State Of The Arts: DALA Leaps Into High Gear This Fall


DALA dancer Claira Haagenstad in mid-leap. Courtesy/DALA

Los Alamos Daily Post

Dance Arts Los Alamos (DALA) has a new logo and a new look at its website just in time for fall classes.

The DALA Fall Schedule kicked off Sept. 8, but there’s still time to register for both hybrid and fully online classes. DALA has been a mainstay of dance education in Los Alamos for 28 years.

Artistic Director Jonathan Guise returned to DALA in July 2019 in time to produce his signature Nutcracker on the Hill in December. Get ready for an all-new Nutcracker this year. The production will be part of a trilogy of Guise Nutcrackers especially for Los Alamos audiences. The second ballet is “Ratcracker”.

“The plan is to do it this year, even if it has to be in June!” Guise promised. “The idea of a sequel to Nutcracker isn’t new, but we’ll be the first to do a trilogy.”

Guise wrote the outline and basic structure and put the music together. He will be joined by seven or eight new choreographers to do the choreography for the show.

Guise has been working in the entertainment industry for 27 years. He began his career in Colorado Springs, dancing with local groups and companies at the age of 15. Guise went on to dance with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Boston Ballet and The Eugene Ballet, to name a few. He has been a dance educator for 24 years, teaching at numerous studios, companies and universities around the globe.

DALA was one of the first organizations in Los Alamos to conquer Zoom and get classes online. Guise knew his students would be lost without DALA, which is a tight-knit community as well as a dance school.

“I spent March 13 to 15 becoming Zoom literate and was teaching online the following week,” Guise said. “I got a schedule out and soon we were good to go. The new schedule for fall has 62 hours of dance per week. The community has been very appreciative.”

Dance teachers have an energy that gets everyone excited,” he said.

“It’s hard to get that across on Zoom. It challenges the teacher to be more creative in class,” Guise said.

Some students don’t have the bandwidth to handle music and movement and there can be glitches, but DALA online kept kids trapped at home from going crazy, he said.

New Associate Director Karina Culloton Wilder agreed. The gallery view on Zoom allows classmates to build community, she said.

“I ask the youngest students if they would like to be the leader,” she said. “It’s sweet to watch the little ones lead the others. I tell them, make a dance with your couch! Be creative!”

Wilder is a dance artist interested in the creative process, improvisation, and dance education for humans of all ages and abilities. She was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, where she trained in ballet, pointe and contemporary, and participated in summer intensives with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Thodos Dance Chicago. Wilder pursued a degree in modern dance at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where she received a four year Alumni Dance Scholarship and earned Distinction in Dance upon graduation.

New to the faculty is Sam Italiano. She was born and raised in Colorado, growing up dancing at Barbie Graham Meir, which became Peak Academy of Dance with a change of ownership. While attending Elon University in North Carolina, Italiano studied with Gene Medler, the founder and artistic director of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble. She said that as an educator she is passionate about this living piece of history and beautiful art form, and continuously is learning and growing alongside her students. Italiano has honed her teaching skills in the quaint mountain town of Red Lodge, Mont.

DALA will hold classes in a hybrid model at its White Rock studio, following the COVID-19 policies set forth for gyms. Dancers will stand in boxes 6-8 feet apart with cleaning and sanitizing between each class. A limited number of students will attend in person on different days, entering the studio one at time, Guise said. For large classes, the live class also will be broadcast on Zoom. Students may request full online classes if they wish.

Online classes tapped into an uncharted market, Guise said. New ideas came out of the online model and students who can’t or don’t want to attend a class can now participate in dance. It’s a boon for the shy as well.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to do something physical that can make a huge positive change in everyone’s life,” Guise said.

What classes are upcoming this fall? Too many to mention! They are all outlined at and cater to everyone, from the tiniest brand new dancers to adults who have never worn a leotard, and everyone in between.

Here are just a few of the newest classes:

  • Story Dance Theater (ages 5-7) uses stories from dance and classic literature to create dance theater.
  • Latin Fusion with Heels promises to teach experienced dancers to spin and jump in heels!
  • Latin Cardio is an adult class for all skill levels that brings all the great Latin dances out for a workout you’ll never forget. Find your inner flamenco!
  • Adult Modern and Adult Tap join Adult Ballet this year.
  • Work out like a dancer with Stretch & Strengthen, a conditioning class that will guide dancers through specific workouts and stretches with what a dancer needs in mind. This class is open to everyone, even if you aren’t a dancer.

DALA is a non-profit and contributions are more than welcome. DALA has recently received a grant from the Regional Development Corporation and another from N3B. Support DALA through AmazonSmile (see, Smith’s Inspiring Donations (loginto your Smith’s account) and Triad Employee Giving, which matches 50 percent of employee donations. Or just write a check to DALA. DALA also can use both equipment and skilled help to get the studios ready for ZOOM.

“It’s been great to have our community stick with us through this difficult time,” Guise said.

For more information, visit