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The late Camille Long Hill may be known to most people as the woman who taught Tommy Tune how to tap dance, but her legacy in Houston is the founding of one of the state's longest-surviving contemporary dance companies, which celebrated its 30th year in 1997. Discovery Dance Group is directed by Pamela Ybarguen-Stockman, who has been with the company since 1967. Discovery's seriousness is evident in the choreographers it imports, including Regina Larkin, the executive/artistic director of New York's Joyce Trisler Danscompany and a former Alvin Ailey staff teacher; and tap historian Gracey Tune (Tommy's sister), the artistic director of the Fort Worth–based company Arts on Tap.

But seriousness doesn't mean avant-garde rantings here. While the choreographic themes often focus on issues, the company's style is purposefully old-fashioned, adhering to Hill's philosophies. The work tends to be smooth and lyrical, with ballet, modern and jazz elements, and the music ranges from serious jazz to Chinese or Indian ethnic compositions (as in Trisler's "China Visa" and "Amulets and Talismans"). Ybarguen-Stockman's "Amazonia Green," one section of a trilogy about the destruction of rain forests set to the "Deep Forest" recording by African pigmies, is often performed for young audiences as well as adults. Ybarguen-Stockman is adamant about keeping her dancers well-rounded and insists that her academy students also learn the fundamentals of stage management, choreography, set design and lighting. She maintains the company size at nine members, partly for sentimental reasons: That was the size of Hill's original company.




Julie Jacob, Michael Wilson & Marcus Willis ... opening scene from "Amazonia Green"    Photo by David Quintero

A m a z o n i a

G r e e n

poetry by jacqpea franco-stockman © 1994

choreography by pamela ybarguen-stockman © 1994

Green vines cut through rain-spattered layers of vegetation

while faces of the rain-forest peer out of the living maze

She, who has created the world and carried it in her belly,

tends her lush garden along the muddy serpentine Amazon


All that lives in the garden is her creation, both plants and

animals, happy children of their Mother, the Creator Goddess

On wings in air, wet fins in water, soft steps on land...

they come together to touch and weave a world of green


Melodic voices of the rain-forest fill the moist air,

paying gentle homage to the Creator Goddess, Amazonia

She moves slowly through the forest, creating lines and angles

where no geometry exists, drawing stark images against the green


Her children the trees breathe out life and her other children

breathe it in, while She hums a sweet lullaby and cradles them

And if the Termite People do not enter her garden, it may survive,

along with its delicate balance of abundance & poverty, birth & death


Amazonia Green is a celebration of life in the Amazon Rain-Forest.

Untouched by modern civilization, voices sing, in a language

that no one knows, but everyone understands, of the natural

harmony between all the inhabitants of the ever-shrinking

Rain-Forest. That last remnant of Earth's primeval

birthing place, its home of creation,

in a word... Eden.

Choreography by Pamela Ybarguen-Stockman

Music by Michel Sanchez & Eric Mouquet

Funded by UNESCO & Supporting The Pygmy Fund


"Houston was introduced to Amazonia Green, last Saturday evening (Oct. 23rd, 1993) at the University of Houston's Cullen Performance Hall. Amazonia Green is a soulful paean to its choreographer's unshakable faith in Mother Nature. A harmonious blend of neo-primitive music, powerful choreography, dramatic vision and beautifully sculptured bodies...all tastefully presented with athletic grace and well-honed professionalism by Discovery Dance Group... an exciting co-creation by Pamela Ybarguen-Stockman and her collaborator, poet/librettist Jacqpea Franco-Stockman... the house was on its feet applauding even before the lights came up for bows..." "Plans call for the new piece to be combined with several other new pieces and current favorites to make up a program which is slated for presentation March 21st, 1994 at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Arkansas.

Houston Press

"Amazonia Green, Pamela Ybarguen-Stockman's evocation of life in the rain forest... the five dancers were lithe and well-trained, offering poised and admirable ensemble work... Set to music by Michael Sanchez and Eric Mouquet, the work is an effective hymn to a threatened sanctuary..."

Ann Holmes - Houston Chronicle

"Sculptured and flowing", "a blend of Martha Graham and Rodin", "a beautiful merging of thematic values and musicality with strong, confident dancers."

Nathan Montoya, Artistic Director of Main-Stage Dance Productions

Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts

"Top notch choreography, with the powerful elements of nature, music and movement blended together into a beautiful and mesmerizing piece of dance".

Mary Margaret Holt, Artistic Director Oklahoma Festival Ballet

Chair, Department of Dance, University of Oklahoma

"Half way through it I realized I was holding my breath", "a magical and compelling use of space, diagonals, strong dancers and gorgeous costuming", "it reached out and touched my heart".

Gracey Tune, noted Tap Choreographer, Performer and Teacher

Artistic Director of ARTS ON TAP in Fort Worth




Sterling Ramsey & Juliane Le Roy in Light Passage... Photo by Jeff Salzberg

L i g h t

P a s s a g e

(Terminus ad Quem Luminosus)

poetry by jacqpea franco-stockman © 1995

choreography by pamela ybarguen-stockman © 1995

Enter now that darkest place where mortals all must finally go

while whispered words of those who care drift softly by their souls

and out of that darkest night comes a bright and piercing beam

to guide all who pass this way on their final voyage across that sea

A solitary mortal washes ashore on a wild and windswept coast

where angels keep watch for any mortal who may have been lost

and once the waves have left him there, the mortal must await

the graces of an angel who ponders each twist and turn of fate


Now some stay still and never move, those who are ready for the night

but others stir and move about, not fully drained of that mortal life

and those who live, must journey back through a passage long and dark

to return again another night on that shore where angels soar like larks


An angel sees the mortal on the shore and stoops to hear his heart

and when she hears its faint beat, she counts its stops and starts

well does she know the angel's rule : Never Touch a Mortal Living!

