A chance meeting in New York City led to a 30-year relationship between Margo Dean and Luis Montero, one of the nation’s recognized Spanish dance experts ¬– and Dean’s Ballet Concerto this year pays homage to that long-lasting relationship.
By chance is perhaps not exactly correct. Ballet professionals take classes wherever they are in the world, constantly looking for new ideas and techniques. And that’s true of Fort Worth’s grande dame of ballet.
She’s done that in Paris and in Cannes, in Rio de Janeiro and Madrid, in London and New York.
Montero worked at the New York City Opera after he came to the United States, and also at Ballet Hispánico, where he gave flamenco classes to professionals.
In 1998, Margo Dean and her daughter, Giselle, showed up at one of the classes.
“Everybody was ready to start and there she comes, across the room with her daughter. I said, ‘Who is this lady?’ I mean, she didn’t look like a Spanish dancer at all,” Montero said.
“We started class,” he said. “Margo, she never gave up. She continued, she was struggling. At the end of the class, I said, ‘Who are you?’ She said that she had a company here in Fort Worth, that she was the director, and she was glad to meet me.”
Montero invited her to a rehearsal for a ballet he was choreographing for Ballet Hispánico, a mixture of Spanish dance style and ballet.
“She came to our rehearsal and she loved it. She said, ‘Oh, I want you to do that choreography for me.’ So I came here to Fort Worth the first time in 1998, 30 years ago,” he said. Dean says that he’s missed only two summers in that time.
In a previous interview, Dean searched for the right word to describe Montero in those days and settled on temperamental. “He’s mellowed a little,” she said then.
But he’s still a demanding taskmaster.
Montero was born in 1939 and started dancing when he was 11. He was training in Spanish dance and in those days, there was very little opportunity to study ballet in Spain, so he had to travel to do that.
“I learn Spanish dance, but then I used to take ballet, too. I love all kinds of dance. I like modern dance. I was on Broadway, too, a few years, because I want to know all kinds of types of dance. And Margo gave me the opportunity to do ballet for her,” Montero said.
“They have a beautiful company down here and beautiful dancers. This year we will have a very good company. We’re doing Carmen and it’s very good,” he said. It will be the fourth time he has staged his version of the ballet in Fort Worth.
“It’s a very strong ballet. You know when [Georges] Bizet did [the opera] Carmen in Paris – the opening was in 1875 ¬– it was a big scandal because the operas in those days were La Traviata. You know, ‘She loved, and she died with love and pneumonia,’ whatever,” Montero said. “But Carmen is very rough. It’s about a woman who’s very independent and she chooses the men that she wants to. And in those days it was a scandal.”
Today it is one of the most performed operas.
“Margo’s special because we are friends for many years, but I always create a very good relationship with the director,” he said. “I’m very friendly with people and they are friendly to me. My English is not that good so sometimes they help me. They say, ‘Oh, you say this wrong,’ or ‘Can we tell you?’ and I say go ahead because you know I learn my English here in the United States.”
Dean said in 2017 that while she has a ballet company, “I have a passion for flamenco and Spanish dance, and so it’s been wonderful having him. He’s a real taskmaster, but he gets a lot out of the dancers.”
But she also confessed with a wink that one of the reasons she brought Montero to Fort Worth originally was that “I wanted to dance, and he had to cast me. You know? And if he didn’t cast me, I’d say, ‘No pay.’”
Montero says they have a wonderful relationship.
“I love her. She’s a very nice lady, and she gave me the opportunity to create whatever I want to. When I go to different places or countries, they say ‘I want you to create this for me,’ but they told me what they want. Margo, she said, ‘You can do anything you want to.’ How wonderful.”
Montero divides his time between Chicago and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (during Chicago’s winters).
“I have had such a beautiful experience in America. I’m an American now, and I love America,” he says. “A hundred percent. A hundred and fifty percent because the people who are born here, they don’t appreciate how wonderful this country is.”
Ballet Concerto is a professional nonprofit performing arts organization that exists to make ballet and other forms of dance available to audiences of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
Summer Dance Concert
La Pasion de Amor y Bailar
Honoring Luis Montero
Opening night benefit gala: June 21 at 6:30 p.m. (No free admission for this performance only.)
June 22 and 23: 8:30 p.m.
June 24: 8 p.m.
Admission: Free on the lawn. Chairs for lawn seating available for rent. Paid reserved seating also available.
Location: The Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork
5000 Clearfork Main St.
Fort Worth 76109