Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Dance Review: Reviving and Premiering Hispanic Dance- Ballet Hispanico at The Joyce

Ballet Hispanico, Photo of Angelica Burgos & Waldemar Quiñones-Villanueva by Cheryl MannIt’s Tuesday night at The Joyce Theater and the red velvet curtains open to reveal Ballet Hispanico, led by the recently appointed artistic director, Eduardo Vilaro, as they revisit some oldies but goodies and premiere several new dances.

The first revival of the night, Goodnight Paradise, created in 1994 by Ramon Oller, is a physical and emotional piece of dance theater.  The set, created by Chris Barreca, is a fenced-in enclosure which helps to evoke a patio party in the summertime.  The piece consists of three women and four men who each begin to solo, but soon break off into pairs. Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva is the only one left without a partner, creating an interesting dynamic of the group versus the individual.  Despite the group mentality that is created when the partners are in unison with each other, the dancers all stand out in an individual way.

The three women begin the dance wearing bras and ruffled booty shorts and then graduate to floor-length skirts which they put on during the piece at the back of the stage.  The men begin and end the dance in formal suits and ties, except for Villanueva who is scantily clad in nude colored nylon shorts.  The difference in the rest of the group’s costumes also helps to illuminate Villanueva as the outsider. The dancers perform some of their movements in unison, but although their timing is synchronized, their execution is slightly different.  An example of this is when the women lightly pound their partner’s chest with their fists.  This simple motion is varied amongst the women because of the number of beats they make, their emotional intention, and focus of their eyes.

Are You a Dancer JS 250 X 250 RedChairs are placed against the sides of the stage so guests can sit and relax during the “party.” When they are not dancing, the dancers sit on the chairs as they watch the party unfold.  At first appearing as if they would be merely used as background to set the scene, the dancers begin to interact with the chairs, in particular Villanueva, the outsider at this party. During one of his solos, he struggles to push his way through the crowd of chairs, as if they are immovable objects.  I found myself constantly drawn to Vanessa Valecillos’ beautiful lines and compelling passion throughout the piece. Ms. Valecillo commanded the stage with her elegance and seamlessness.

After Intermission, the audience is immediately thrown back into the world of Ballet Hispanico with their world premiere of the fiery Triptico.  Choreographed by Ron De Jesus and with music by Oscar Hernandez, Triptico is an exploration of traditional Latin dance forms combined with contemporary partnering.  The dancers are saucy and sensual at times, sharp and caustic at others.  With live music of piano and percussion, this dance definitely felt alive for me.  Jessica Batten, a relatively new addition to the company stole the stage with her dynamite energy and presence.  She demonstrates fearlessness as she throws herself at her partner in a breathtaking sideways leap.  The audience freezes for a second in anticipation until our anxieties are eased as he swoops her up into his outstretched arms.

Ballet Hispanico -Photo of Angelica Burgos & Waldemar Quiñones-Villanueva by Cheryl MannLocked Up Laura, which premiered in NYC last week, is choreographed by Annabelle Lobez Ochoa.  Tonight, I am fortunate enough to catch Min-Tzu Li and Jeffrey Hover perform the duet.  After reading the synopsis of the piece, things start to make a little more sense for me.  The synopsis explains how Ms. Li loses artistic focus because of the daily grind that is required from dance technique and Mr. Hover is trying to help her rekindle her passion.  However, watching the piece, I surprisingly had a completely different interpretation of the relationship between partners.  I imagined a romantic relationship which had gone dry and caused Ms. Li to lose her will to live.  Despite the discrepancies, both Li and Hover move well together.  Mr. Hover’s partnering skills are so adept that it appears as if Ms. Li is floating on air.  Her flexible and delicate body doesn’t hurt matters either.

Ballet Hispanico, Photography by Eduardo PatinoPedro Ruiz’s Club Havana is a masterpiece of the Conga, Rumba, Mambo, and Cha Cha rhythms.  The dance is a combination of duets, trios, and ensemble pieces which bring us a feel for Latino dance forms, but Ruiz adds his own personal flare to the movements.  There is definitely classical Mambo steps, but then suddenly the dancers will break out into a different style of dance form altogether.  It is Angelica Burgos in Cha Cha Cha who electrifies the stage and steals the hearts of her partners Eric Rivera and Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva.  Marina Fabila is also a shining presence in the Mambo with her flirtatious movements, gorgeous extensions, and her ability to eat up the space.

I am impressed with Eduardo Vilaro’s ability to lead his company into such new and exciting territory and in such a short time span.  Without neglecting the traditional Hispanic dance forms, Mr. Vilaro introduces us to new ways of thinking about the Latino culture.  The choreographers he has chosen for Ballet Hispanico’s season at The Joyce are familiar with traditional Hispanic dance forms, but they are also interested in using their knowledge of classical and contemporary dance as a way to showcase how the Latino culture can expand in interesting and unchartered ways.

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Official Dance Review by Amanda Keller
Performance: Ballet Hispanico, Program B
Venue:  The Joyce Theater
Show Date:  Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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