Mexican choreographer Edgar Zendejas speaks about his new work for Ballet Hispanico, Umbral. Inspired by Dia de los Muertos, the work is a seductive and imaginative take on the holiday and will be premiering at the Apollo Theater on November 23rd.
For more info on the performance, visit: http://www.ballethispanico.org/performances/Apollo
While Halloween might be over, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) still gives you a reason to celebrate. The Mexican holiday is a three-day event (which began yesterday) of gathering with friends and family to honor the dead with offerings. Though it originated in Mexico, the holiday has spread throughout Latin America and to Hispanic communities worldwide, with a variety of celebrations incorporating music, dance, candlelight processions, kite-flying, and more.
Ballet Hispanico is excited to present a world premiere by Mexican choreographer Edgar Zendejas, Umbral, inspired by Día de los Muertos and showing at the Apollo Theater on November 23rd. The dance is a seductive reimagining of the holiday and the atmosphere it evokes. A key figure of the holiday is the character of Catrina, the traditionally feminine representation of death who wears a distinctive face, which has become increasingly popular around Halloween–even trending as the “Mexican Skull Candy” look amongst celebrities and fans. For Umbral, Zendejas chose to cast dancer Mario Ismael Espinoza as Catrina, adding an intriguing spin to what is sure to be an exceptional piece.
“It is a mythical being that inspires fear, but also joy and celebration of people’s lives.”
Mario worked with Zendejas to perfect the makeup for Catrina, which the dancer will be sporting on stage. Here’s how they put it together, with commentary from Mario about the process:
We can’t wait to see this on stage–be sure to join us at the Apollo to see it live!
Photos by company dancer Johan Rivera.
Ballet Hispanico wants to extend a big congratulations to our very own Marvin Hernandez, a dancer with the School of Dance who recently was accepted into New York City’s Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS)! PPAS is a public high school that trains students artistically and academically to develop a strong foundation for a professional career in the arts. Students must audition for their dance, drama, musical theater, or vocal programs.
Marvin began his studies with the School of Dance two years ago in our General Program Ballroom class with Xavier Auza. After spending much of last year and this past summer honing his ballet technique with Pre-Professional coordinator Caridad, the dedicated 16-year-old is now enrolled in Pre-Professional Level 3B. “Marvin is a great school citizen,” said Deputy School Director Nicholas Villeneuve, “always early for class and very passionate about performing.”
Marvin is greatly influenced by the rhythmic culture of the Caribbean and his Dominican roots, and truly embodies the Ballet Hispanico spirit. “I am so happy–I want to represent,” he said. “I have my hopes to go to Juilliard.”
“Marvin is a great school citizen–always early for class and very passionate about performing.”
The dancers of BHdos wowed audiences last Saturday at Bailando Por Una Causa 2013, an annual dance benefit hosted by Baila Society. The performance was held at El Museo del Barrio, with proceeds supporting the Latino Commission on AIDS. BHdos performed the Bolero excerpt from Club Havana, where they got to dress up in glitzy costumes as they glided across the stage doing effortless lifts and partnering moves. Here they are backstage before the show!
Today marks the end of Hispanic Heritage Month! Since September 15th, we’ve been asking our company dancers for their thoughts and insights on Hispanic heritage, be it a cultural, artistic, or personal interpretation. We’ve been sharing some of their wonderful responses on our Facebook and it’s been great to see how many others resonate with their thoughts. Here are their responses, in their entirety:
What are your thoughts on Hispanic heritage?
The Ballet Hispanico blog is back and better than ever–ready to give you updates and behind-the-scenes stories of what really goes on at BH. We’re all a flutter over here over the recent success of School of Dance student Alex Gallagher, who won a gold medal at an international dance competition last weekend. Check out her guest blog post below:This September I began training at the Ballet Hispanico School of Dance in Level 5A of the Pre-professional Program. I also train in ballet three mornings a week with Caridad Martinez, for a total of six days of dancing a week. I have known Caridad for a few years and we had discussed possibly traveling to attend various competitions and workshops. Right when I began classes last month, she brought up participating in the Danza Activa competition in Panama. My family and I decided that it would be a great experience that would help me grow and gain confidence in my dancing, so I rehearsed a variation for the entire month of September. On October 3, I left for Panama with Caridad on my first trip abroad. I was both nervous and excited because I had also never performed a solo, or even participated in a competition before, and I did not know what to expect. Upon arriving in Panama, I was immediately relaxed: the weather was warm and sunny and I was warmly welcomed into the country by everyone I met. Before the competition started, I met many of the competitors who came from all around Latin America, and I took workshops in ballet, contemporary, jazz, and hip-hop, which were taught by the judges of the competition. Two days later, I found myself in the theater, preparing for my performance, and to my own surprise, I remained calm. The nerves set in a few numbers before me, but as soon as my music began, I just danced. I didn’t worry about any of the steps; I embodied my inner Swanhilda (I was dancing her variation from Act 3 of Coppelia) and simply enjoyed performing as I always have ever since I started dancing. I came off the stage beaming – not only had I just finished my first solo and competition, but I was happy with my performance. I was, and still am very proud of myself.
The following night at the gala, I was called onstage with my division and after the presenters called my name they said “Oro!” Though I didn’t understand much else of what they had said since my Spanish isn’t very good, I did understand that I had just won a Gold medal and I was thrilled. My trip to Panama was such an enriching and enlightening experience for me even though I only spent three full days there. Not only did I learn about the culture and people there as well as do some sightseeing, I also learned about myself and my dancing through watching and speaking to other dancers from around the world. I loved every minute I was there and I am so grateful to Ballet Hispanico and Caridad for giving me such a wonderful opportunity. I only hope that my dancing will allow me to continue to travel and maybe even visit Panama again soon.
