Artburst Miami welcomes Orlando Taquechel to the team, the Cuban-born dance critic who began his career as an architect and later segued into a career in the health-care industry. His love of dance, though, has always been strong since a young age, so Orlando has had dual careers for most of his life.
Artburst: Give us a glimpse into your educational background and ultimate career path
OT: I was born in Havana and graduated with a degree in architecture from the Universidad de La Habana in 1975 and with a BA in Theater and Drama from the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana in 1981. In 2005, I received an MBA from the University of Phoenix in Arizona. I have also authored various papers including Methodology for the Ballet Critique, for which I was awarded the Essay Award from the University of Panama 1980. I also wrote Definition of the Cuban School of Ballet in 1981 and co-authored Who’s Who in the Mexican Dance Volume I in 1992.
As a dance specialist I participated in the International Ballet Competition of Moscow in 1981, the Festival Inter-Ballet of Budapest, 1982, the Festival XXI International of Television Prague of Gold, 1984, the Meeting of the Americas, Mexico, 1985, and since 2007 have been host/interviewer of the Miami International BalletFestival of Miami.
I was also director of the theater faculty and co-director of the Group of Scenic Practices of the Dance Faculty at Mexico’s University of Veracruz from 1987 to 1994.
In 1989 I was a member of the Jury of the X National Award of Dance INBA-UNAM and in 1992, I co-founded the Mexican Ballet of Ballroom Dances as artistic director and choreographer in Mexico City.
I had my first chance to choreograph out of pure necessity when no choreographers were available, but the space was already reserved. So I bought books and taught myself about choreography. I ended up choreographing the opening and closing numbers of the show. My choreography “De Riguroso Estreno” was awarded in 1991 with the Gold Laurel in the First Encounter of International of Ballroom Dances of Mexico City and represented Mexico in the International Ballet Competition of Paris, France in 1992.
Orlando Taquechel on the right with Pedro Pablo Peña, receiving the “Criticism and Culture of Ballet” Lifetime Achievement Award at the XIX
International Ballet Festival of Miami (Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason / September 14, 2014)
OT: I moved here at the end of 1994 to Dallas, where I was Editor in Chief of El Hispano News from 1995-96, then in June 1998 I became the freelance dance critic for El Nuevo Herald. I worked there up until April 2017. During those years I received the medal for Merit of Dance from the International Dance Council in July 2009 and was the recipient of the “Criticism and Culture of Ballet” Lifetime Achievement Award at the XIX International Ballet Festival of Miami in September 2014.
However, at first when I came to Miami in 1996 I couldn’t find work as a writer so I looked for other work. After attending a professional conference about reorientation, I diverted to the health-care industry where I worked for 17 years until 2015, when I retired in order to dedicate myself full time to dance related activities. Just as when I was an architect, I worked in the health-care profession while being the El Nuevo dance critic. I was asked to join their staff by their Arts Editor and was able to do it for20 years.
Artburst: What inspired you to enter the world of dance?
OT: My family was always involved in art and from a very a young age, they took me to many arts events and we got to see many artists that passed through Cuba who then went on to fame in their field. Then in 1977 I went to see Ballet Copelia with Rosario Suarez, the Cuban dancer. It was an incredible experience for me, and I vowed that when she made her “Swan Lake” debut – my favorite full-length ballet - I would write my first review. Years passed and in 1981 they announced that she would do it and so I called up Bohemia, one of Cuba’s most renowned magazines, sent my review and they published it.
I was also very lucky that I had a family that wanted me to succeed in arts. I took classes in piano and music theory. I have been able to grab onto everything I’ve studied to pursue other avenues.
Artburst: How did you come to write for Artburst Miami?
OT: Well, I was part of its first team during the pilot period called Performance Journalism in 2009. So this is like a coming home for me. I was back from a visit to Mexico where I was part of a panel when El Nuevo Herald told me that the dance critiques would no longer be published. I then met several other journalists at an event we were all attending and they suggested I call Anne Tschida the editor, about writing for Artburst.
Artburst: What is next for you and how do you feel about writing for Artburst?
OT: I hope to publish a book of my dance critiques from the past 20 years and to have it ready for the International Ballet Festival of Miami in September.
It is to wonderful what we do at Artburst, letting people know what is going on in the arts. Being familiar with the dance in Miami, I know I can provide a truly informative account of their history in their field.
As writers oftentimes we think that people outside the United States don’t read our articles, but that is not the case. In Mexico and Spain many of my articles have been very well received. It proves that our work does have worth outside ‘our own little corner’ (you know, I also love musical theater). I am sure that has happened to most writers especially in Miami, because all the talented dance groups are helping our city grab international attention. This is relatively new for Miami and it’s due to the growth and prestige of our incredible dance community. Artists are now coming to Miami with great care to give their best performances here, because they know that our dance community is worthwhile – audience included.