Dancing on the Edge

An Idyllwild Arts Academy dancer excels in a competition for young choreographers.

She had just won the $500 first prize in a festival competition for young choreographers. Yet Natalia Quezada Shrimpton was already thinking about her next choreographic work.

“Ricardo and I have decided to do it about the roles of women and men in different cultures.”

Like Natalia — or Nati — Ricardo Urbina Reyes will graduate from Idyllwild Arts Academy in May, with dreams of moving to Europe to take the next steps toward a career in dance. The show about women and men that Nati and Ricardo will present this spring could be their last hurrah on the Idyllwild campus, where the Dance Department has prepared them well to pursue their ambitions: Ricardo hopes to go on to the Hamburg Ballet, while Nati is aiming to continue her study of dance at Codarts University for the Arts, in Rotterdam.

Part of Nati’s preparation for the future was the effort she put into creating her work, “Encounterings,” to win the first prize at “Standing on the Edge,” the Youth Modern/Contemporary Choreography Festival in Pasadena, California. Every Idyllwild Dance major has to study choreography because the Dance Department wants its students to understand their art inside and out.

From ballet to modern

To make sure that its majors get comprehensive training, the Dance Department teaches every style of dance. Nati is typical of the Academy’s dancers in not having been introduced to modern dance until she started at Idyllwild in September 2012, even though she had taken ballet since she was six. (The reverse is also common, with many students having done modern or jazz dance but no ballet until arriving here.)

For Nati, the move from ballet to modern dance came naturally.“I’m very athletic, so I found that modern dance suited my body-type better.”

Enduring the rigors of dance training for more than four hours of class each afternoon on top of a morning filled by academic classes — not to mention frequent evening rehearsals for performances throughout the school year — has not been her biggest challenge. As any serious dancer must, she thrives on the work. But Idyllwild is not home for Nati, who comes from Mérida, capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán and the largest city on the Yucatán Peninsula.“At the beginning it was hard,” she admits.

However, staying busy helped her over the hump of homesickness, as did the fact that she met other Mexican students in the Dance Department. Gradually, she adjusted, as young people do, making good friends from the United States, Japan, and elsewhere. This was the inevitable result of studying in a highly international department within an even more international high school. If Codarts University for the Arts accepts Nati, she’ll face another huge transition to life in the Netherlands, but with the experience of a successful move from Mexico to the U.S. behind her.


Having already absorbed so much that was new — unfamiliar dance styles, and living and studying in a foreign country and with other teenagers from all over the world — what new things does she look forward to now?

But this question about the future comes before Nati has finished discussing the past and the present.

“I’ll miss Idyllwild so much! There’s such a variety of teachers here, and they give you so many opportunities to grow.”

The interview had to take place during lunch because her schedule keeps her constantly on the move. Answering questions has left her no time to eat, so now she insists on taking a few seconds. She swallows a bite of food that had gone cold. Then she speaks.

“The future? I imagine myself in a young, growing dance company, maybe in Europe or on the East Coast.”

Although there is much more future to dream and talk about, a schedule as busy as Nati’s demands calories. The interview ends so that she can eat.

Your own future in dance

To find out about where dancing at Idyllwild Arts Academy can take you, contact Tara Sechrest, Director of Enrollment Management, at tsechrest@idyllwildarts.org, or the Admission Office at (951) 659–2171 ext. 2223.

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