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A review of Ballet Hispanico

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 15, 2002
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

About the Author:


Ballet Hispanico

212.362.6710
167 West 89th Street
NY, NY 10024

www.ballethispanico.org

Tina Ramirez, Artistic Director
Verdery Roosevelt, Executive Director
Gina Bugatti, Rehearsal Director
Derek R. Munson, Company Manager
William Schaffner, Production Stage Manager

Jovanna Huguet, Ellen Jacobs Associates, Publicity, ejacobsassociates@earthlink.net

Performances Presented at the Joyce Theater
www.joyce.org

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 15, 2002

Ballet Hispanico was founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez, and its Repertory includes a fusion of Ballet, Latin dance, and Modern Dance. Ballet Hispanico has performed for over two million people worldwide, including appearances in Kansas, Chicago, Arizona, Wolf Trap, Jacob's Pillow, Zurich, and Barcelona. The Company has toured Spain and South America. Ms. Ramirez has commissioned over 70 new choreographed works for Ballet Hispanico. A year-round School of Dance provides over 600 young people with training in specialized dance techniques and cultural heritage. In addition, Primeros Pasos (First Steps) is an education initiative to bring this talented Company into public schools across the country. Ms. Ramirez, from Venezuela, studied with Lola Bravo, Alexandra Danilova, and Anna Sokolow. In April 2002, Ms. Ramirez received the Dance Magazine Award, and, in 1999, she received a Hispanic Heritage Award at The Kennedy Center. She has also received several awards from NYC Mayors.

Guajira (1999): Choreography by Pedro Ruiz, Music by Los Activos, Conjunto Cespedes and Vitier, Costume Design by Anne Hould-Ward, Lighting Design by Jeff Segel, Performed by the Company. Pedro Ruiz is a genius. (See Ruiz Interview). Against a colorful, earthy backdrop, the silhouettes of arms and hands, like lentil beans growing our of clay pots, rise up from the floor of the stage, as people unfold, physically and visually, with the stage lights gradually brightening, to the pulsating, steady beats of Cuban rhythms. Kudos to Jeff Segal for these sophisticated lighting effects. One hears quenas (See Binelli/Ferman Review) and Double Bass and Congas and palmeras (See Flamenco at Xunta), as the dancers perform the rituals of the people of the countryside in the farms outside Havana. Female dancers wash cloths in a symbolic river and male dancers carry the women atop their shoulders, as if they are artifacts, totem poles, in this historical and cultural tribute to Mr. Ruiz' homeland. Kudos to Ann Hould-Ward for the flowing, earthy costumes, which are perfectly suited to these Cuban rituals and rhythms. Noteworthy performances were presented by Natalia Alonso, Jennifer DePalo, Jae-Man Joo, and Chan Koo Paik.

Cecilia (2002): Choreography by Pedro Ruiz, Music by Brouwer, Lecuona, Roig, and Vitier, Set Design by Neil Patel, Costume Design by Candice Donnelly, Lighting Design by Michael Chybowsky, Performed by the Company. With a brilliant story line (See Ruiz Interview), Pedro Ruiz has conceived and choreographed a modern ballet, rich with overtones of passion and jealousy, with some characteristics similar to themes in Romeo and Juliet, its modern counterpart, West Side Story, and the ballet, Giselle. Mr. Ruiz also performs the lead role of the father, Candido de Gamboa, who performs a most poignant duet with Jennifer DePalo, in a fan-like, aristocratic, black lace dress, her head bent on his arm, in a mood of ill-fated destiny. The daughter, Cecilia, who was born of Mulatto background, from an extramarital affair with Rosario (Anna Mikhaylenko), appearing in a prologue, is in love with Leonardo, son of Rosa and Candido, but a very jealous Pimienta is superbly danced by a seething Jae-Man Joo, with angular agility and proud, focused posture. Mr. Ruiz, in his interview (See Interview) comments on the process of staging this ballet. Unlike a two- or three-act ballet, Cecilia is poignantly performed in one act, with the gradually revealing drama and ensuing, violent results, of a quintessential tale of unrequited love.

Slices…A Slice of Life in Four Variations (2002): Choreography by Ann Reinking, Music by Hamilton, Harburg & Arlen, Sierra, Thiele, and Weiss, Costume Design by Candice Donnelly, Lighting Design by Vivien Leone, Performed by the Company. Ann Reinking (See Rodgers Tribute Review and Photos and See ABT Harrison Tribute) has created a very contemporary ballet to Swing, Salsa, and Hustle music, with casual dance costumes that resemble rehearsal wear, that incorporates highly provocative and erotic sequences, mixed with jubilant and jovial choreography. Ms. Reinking is a master at Broadway-style, visually and musically entertaining performances. She has succeeded is giving Ballet Hispanico such a piece for their repertoire, one that is powerfully physical, with overtones of sassy, sexy sequences.

Kudos to Tina Ramirez, Artistic Director of Ballet Hispanico, for inviting her own in-house choreography from Pedro Ruiz and for inviting Ms. Reinking to contribute this worthy addition, with its contemporary, and occasionally Latino beat. Ms. Ramirez will be interviewed in January, during a tour of the Ballet Hispanico School and Center.


Ballet Hispanico - "Guajira" - photo by Bruce Laurence



Ballet Hispanico - "Slices" - in photo: Natalia Alonso - Choreographer: Ann Reinking - photo by Andrew Unangst



Ballet Hispanico - "Slices" - in photo: The Company - Choreographer: Ann Reinking - photo by Andrew Unangst

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