Heart and Soul

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Can arts in the Valley finally connect to the rest of the world?

By Joey Gomez

World traveled and devoted to her craft, Susy Gramoff says the key to success has been a delicate mix of artistic fervor and business savvy. Now a question arises that Gramoff believes she can answer. Can the arts finally connect the Valley to the rest of the world?…

Hint:The answer’s a conditional ‘ yes’.    

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Born into an artistic family, and influenced early on by her mother, herself a performer from Russia, Suzy Gramoff has traveled the world, and trained with masters in the art of dance and theater.

Arriving in the Valley recently after being away for 13 years, Gramoff says her initial impression was the realization that new cultures and people are arriving here daily, and an increasingly vocal minority are fostering a real demand for the arts in the region.

The time is right to take art to a different level, and do things people have never seen before in the Rio Grande Valley, Gramoff says. The dream is to achieve things that are different than what people are accustomed to.

The first step, she says, is reaching the children, and expose them to top-level instructors and professionals in the business. The next step is enabling those children to have the confidence to show their talents to those around the world.

“Someone has to have the courage to say ‘No, that’s not right. Here is the right way,’ she said. “We are approaching it by doing the shows, teaching the kids and exposing them to the arts.

“We need to push the kids to excel in the fine arts. It’s not enough to say ‘anything will do’. Parents have to be more demanding.”

Recently, Gramoff famously attracted Jesse Lee Santos, choreographer for stars like Madonna and Britney Spears, to conduct a workshop for students, who then showed off what they learned to a packed house at the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo.

Including adults, she now counts more than 200 students who have caught on to the message.

“We are giving to our students something that is priceless, something they can take anywhere,” she said. “I just follow what I love, and I guess God works in mysterious ways.”

Gramoff brings nearly 20 years of international experience, beginning her professional training in 1997 at the flamenco school Fundacion de Cristina Heeren in Sevilla, Spain. Five years later she would travel as an independent dancer performing around the world beginning in Spain, New York then west to California.

She settled in Mexico City, where she was born and raised, opening a school she named Encontrarte and devoted a portion of her time there perfecting the dancing elements of technique and form. She began her McAllen business, Suzy’s Dance and Fitness, in 2008 with renowned instructor Rolando Pacheco from Austin.

The challenge at that time, she says was finding the right combination of artistic expression and business acumen to survive.

“The challenge is we can’t just do it for the love of arts anymore, we have to be smart about it,” she said. “We have to pay rent and bills, so doing things just for the love of arts might not work so much anymore.”

“Yes, it’s going to take a little longer, but I think with the right shows and technique we offer, we’re going to get there,” Gramoff said. “It’s going to take some time, but it’s not impossible. Maybe that was my purpose for leaving after all?”

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