Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dance Review: Nicholas Bruder on Ballet Hispanico at Queens Theatre in the Park

Ballet Hispanico, Photography by Eduardo Patino This past Saturday, I found myself at the beautiful, yet hard to find, Queens Theatre in the Park for Ballet Hispanico, brought to life by its new artistic director and former Ballet Hispanico dancer, Eduardo Vilaro.

Goodnight Paradise opens the evening, choreographed by Ramon Oller.  Originally performed in 1994, this piece easily boasts the most elaborate set of the program by virtue of being the only set!  A piece for four men and three women, it displays Ballet Hispanico’s theatrical side that…isn’t.  Strong gestures reek of ambiguity and in instances where they could acquire beauty with time, they are too fleeting.  For example, a female dancer spills red wine down her chest, but proper attention is not paid to this moment. Sometimes spoken text seems warranted, but instead we see long, sustained moments of walking tension between the dancers, as they stare straight into each other’s eyes.  This typically happens at the end of one song on our way to the next, but these moments read as choreographic mistakes- time to cover lost ground because of uncalculated transitions.  Is this the fault of the dancers’ execution or the choreographer?  It is hard to tell, but something does not quite fit.  The music however is beautiful and intoxicating!  A playlist of sorts by Eduardo Rodriguez, Marina Rossell, and Maurici Villavecchia tempts me to just close my eyes and listen.

Are You a Dancer?  Join iDANZ Today! After the first intermission, a preview of Triptico performs.  This abstract, sassy contemporary ballet is a strong showcase of the Ballet Hispanico dancers.  If you aren’t convinced from watching the first piece, Triptico flaunts all the dancers’ crazy beautiful flexibility.  The men are impeccable partners, lifting with grace and ease.  But one dancer in Triptico, Min-Tzu Li, is completely eye-catching.   Although this seems to be a piece meant to impress and entertain, Li has that talent that can make you forget about technique and showmanship.  Everything is flowing, energetic, and purposeful. Nothing she does is just a pose.

My favorite piece of the night, Locked Up Laura, by former Scapino Ballet Rotterdam soloist, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, is simple and smart, elegantly performed by Jeffery Hover and Angelica Burgos.  This piece shows that impressive movement can be used as a tool to carry choreographic motifs and gestures, which lets dancers explore their own relationships to the piece and to each other.  Hover’s physical manipulation over Burgos is seamless.  The two look great together, and they connect flawlessly.  I prefer Locked Up Laura: a dance where I can see something happening in front on me rather than a dance thrown together for my perspective and my enjoyment.  I want a dance that makes me think, not one that makes me think, "Why are they smiling and I am not?"

Ballet Hispanico, Photography by Eduardo Patino Finally, Batucada Fantastica, from 1982, closes the show.  Eight variations of solos and a coda of the whole company stitch this modern quilt, as some who never have graced the stage all night, join the other company members in an easy celebration of all dance.  A little bit of jazz, and a little bit of African, modern, ballet, theater, and just about anything else you can think of is thrown into this.  When I say easy, I mean, easy for me to enjoy.  The dances are most definitely difficult.  But, I like that complexity here. With no subject I could simply enjoy virtuosic dancing.  Although their brightly colored unitards made them all look like Sherbet Skittles,  I can forgive this as a nostalgic nod to my childhood. "Variation III" dancer, Jessica Alejandra Wyatt, catches my attention.  I remember her from Goodnight Paradise, where I didn’t think she was much of anything (which again makes me think the dancers are the victims).  In this piece she embodies awesomeness!  So clean and effortless, she executes her double pirouette perfectly on relevé, and eventually chooses to exit.  In this moment both dancers and non-dancers alike go ‘Whoa.’

At the end of the night, I am glad to be challenged as an audience member with pieces that cause me to feel different, to feel …something.  It makes me ask "Why," which is one of the best things a company can do…  make me keep thinking about what I’ve just seen. 

Ballet Hispanico will be performing December 1 – 13 at The Joyce Theater in New York City.  Click here to read more about there upcoming program on iDANZ.

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Official iDANZ Eyewitness Exclusive by:  Nicholas James Bruder
Company: Ballet Hispanico
Venue:  Queens Theatre in the Park
Date:  November 7, 2009

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