Alumni Programs

Alumna Finds Creative Outlet in NY Dance Company

Cara Maldonado '08 Finds Creative Outlet in NY Dance Company

Nicky Tiso '10

Dancer and performance artist Cara Maldonado found her calling at Evergreen. A native of Wenatchee, Wash., her dream of pursuing a dance career materialized sooner than she expected, practically before she was out the Evergreen door.

Cara Maldonado dancing outdoorsMaldonado credits her early success to the encouragement of Evergreen faculty member Kabby Mitchell (Dance and African-American studies).

"I was taking an environmental studies class," she explains, "and I decided I needed some art," she explains. ... I met him through Me and My Shadow, a program about performance art and how it reflects society's shadow. He asked why I wasn't dancing. He started introducing me to dance history and different modern techniques...ballet. Just everything."

Mitchell not only advised her to pursue her passion, he set up an ambitious first audition with the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

"I was terrified," Maldonado recalls, but she got the part and performed in the company's 50th anniversary piece, Memoria.

I was actually so terrified of going to the audition," she recalled, "I didn't even want to go because they [Alvin Ailey] are a legend, one of the top dance companies in the world. But I got a call from Kabby; he was like: ‘you already have an audition so...'"

"I went to the audition and didn't hear back from them for a while so I kind of assumed I didn't get it," Maldonado continues. "About two weeks later I get a call and they are telling me when rehearsals are and all of this. So I was one of the young artists in Memoria. That was my first stage experience."

After this auspicious start, Maldonado performed with Seattle Theater Group's Dance This, where she met Jamel Gains, Artistic Director and founder of Creative Outlet.

three dancers

"Jamel pulled a couple of us aside and asked us to come train and perform with them," she says. "I was already planning on going to NY eventually to pursue a dance career. Kabby kind of gave me a nudge in that direction and it just happen a little sooner then I expected."

"Being in Creative Outlet is like being in a family," Maldonado says. "They are very connected to the community and the dance world. They have given me stability in the city and the chance to work with other artists."

Though technique matters, Maldonado is more interested in the meaning of each movement and its capacity to engage the audience on multiple levels. "If you don't understand what's motivating your dance, the audience doesn't either," she says, then summed up with a quote from Alvin Ailey: "Dance is for the people."

Asked about how to access the content of the role beyond formal, technical training, Maldonado sounds every inch the Greener: "Research. Talking to people, listening to the directors, connecting with the people you're dancing with on stage because everyone brings something different. Really try and understand it on multiple levels."

Maldonado is currently working on an emotionally charged historical piece titled Remembering, about the Atlantic slave trade.

"It's a very 'dance theater' piece," she explains. "There is spoken word, there is singing, there is ballet, there is performance... it's a piece that you really have to think about."

Maldonado believes Evergreen for prepared her "more than any other college could have done."

"I have had so many good experiences at Evergreen. It really gives you the opportunity to learn what your voice is," she says. "It takes a whole lifetime of figuring that out... but working at Evergreen has really allowed me on an academic, professional and a personal level to figure out how I fit into performance art, how to see the world through my own lens."

Ed. note: in pursuing a photo for this story, we called Creative Outlet and found another alumnus on the other end of the phone. Shannon Davis '03 is the company's Arts in Education director.