United States Ballet Hispánico, NOCHE DE ORO: Dancers of Ballet Hispánico. Wallis Annenberg Heart for the Performing Arts, Beverly Hills, 8.10.2022. (JRo)
Con Brazos Abiertos
Choreography – Michelle Manzanales
Inventive Collaboration with Ray Doñes
Soundscape – Carla Morrison, Cheech & Chong, Julio Iglesias, Edward James Olmos, Gustavo Santaolalla, Michelle Manzanales, Juan Carlos Marin Santa Olalla, Ember Island, Mexican Institute of Sound
Poem – Maria Billini-Padilla
Costumes – Diana Ruettiger
Lighting – Joshua Preston
Choreography – Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Music – Pérez Prado, Dizzy Gillespie, The Funky Lowlives
Compositions – James Bigbee Garver
Costumes – Mark Zappone
Lighting – Joshua Paul Weckesser
18 + 1
Choreography – Gustavo Ramírez Sansano
Music – Pérez Prado
Costumes – Ghabriello Fernando
Lighting – Caitlin Brown and Savannah Bell
In a program that ranged from assaults on stereotypical attitudes towards Hispanic tradition to a extra customized imaginative and prescient of the inventive course of, the New York-based Ballet Hispánico explored the variety of Latinx tradition.
Their vibrant dancers approached the politically infused program with fierce dedication. Of the three dances featured, the final piece on this system transcended the largely message-driven choreography to attain a poetic grace. This was 18+1 by Spanish born choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano.
In his whimsical creation, Sansano equated childhood antics with the making of artwork. He attracts on his private historical past, and there was a way that by understanding human nature, the previous and current may merge to create a way of risk sooner or later. It was a hopeful ballet, joyous in its use of Pérez Prado’s mambo music.
Beneath refined lighting by Caitlin Brown and Savannah Bell and clothed in good-looking costumes by Ghabriello Fernando (charcoal grey tunics over cropped pants), the dancers turned clean canvases on which Sansano might challenge his aspirations. Owing to the quirkiness of the choreography, the performers’ particular person personalities have been allowed to shine by way of: heads bobbed like chickens, lifted bent legs with pointed ft made stirring motions, dancers tiptoed then dropped down right into a crouch. Exaggerated facial expressions – protruding tongues, bulging eyes – evoked childhood. In the end, girls have been the equal of males, neither sexualized nor made the aggressor.
Opening this system, Con Brazos Abiertos by Michelle Manzanales was a combined medley of moods starting from the humorous to the tragic. Exploring her id as a Mexican-American, Manzanales used folkloric in addition to up to date idioms to outline her expertise. In a burst of gaiety, in opposition to a clean backdrop of good crimson gentle, dancers donned sombreros. The tasseled hats have been handled as an affectionate image of each people tradition and stereotypical attitudes towards Mexicans.
Within the extra somber sections, an overuse of undulating torsos and tumbles on the ground felt clichéd somewhat than authentic. Usually, choreography was primary in its method, favoring easy steps and actions. The final part, paying homage to Loie Fuller’s early-twentieth-century Serpentine Dance, featured the corporate in sheer billowing skirts which they manipulated into shifting patterns of dancing silk.
Tiburones by Annabelle Lopes Ochoa confronted Latinx stereotyping head-on. A movie set fashioned the backdrop for a critique of the media’s therapy of Hispanic tradition, and it opened with the voice of Leonard Bernstein discussing tonality in music. The 1961 film of the stage musical West Facet Story, with choreography by Jerome Robbins, was put below a microscope with the intention to dissect the misrepresentation of Puerto Ricans in movie. The narrative arc of Tiburones (Sharks in English and the title of the gang within the musical) adopted an imperious director commanding his dancers. At first obliging, the dancers’ rising ambivalence finally was open revolt, leaving the director battered and vanquished on the ground.
Although the factors of the story have been obvious within the theatrics of the gamers, the choreography didn’t go far sufficient to counsel the altering moods of the ‘solid’ from compliant to violently rebellious. Within the compliant stage, they seemed to be performing the director’s mandated actions – a parody of snapping fingers and shimmying shoulders. As their antagonism exploded, a extra gradual shifting of temper would have added dimension to the piece.
Snippets of Bernstein’s music from West Facet Story, a drawing of a shark on the backdrop, a clapperboard and tungsten lights on tripods have been all employed to evoke the filming of the musical. For higher or worse, there was a claustrophobic really feel, partially as a result of set design: the stage contained an abundance of props. Past that, costumes in busy patterns and crowded groupings of dancers on a darkened stage contributed to the cramped environment.
One part left me puzzled. To the opening chords of ‘Maria’, Tony and Maria’s love duet was carried out by male dancers in excessive heels. Although undoubtedly it was meant to query machismo stereotypes in Hispanic tradition, I used to be at a loss to know the way it associated to West Facet Story. It appeared like tacked-on commentary and never part of the by way of line of the narrative.
Nonetheless, it was a thought-provoking program, carried out in admirable fashion by the dancers of Ballet Hispánico.