Monica and Graciela are sisters, lifelong collaborators and passionate advocates of the power of movement. Both discovered dance at an early age, studying ballet and contemporary dance in their native Panama. They have danced in a variety of styles all over the world, giving performances in France, Italy, India, Ecuador, El Salvador, Cuba, the Bahamas and the United States. Although they now live on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean — Monica in the US, and Graciela in the South of France — they continue to perform together wherever they can, such as at the recent F(Ê)AITES DE LA DANSE! in Monaco, co-sponsored by Ballets de Monte Carlo.
A joint study of Indian classical dance and yoga was a turning point in the sisters’ growth as artists and individuals. They both hold Post Graduate Diplomas in Indian Classical Dance from Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, and in Yoga from the Sivananda Yoga Center of Kerala.
After studying journalism at the University of Panama, Graciela began teaching dance at the university under the guidance of renowned instructors Ginela Vasquez, Leslie Reyes and Barbara Berger. Her interest in dance analysis brought her to Paris to study Benesh Movement Notation at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique et Danse de Paris, where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1997. In 2018, Graciela completed her Licence Arts du Spectacle, Danse, at l’Université Nice Sophia Antipolis. Since moving to the South of France in 2013, Graciela has taught aerial dance through her company, Les Arts de l’Air. She currently teaches aerial dance and acrobatics to performers of all ages at l’École de Cirque Tous en Piste in Tourrette-Levens.
Monica received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from La Escuela Nacional de Danza in Havana, Cuba, where she also performed professionally with the dance company Retazos. In 2003, Monica received her Masters in Education from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. Since 2006, Monica has taught aerial dance at Webster University in St. Louis, MO. She also choreographs for Webster’s Dance Ensembles, as well as performing and choreographing work with the local non-profit consortium ANNONYArts.
Monica and Graciela are committed to expanding global awareness of their uniquely expressive movement style. In 1989, they co-founded Creadanza, the first Panamanian contemporary dance company. Ten years later, inspired by their desire to take dance into the local community, they co-founded Cía Gramo Danse, an aerial and contemporary dance company in Panama. In 2015, the sisters started NEWSAM Aerial Dance, which promotes the physical, mental and emotional development of its students through the teaching and performing of aerial dance. The most recent co-production between Gramo Danse and NEWSAM was the world premiere in August 2016 of “Mar del Zvr – Mito y Realidad,” which tells the fantastic story of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa’s memorable journey across the Isthmus of Panama.
In 2017, Monica and Graciela began a new phase in their work together, with the publication of Aerial Dance for Dancers: Hammock — Technique and Syllabus. The first in a projected six volume series, this pioneering aerial dance curriculum is being developed in conjunction with performing arts students at Webster University. The sisters are introducing teachers, performers and other dance professionals to their innovative approach to the study of aerial dance at venues around the world: from workshops at dance studios and circus schools in Monaco and the South of France, to their joint presentation “Preparing Dancers for Aerial Dance” at the Missouri Dance Organisation’s annual conference in June 2018.
Through their continuing work as teachers, performers and choreographers, the sisters are fulfilling their dream of introducing performers of all ages to the excitement of aerial dance.