By Walter Rutledge
Ballet Hispanico began their 2012 season on Tuesday April 17. During the two-week season, which concludes on Sunday April 29, the company will present three premieres and three different programs.
The new works include the world premiere of Ronald K. Brown’s Espiritu Vivo, New York premiere of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Nube Blanco, and the Joyce premiere of Asuka by Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro . All three of the works are presented on the Program A.
The program opened with Nube Blanco (White Cloud) by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Based on her childhood memories of the songs of Maria Dolores Pradera; the work coalesce the Spanish zapateado technique or footwork and striking upper body deportment found in flamenco dance with contemporary dance styles. The result was a delightful and original dance that vividly conveyed an array of emotions through solos, duets, quartets and full ensemble vignettes.
The dance began with a solo performed by Mario Ismael Espinoza, which initially appeared to be tradition flamenco dance. The tension in his body captivated the audience. Slowly as the stage filled with the company and the stylization became incorporated in a non-traditional movement conversation.
Throughout the work the dancers referenced and elaborated upon the zapateado technique with the use of sound and rhythms. The percussion was not confined to the red shoes and pumps wore in many of the sections, it was reinvented with hand clapping, vocals and utterances. This ingeniously retained the rhythmic conversation and choreographic intent. Some of sections were performed without music accompaniment, only the combined sounds provided by the dancers.
There were many noteworthy sections among them a quartet for men, which relied only on vocal utterances and percussive rhythm produced by the performers. A female quartet displayed buoyant jetes and jumps in second position, which were coupled with flirtatious parallel attitude derriere kicks. There was a subtle gender bending entrance by the ensemble, where all the performers were wearing one red pump.
The African and Latino Diasporas are forever linked in the Caribbean and in Latin America. Indigenous people, Spanish and other Europeans, and West Africans were brought together and produced a culture distinct to the Americans. Espiritu Vivo, a collaborative work between Ballet Hispanico and Brooklyn-based choreographer Ronald K. Brown elegantly explores this cultural phenomenon.
Espiritu Vivo was set to the music of Afro-Peruvian Latin Grammy Award winner Susana Baca. Baca also performed the vocals, and was accompanied by a four-piece ensemble. There was a welcomed and well-defined economy of movement that was tastefully repeating in cannons, unison and variations. With the exception of the repeated use attitude turns (which bordered on overkill) the imagery that developed through the use of repetition became memorable and was easy on the eye.
Rodney Hamilton danced the solo section with great presence and reserve, which created an introspection and intensity. The final section contained many of Brown’s signature movements. The cool mood was elevated with a brief but compelling coda that concluded the work.
The program closed with Asuka. This is the first work for Ballet Hispanico by Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro. The work is a celebration of the artistry and genius of the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz.
Asuka utilizes the early music of Cruz; the songs were both moving and display her sheer vocal authority and presence. Vilaro created a joyous work that honors Cruz, without becoming a melodramatic biography or caricature. He cleverly integrates Latin social dancing into work, which feature strong elements of both of modern and ballet. This was especially effective in the partnering sections, giving the work a favor and style echoed in the music.
Dancer Jessica Alejandra Wyatt is a standout. Her role suggests Cruz, channeling her through faultless dancing, and a sensual yet effervescent persona. In the final section set to Cruz’s rendition of Guantanamera Wyatt enters now wearing a blue beaded dress. She was literally a moving conduit drawing from and sharing with the dancers and audience.
The season continues on Tuesday April 24 with Program B featuring Guajira (Pedro Luis), Espiritu Vivo (Ronald K. Brown) and Mad’moiselle (Annabelle Lopez Ochoa). The entire Program B schedule is: Tuesday, April 24 at 7:30pm; Wednesday, April 25 at 7:30pm, Thursday, April 26 at 8pm; Friday, April 27 at 8pm and Saturday, April 28 at 8pm. Program C will be presented on April 28 at 2pm and Sunday, April 29 at 2pm. The works presented are Tito on Timbales (William Whitener), Locked Up (Laura Annabelle Lopez Ochoa), Espiritu Vivo (Ronald K. Brown) and Asuka (Eduardo Vilaro). Tickets begin at $10 and are available by phone at 212-242-0800 or joyce.org.
In Photo: 1) Vanessa Valecillos, Jamal Rashann Callender 2) Mario Ismael Espinoza 3) Jamal Rashann Callender, Kimberly Van Woesik 4) Rodney Hamilton, Vanessa Valecillos, Mario Ismael Espinoza 5) Vanessa Valecillos, Rodney Hamilton 6) : Jessica Alejandra Wyatt (center) and Company 7) Kimberly VanWoesik, Jessica Alejandra Wyatt, Min-Tzu Li
Rosalie O’Connor photographer