November 25, 2019
Ballet Hispanico presented their company at the Apollo Theatre this weekend with a mixed bill of all female choreographers. “The Power of the Latina Voice” was a program curated by artistic director Eduardo Vilaro aimed at highlighting representation of Latinx voices in dance and media platforms.
The program opens with Michelle Manzanales’ work, Con Brazos Abiertos, which explores the depths of growing up caught between Mexican and American identities. Bathed in a bright spot light, and wearing all white, solist Dandara Veiga commands the space like an angel as the cast floats around her.
The choreography integrates folkloric dance with ballet as it jumps from fiery red group salsa phrases to weighted and serious contemporary duets. Veiga’s character weaves through the piece, guiding the cast through these evolutions. While at first these transitions seem choppy and segmented, Manzanales’ structure paints a clear image of her feelings about growing up divided between two cultures.
A boy trots across the stage carrying a planted tree in a burlap sack on his back. This is the beginning of Andrea Miller’s Naci. Moving to the sounds of Israeli folkloric music, the cast bursts out of the wings with bouncy shoulders and weighted postures. Miller’s distorted movement vocabulary challenges the dancers as they move through deep second position plies, chest undulations, and intensely theatrical sequences. Dependent on trust through partnering, the dancers counterbalance and weight-share with one another.
Between each movement sequence, and as the music shifts between Israeli folk and Spanish ballads, Paulo Gutierrez scurries back across the stage with the tree on his back. Through intricate imagery and symbolism, and physically demanding choreography, Miller’s choreography pushes the dancers into uncomfortable places while investigating the uprooting of the self between cultures.
The final entree, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Tiburones reveals a stripped stage. The cast of the company is frozen with lights positioned on them like mannequins on a Hollywood set. A director walks on stage with a marker and snaps it closed as the lights switch on cueing the dancers to pose, move, and snap their fingers. West Side Story's iconic imagery begins to unveil itself as the dancers jump, run, and sashe with theatrical stamina. Dictating the action, the director commands the movements be exaggerated towards the audience.
Yet as the work progresses, dancers begin to counter his demands in acts of defiance. A group of women erupt into a sultry dance party scene. A group of men wear high heels and defy gender stereotypes. By the end, the director has seemingly lost all control as they overpower and bring him to his knees. Though at times overtly literal, Tiburones directly confronts the way Puerto Ricans have been negatively portrayed in the media and aims to create a new narrative of representation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mia Silvestri