For a young Vikki Baltimore-Dale, a career in dance was hard to imagine. Even though she had trained in Washington DC with the best teachers her mother could find, there didn’t seem to be the right place for her. She believed that modeling would provide more opportunities.
Then Walter Nicks, a modern and jazz African-American dancer, takes her under his wing. “I also saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and was absolutely blown away,” said Baltimore-Nicks, now a jazz dance teacher at UNLV. “I knew I wanted to do concert dance with an African-American cultural aesthetic. I was then in a university where I had never seen this kind of aesthetic. I joined in immediately. It fits me like a glove.
Since then, she has taken countless other dancers under her wing by becoming a pioneer in the field of black dance, ultimately writing the only textbook that exists on the subject.
Her career includes being a member of George Faison’s New York City Universal Dance Experience company and performing on Broadway as the Sophisticated Lady in the musical. Bubbling brown sugar. His film credits include The Green Lady in the Ace as good as The blue brothers, and that of Francis Ford Coppola One from the heart.
She was the first to teach jazz dance classes at the Yunan Art Institute in Kunming, China and at Novosibirsk University, Russia. His choreographic commissions include “Continuum I and II” for the legendary Cleo Parker-Robinson Dance (Denver), “Pressure II” for Windows International Dance Company (Hong Kong) and Kaleidoscope (New York).
When she joined UNLV 32 years ago, Baltimore-Dale was the first black faculty member at the College of Fine Arts and has since shared her knowledge and talent with thousands of students.
What prompted you to get started in your field?
I was put in the dance by my mom who saw the classic movie The Red Shoes. It was about a young woman who puts on red tips and can never stop dancing.
Two things come to mind during my young dance years. The first is the exceptional instructors she chose for my training. My mom never danced, but she researched the best academies and studios in Washington. She did her research, which I also love to do.
Second, I saw my mother’s emotional and physical upheaval when a prestigious school told her that she did not accept black youth. This school was run by a well-known Mexican dance artist. It was a devastating affront to her because he was a minority himself. Both of these situations gave me a thirst for research and a desire to show the world the value of black dance and its impact on the dance arena.
Tell us about a time in your life when you dared.
Writing a manual to help the course I built called Survey of African American Dance was pretty daring for me. I hadn’t written anything other than my master’s thesis. However, the teacher who was my advisor at the time mentioned to me that from my writing he thought I should write a textbook. He was a source of inspiration when I dared to continue writing the manual. This is the only course and manual of its kind
Producing a “DANcumentaire” (a name I made up) was another daring endeavor. I had never formatted film and dance in this way. A DANcumentaire is a marriage of dance and documentaries reflecting the socio-political issues and commentaries of civil rights. Formatting and emphasis highlights the past and contemporary emotional impact of relevant information in a tactile creation of movement form and historical notation.
During the Covid pandemic, and in honor of George Floyd, I choreographed and performed two DANcumentarie ”-“ Off the Chain I… Disrespect ”and“ Off the Chain II… Reverse the Curse ”. surprise, they were well received and appreciated for their revealing messages.
The DANcumentaire prompted me to create a production company, The Arc. At present, the company consists of former students of UNLV Dance. DANcumentaries will be used as an educational tool in the academic field to supplement problems that are often avoided.
You served on the board of directors of the International Association of Blacks in Dance. How has this helped your teaching?
This position opened the door to coordinate, choreograph and lead the traveling performances of UNLV dance majors at IABD conferences. The students performed in Toronto, Dallas, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia and at the prestigious Kennedy Center in DC. During the 10 years as a member of the IABD board of directors, I have taken at least 58 students to perform on the same stage as Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey 2, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance 2, Dallas Black 2 and other iconic second companies. .
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Do not take a tap because it makes the thighs fat.
Tell us about your recent award and what it means to you.
I received the third Dr. Bert Babero Sr. Faculty / Staff Award in 2021 in recognition of my experience serving black students at UNLV through research, teaching, mentoring and counseling. It was awarded by the organization Student Diversity and Social Justice. This award was especially important to me because UNLV students from different disciplines nominated and voted for the award recipients.
It was further gratifying as it meant that 25 years of sharing information about the African American experience had permeated the student body and kept alive information of great importance that had been overlooked. Recognizing and sharing the knowledge of my heritage has made UNLV and the world richer academically.
What do the laity usually ask you about your field?
Earlier in my career, they thought dance was easy to complete.
Tell us about an object in your office and what it means to you.
I surround myself with experiences or special discoveries. I have a younger photo of Alvin Ailey which is a rare find. And a photo of Cleo Parker Robinson and myself – it’s special because Cleo, icon and dance pioneer, commissioned me to choreograph two works. There is also a photo of one of the works, Continuum I, performed by an all-male cast on my desk. There is also artwork from students who took my Survey of African American Dance course.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Watching my animals do what they were created to do. Dogs run, fish swim in their aquariums and parakeets fly free in a special part of my house.