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Bolero
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The Joyce Theater
Ballet Hispanico
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Ballet Hispanico - Bésame, Eyes of the Soul, Bury Me Standing, Palladium Suite

by Robert Abrams
November 11, 2006
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

Featured Dance Company:

Ballet Hispanico
Ballet Hispanico (office)
167 West 89th Street
New York, NY 10024
212-362-6710
www.ballethispanico.org

www.BalletHispanico.org
Jenny Wesnousky did our main review of Ballet Hispanico's 2006 season at The Joyce, so I am just going to give a few quick notes on the performance I saw.

The evening started with some excerpts from works in the Ballet Hispanico repertory by Ramón Oller.

Bésame featured flowing movement, stable holds and good partnering between a Black man and a White woman. Such partnering is unremarkable today, but it wasn't all that long ago that it might have caused a stir. It was basically a Bolero. I thought that this work, as well as some of the others, would be worth trying with simultaneous translation. Simultaneous translation worked well at the concept mapping conferences and might give people who do not speak Spanish a way to get more out of the music since the meaning of the words presumably are supposed to add to the meaning of the dance beyond just providing a melodic backdrop.

Eyes of the Soul was enjoyable, but was a little odd. It was danced on two mattresses, but was not sexual. If you are having trouble sleeping and want to see an artistic portrayal of a sleep disorder, this is the dance for you.

Bury Me Standing. What can I say? Incredible. How did she do that? A woman, Sara Kappraff, balanced on a man's, Nicholas Villeneuve's, upraised feet. They performed a series of these balances and lifts, each more amazing than the last. Their movements were controlled between the beats. It is always a mark of good dancers when they can express the music between beats in a slow tempo and not just on the beats. The costumes by Willa Kim were really cool too.

The last excerpt presented was another section of Bésame. This dance was just downright weird. A guy in a white suit and a guy dressed in a very odd outfit (maybe a revealing version of a maid's outfit?) danced a duet. At one point the guy in the suit shoved a bouquet of flowers into the maid's mouth. It might have been a statement about homosexual love, but it was so confused that I am not willing to commit to any interpretation. The dancers were strong, but I really don't know what to make of it. Frankly, Ballet Hispanico has better stuff than this excerpt. I would encourage them to replace it with something else next time.

The main event of the evening was Palladium Suite. The dancers provided a rich depiction of this legendary dance spot where everyone from geeks to society ladies came to dance to Latin rhythms. They danced Cha-Cha and Mambo. The choreography included both accessible, relatively basic moves (done with precision) that anyone with just a few lessons under their belts could see themselves doing, as well advanced moves that take years of training. There was even some rueda (social dance, usually Salsa, but can be other forms, in which partners are passed from one leader to another in a large group). At one point the geek in the ill fitting suit led two women at once. The floor show within the performance featured a flowing modern dance with phenomenal lifts. The dancers were equally good at fast and slow sections. They made social dance worthy of stage performance art (as a pure dance show), much like the original Swango did. They danced their hearts out.

Ballet Hispanico made the Palladium feel like the sort of place you would want to go to. If only such a place still existed. The performance started with a short documentary about the Palladium. I suggest that Ballet Hispanico take this concept further by adding a book, fleshing out the already interesting characters further, and turning Palladium Suite the dance into a full feature movie. (And if anyone wants to work on a comparative economic study of the Palladium compared to what it would take to run a similar club today, please contact me.)
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