooked Degollado (or Rubio) up with Ballet Tucson, where he was a dancer and choreographer for younger dancers for 18 years.

Years later, Hansen again proved instrumental by inviting Degollado to take part in an Up With People alumni trip to Japan and Thailand. One of the Up With People dancers was Swedish – and thus Degollado’s shuttling between Sweden and Tucson from 2005-2011.

He actually started Con Danza in Stockholm with three dancers. The Swedish commute ended last year and now the company is based entirely in the Toole warehouse.

Con Danza’s foundation is the repertory company of 18 dancers attending high school or college. Con Danza has worked with six elementary schools and is launching residency program at Cholla and Sabino high schools.

“That’s geared toward training for college or a dance company,” Degollado said. “What we’re trying to do is advance dance as a higher education option or a career choice.”

The repertory company has given 18 performances in the past year at high schools and various festivals.

“The rep company goes to high schools and performs to inspire younger people,” he said.

Closest to his heart, though, is his Con Danza Project, an educational community outreach effort. The project will have free classes for underserved children who could not otherwise afford dance classes.

‘We’re hoping to do the free dance classes at least once a month,” Degollado said, but he has not determined when he will start the Con Danza Project.

In the mean time, he recently traveled with nine of his dancers to Pittsburgh for the Jazz Dance World Congress, where Degollado was a finalist for an international choreography competition but his students ended up seeing more success.

“All of my dancers performed,” he said. “This was a window to the professional world for them. Two of them got job offers right away.”

Degollado’s primary objective at the Congress was to expose Con Danza to the dance world.

“People were very excited about what we were doing as a young, semi-professional company,” he said. “Some company directors want to set choreography on us.”

He said ballet companies in Philadelphia, Sacramento and Chicago are interested in trying out new choreography with Con Danza.

Then comes the making ends meet aspect for Degollado. In addition to Con Danza, he continues to give private lessons, and he got offers to teach while in Pittsburgh.

He shares the studio with photographer Ed Flores, who happens to photograph ballerinas.

“We want to do rentals for other dance companies or private teaching,” he said.

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