April 15, 2015
A startling, unpredictable program opened Ballet Hispanico’s season at The Joyce Theatear. Founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez, Ballet Hispanico demonstrated just how complicated life and dance can be with three choreographers, “Show.Girl.” by Miami-based Rosie Herrera, “Conquer” by Mexican-based Miguel Mancillas, and “El Beso” by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, a Spaniard whose 2012 “Carmen.Maquia” is also presented this season.
Herrera’s forte is her set-ups, and her imagery--both clever in “Show.Girl.,” which opens and closes with near stillness. Initially, seven women appear in knee length dresses and finally in sparkling g-strings and pasties. The middle section has girly routines, in which Min-Tau Li could barely contain her pleasure, a voguing that winds down, slowly revealing its emptiness, and the failed attempt of five men with giant, white, ostrich feathers to fan some goose-pimpling excitement out of a babe too numb or bored to respond. These Show Girls are fed up with the servile aspects of their profession, verbally citing perky solicitations, though showing little energy or imagination to explore alternatives.
“Conquer” was developed in Ballet Hispanico’s Instituto Coreográfico, a choreography lab program for Latino dance makers. Despite its dreary music by Ricardo Leon, this work has an unusual power, striking for its organic feeling among the dancers, its depth and layers. In a video posted at https://vimeo.com/124327734, Mancillas says “I had to understand my body as an animal. Little things, when we have a reaction, we twist our face or a shoulder, I make those big.” He uses the company often as a crowd, watching passively a solo or duet, which gives the piece a kind of sinister heat.
Sansano plays off Zarzuela music, keeping his dancers’ feet normally on the ground, except for a winningly fast and silly group section towards the end, when their head, arms, torso, or fingers do most of “talking,” often in one count isolations. The male duet to the central “Leyenda Del Beso” is memorable for its credible conveyance of seduction, otherwise, “El Beso” is an unsentimental, endearing romp.
A bow is due to Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro for his choice to making Ballet Hispanico a cliche-free portal into Latin culture.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers