By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Many people in the Metroplex area know Dr. Carlos Nurko as that hard-charging Metroplex orthodontist who works to protect the smiles of children from overbites and underbites.
Glancing at the doctor’s Facebook profile, one might learn of his interests in running, soccer, photography, Latin music and contemporary art. Likewise, Dr. Nurko’s LinkedIn profile would list those as being 3D imaging, new orthodontic technologies and dental services for underserved children.
But unless you truly know the 48-year-old Mexico native, his mad passion for dance might not immediately be evident.
As it turns out, Dr. Nurko is making good use of those skills as the official choreographer for the Team Dallas dance routine in this year’s Maccabi Games, Aug. 2-7.
“I was very happy to be invited to choreograph Israeli dance for this competition,” Dr. Nurko said. “I have been involved in Jewish dancing, Israeli dancing, for many, many years. I have a lot of love for this way of committing to be a Jew that is so identified with Israel. It is important to teach the younger generation and help these kids learn and love their Jewish roots.”
The coaches for the dance team are Heather Cordova and Dalit Agronin. Agronin said Nurko was great with teaching the Israeli dance number.
“He really understood the movements and the Israeli folk dance culture and I believe the girls not only learned the movements but really enjoyed it and got a sense of the Israeli culture,” she said. “He taught the movements to the girls step by step until they understood and once they caught on he would go back and make changes if he felt it was necessary.”
After Dr. Nurko finished choreographing the piece he went back one by one over the dance and made sure the dancers fully understood the movement, she said.
Dr. Nurko said the 12 female dancers of Team Dallas — who range in age from 12 to 15 — have backgrounds in dancing. But this will be their first head-on experience with a venue such as the Maccabi Games.
The doctor said he has already spent 10 hours coordinating this team. The costumes for their routine are on loan from the JCC of Mexico City, which is where Dr. Nurko — an orthodontist for over 20 years — was born and raised.
Dr. Nurko’s father, Boris, worked as an emergency medical technician and his mother, Flora, as a dentist in Mexico. He said he first started dancing in sixth grade.
“I went to a Jewish school in Mexico City, where the curriculum included Hebrew and Jewish and Israeli dancing,” he said.
In addition to his medical training over the years, Dr. Carlos Nurko danced with Anajnu Veatem, the oldest Jewish dance company in Latin America, and participated as a dancer and choreographer until 1993, when he moved to the U.S.
Since moving to the United States the doctor has provided dance instruction to children, teenagers and adults through several organizations in Birmingham, Alabama, San Antonio, and here in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area.
As a member of the North Texas Hispanic Dental Association, he has helped protect the smiles of many children by coordinating an annual Zumba dance event for the past three years to raise funds to provide dental care to underserved children in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Each of those years, the event has raised more than $2,000 for the Happy Tooth/El Diente Feliz fund. This money will be used to provide care for young patients. The group will hold another such fundraiser early next year.
Despite his highly diverse level of activity, Dr. Nurko somehow finds the energy to put as much as he can into his dancing — hopefully helping others in the process.
Awhile back, the doctor taught some of those skills to students at Dallas’ Levine Academy.
Expressing prayer in dance
“Dr. Carlos Nurko … has a true passion for Israeli dance and he has volunteered his time this trimester to allow our students to express prayer through dance,” Wende Weinberg, director of Jewish Studies and Programs, said in a statement on the Levine Academy website dated February 2014. “They have learned about the history of Israeli folk dance and have seen how dance can also express emotion. Students have analyzed and learned dances to several tefillot, as well as some of the more familiar Israeli folk dances. Both minyanim have added a new element to our students understanding and we are grateful to the Rabbis and Dr. Nurko for their time and interest in sharing their joy with our students.”
It should be pointed out that Dr. Nurko has a history with the Maccabi Games. He participated as a gymnast in the games in Israel representing Mexico in 1985.
“I used to like to do the vault,” he explained. “I can still do a cartwheel now but not much else.”
There are further family connections to the event. Dr. Nurko’s oldest son Jonathan, 16, participated in the Maccabi Games last year in Boca Raton, Florida. His youngest son Sammy, 14, is returning to the Maccabi Games this year playing soccer.
As part of the Maccabi experience, Dr. Carlos Nurko said he and his family will be hosting three children from Mexico.