When the Theme Creates the Dream

Terry Ciotti Gallo, the choreographer, musical guru and co-coach for Team Purina, has been an integral part of the Challenge of the Americas since its inception in 2002.

Throughout the years, she has used a variety of catalysts to inspire her creations and, this year, the team’s choreography began with the theme (the theme itself is a closely-guarded secret—shhhhh!). After she chose one, she soon realized she’d backed herself into a corner.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with the costumes,” she said.

Costuming has become an integral part of the Grand Prix Quadrille Challenge from its beginning when riders came down center line clad in shadbellies and top hats to the carefully curated costumes of today.

“And then I talked to the costume guy I work with and I said, ‘Look, I’m debating this or this,’” she shared. He suggested which theme would have the best costuming result, so the choice was a “done deal.”

“Then, I put my nose to the grindstone and found songs that would work,” she explained. “Before I even got too far into it, I started doing transitions in the music to see if the transitions would work. One of the things that I’m particularly concerned with is that the music flows.”

Another key part of the choreography is listening to her team. Many members have been a part of the Purina group for years and she uses their valuable input to create a seamless dance.

“I always listen because I’m not the one riding and they’ll have a different sense than I will from being on the ground,” she explained.“So when I choreographed it, the team looked at me and said, ‘You know what would be really cool?’”

They shared their ideas. She was dubious but the riders thought they could do it.

“And they made it work and it looked good,” she exclaimed.  

Besides being open to changes and suggestions, another of Terry’s superpowers is being able to visualize the group as a team.

“The difference between my coaches [Bill Warren and Betsy Steiner] and me — and that’s why I really, really rely on my coaches — is I can’t see the individual horses when they’re out there. I see the grouping. And so, if there’s a mistake, I need to rely on my coaches. They see them individually. It’s not my talent.”

She laughed and said what she sees is a chorus line and that two of the kids are not the same size as the other kids.

“So when I’m looking at them, I really don’t see the individual horse. And if there’s a problem I can’t identify it, but that’s why I need to rely on the other coaches.” That synergy between Terry, the coaches, and the riders have made the success and camaraderie of Team Purina an integral part of the Challenge of the Americas since 2002. They truly embrace the adage, “Team Work Makes the Dream Work.”