April 2, 2022
Founded by the powerhouse Tina Ramirez, Ballet Hispanico is now a NYC institution. In honor of their over 50 year legacy, the company, under the direction of Eduardo Vilaro commissioned a full- length work by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Based on the life of Eva "Evita" Peron, Dona Peron plumbs the life of the controversial Argentinian woman who rose from poverty to the palace. Equally loved and maligned, the First Lady of Argentina was spellbinding, dying at age 33 due to cervical cancer.
Bathed in white light, Eva Peron(the excellent Dandara Veiga), a larger-than-life figure, stands proudly far above the crowd in a long white gown that flares to the ground. Within minutes, this mesmerizing figure undoes her bodice and drops her skirt only to reveal a ladder which she climbs down (only to climb back up during her political reign) and joins the throngs in the streets waving white hankies. A dynamic cast draws from several contemporary dance forms tracing Argentinian street dances from the tango, to upper class waltzes, modern and ballet elements.
Eva Peron's rise from the streets evolves through several scenes describing her harsh upbringing, to nights performing in dance halls and finally her fortuitous meeting with Juan Peron (Chris Bloom). The various locations indoors and out are depicted through Christopher Ash's lighting, and projections onto a long white rectangular object suspended from the rafters.
Both Bloom and Veiga deliver commanding performances, particularly Veiga who not only dances nonstop, she changes outfits by Mark Eric just about every 10 minutes.
Constantly surrounded by the masses, Bloom and Veiga are fed by a Greek-style chorus that stamps and twists in unison fueling a rhythmic soundtrack over the score by Peter Salem. Dancers throb in the Argentinian streets of the 1940' and 50's, one moment playing, the next rebelling. Tight hip switches side to side punctuate straight backs and sharp feet compounding the dramatic tension.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and artistic collaborator Nancy Meckler excel at capturing the mood of the masses. Less successful is an actual reading of such a complicated scenario. Despite any dramaturgical questions, Dona Peron radiates energy throughout the evening and showcases Ballet Hispanico's outstanding dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis
Photo of Dona Peron with Dandara Viega and Ballet Hispanico by Paula Lobo