but she reaches out in reckless impulse, to see if he is breathing


Like a flash of energy, her essence flows through fingers into him

filling him with life again and proving why rules are often written

for he stirs and shows signs of life, opening eyes to see her face

sadly does she smile at him, for by living he has sealed their fate


She takes his hand and guides him back to that portal whence he came

then smiles once more at him and sends him down that dark passageway

for her that moment is stilled in time for all eternity to recall

but the mortal will not remember, what has happened... or her... at all


He retreats to where he came from while she watches teary-eyed

and confesses to her older sisters that she wishes he had died

"You are young and foolish, you really never should have touched!

the gods make rules for a reason, I hope you've learned as much!"


"Once he passes through the portal, he'll not remember your pretty face

and when he does return some day, you'll be a stranger in this place!

Forget your sadness, there are bells to be rung, come join us in our play

who knows, the mortal may hear the bells peal and return this very day!"


Now angels fly among the stars and play them like celestial wind chimes

ringing out their happiness at serving the gods, and souls that they find

while random notes to a mortal's ear, to angels they are soothing dear

and fill the sky with joyful song of heaven gained and happiness long


The sound of bells pulls the mortal back into night's magic realm revealed

and he comes aground upon the shore where the angel found him deathly still

but she is no longer there to greet him, and he remembers not her face

for when the rules are broken, penalties are severly exacted in this place


He looks above and sees the night sky filled with glistening wings

a chorus of angels circles like eagles and swoops down upon the plain

landing, one of the winged beings detaches itself from the others

and that most dazzling creation, an angel, moves slowly toward him


Her name is Saryphia, she tells him, in a voice as sweet as mead

her eyes are so intense that a mortal man is mesmerized indeed,

while her face, flawless in its features, seems to softly gleam,

she is certainly the most beautiful creature he has ever seen


Her face stirs something deep in his memory, a faint vision from his past

he studies her closely, but can't recall, for Amnesia's Veil is held fast

he tells Saryphia he has seen her face before, of that he is certain

she smiles... he remembers... for her smile has raised Amnesia's Curtain!


Rejoice lost mortal, you have been found

out of the darkness of Hades you entered the light

to safely land on Delos, blessed of the Cyclades

and Saryphia, the embodiment of perfection

is your shining gift from the gods



"LIGHT PASSAGE", a contemporary dance piece choreographed by Discovery Dance Group's Artistic Director Pamela Ybarguen-Stockman, was given high marks by a 3-judge Choreographic Adjudication Panel sponsored by the Houston Dance Coalition at the Houston Jewish Community Center on October 7th, 1995. Out of a group 24 pieces submitted for adjudication, "LIGHT PASSAGE" was one of nine pieces selected by the adjudicators for the UH/HDC DANCE HOUSTON GALA Performance at the University of Houston Cullen Performance Hall on October 28th, 1995 at 8:00 PM.
Adjudicators were: Ann Williams (Founder/Artistic Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre), Stephen Mills (Resident Choreographer - Ballet Austin) and Holly Williams (Executive Director of Dallas' Theatre on Elm Street).

Adjudicators were impressed with:

"the hydraulic fluidity of the choreography"

"the strength and power exhibited in the unique lifts created for the piece"

"the overall seamless movement of the ensemble work and the balance of light and darkness in this beautiful and highly romantic composition".

"an interesting treatment of unique subject matter with a title to match!"

"LIGHT PASSAGE" is danced by Sterling Ramsey, Juliane LeRoy, Missy Grant and Abijan Johnson, all members of Discovery Dance Group. The piece is based on the poem/libretto "Light Passage" by Jacqpea Franco-Stockman and is a contemporary choreographic exploration of out-of-body/near-death experiences.

1995 marks the third time since 1991 that a new piece of choreography by Ybarguen-Stockman has been selected by Adjudicators for performance in the DANCE HOUSTON GALA at the University of Houston. For DANCE HOUSTON GALA Ticket information call the UH Cullen Performance Hall at (713) 743-5191.

Houston Chronicle ThisWeek



Discovery Dance Group, a well-known commodity in the Texas Dance scene has another winner with its new contemporary dance piece, Light Passage. Choreographed by Company Artistic Director Pamela Ybarguen-Stockman, to a poem by her husband-collaborator, Jacqpea Franco-Stockman, Light Passage really wowed the judges at the 1995 Houston Dance Coalition Annual Choreography Adjudication. Panelists were Ann Williams of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Stephen Mills of the Austin Ballet and Holly Williams of Dallas' Theatre on Elm Street.

Some of the comments by the judges:

"effective use of space and music"

"lifts that are unique and breath-taking"

"great-looking dancers with plenty of poise and talent"

"Ybarguen-Stockman is clearly a master at creating intense choreographic images with an unrivaled economy of movement, and a strategic use of light and shadow to highlight powerful emotions."

"This work choreographically answers those timeless questions we all have about life, death and afterlife."

"Light Passage is all about what Camille Hill taught her protegés... clear positive elements of movement done with power, precision and poise!"

Out of 24 pieces submitted, 9 were selected for DANCE HOUSTON. I saw them all and some were very good, but the one that sticks in my memory is Light Passage.

Discovery will perform the new piece at the DANCE HOUSTON GALA, at 8:00 PM Saturday, October 28th, 1995. For ticket information contact: Jeff Salzberg at UH Cullen Performance Hall, 743-5191.

Houston Press



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