“The nerves set in a few numbers before me, but as soon as my music began, I just danced.”
Congratulations to Alex and Caridad! We couldn’t be prouder!
The final countdown to the Recital has begun! With just one week left until the big day, School of Dance classes are excited to perfect their pieces. BH Company dancer Jamal Rashann Callender visited our Boys Workshop classes to mentor the students and, most importantly, have fun.
Here’s what Jamal had to say about his experience:
“The classes were amazing! We spoke about many things including respect and how to make best use of your time in class. One of the great things for me was connecting dance poses to “comic figure action shots,” which for dancers are actually staccato movements. It was great to see them take that advice and run with it.
“It was really great to be in a position where I can look at these boys and see myself in them. It made me want to give them as much feedback as I could; not only for each of them to excel, but also so that one day they will be in the same position I am today.
It was a great treat for me!”
Check out these awesome and hilarious photos below:
Just because our season at The Joyce wrapped a couple of weeks ago, it doesn’t mean Ballet Hispanico has slowed down at all! Our School of Dance students are very busy preparing for their End of Year Recital at the beginning of June, and BH Company members have graciously lent a hand. For the past few weeks, our dancers have been visiting classrooms to help our students perform their very best!
Recently, Lauren Alzamora visited Ms. Kiri’s Spanish Class. This is what she had to say about her experience:
“I asked to see the girls run their dance for the recital. This was outside of their normal routine, as it was in the first half hour of class, before practicing the piece in sections. I was pretty pleased with the run, but since there is always room for improvement, I asked each girl to tell me a spot where they messed up or could have done better. Every girl was aware of at least one or two self-corrections, and as suspected there were some commonalities. We had the girls time on their own to practice their individual self corrections.
I narrowed it down to three areas of focus and we worked on the clarity of steps and positions in those three sections. Next time I visit we will work those three corrections at the beginning and run the footwork section before running the dance. We will see what they held on to!
I love how every one of the girls demonstrated self awareness – it gives the teacher the opportunity to reinforce the virtue of self-responsibility. We are teaching them how to use their self-awareness toward a better end result (by practicing their self corrections).
I realize it is important to give them clear goals to strive for in each section. And since they don’t come to class every day, reinforce what we spoke about each time – the power of repetition! Looking forward to next week!”
We’ll have more stories in the weeks leading up to the recital. Thank you to our students, teachers, and Company dancers!
For most, the idea of tango conjures up images of steamy Buenos Aires nightclubs full of men, with roses gripped between their teeth, leading ladies across the floor. While Alejandro Cervera’s Tango Vitrola (1987) does feature the key elements of a stereotypical tango milonga (strong men, beautiful women and sensual music), it also challenges an audience’s preconceptions and offers a rich and beautiful exploration of the dance form.
The choreographer, Alejandro Cervera, hails from Buenos Aires, where his first exposure to dance was in the home where his parents would tango with friends and family during parties. “Growing up in Argentina,” he said, “it’s hard not to have a lot of contact with tango and tango music, especially in the big cities.” Tango has been inextricably linked to Argentinean culture, in both beautiful and problematic ways.
Through the creation of Tango Vitrola, Mr. Cervera aimed to challenge the gender stereotypes associated with tango. He explained that in the 1980s, Argentinean society became “much more balanced, more egalitarian” and he sought to reflect these changes in his work. His Tango Vitrola is more democratic and less black and white than the traditional dance form.
The relationship between the partners are complex and certainly not straightforward. His choreography blurs lines of tradition. Tango Vitrola presents the tango as a dance between two people, not as a dance defined by their gender. The result is a work of strength, beauty and subtlety.
Ballet Hispanico performed Alejandro Cervera’s sleek and sexy Tango Vitrola (1987) during our sold-out show at The Apollo last December. If you missed it then, fear not! Tango Vitrola will be performed for the remainder of our 25th New York Season at The Joyce, now through April 28th. For ticket and performance information, please visit our website HERE.
Last Friday at the Dana Center for the Performing Arts, the Ballet Hispanico Company previewed Sortijas, a brand new work by leading Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto. Cayetano, based in Munich, traveled to our studios last week to set his creation on the dancers, and we sat down with him for a chat about his personal career and his creative vision.
Ballet Hispanico’s collaboration with Cayetano has been an endeavor several years in the making. His new work, Sortijas, was intended to premiere during Ballet Hispanico’s 40th Anniversary Season, but his broken achilles forced a postponement. This setback did not discourage Cayetano, however. He said, “These were beautiful mistakes. There is a fate in everything, and this work was meant to happen.”
Sortijas, a lush duet set to music by Lhasa de Sela, reflects Cayetano’s commitment to the personal and intimate aspects of dance. For Cayetano, choreographing is an exploration of the self: “I aim to kill all my demons in the studio.” And he encourages his dancers to do the same. He empowers the dancers to tap into their own experiences and infuse them into their interpretation of the movement.
In addition to the beautiful movement and music in the work, Cayetano has collaborated with the fashion label Talbot Runhof, a German-American duo based in Munich, to design original costumes for Sortijas. Cayetano previously worked with them on his production of Carmen, and he is certain that the new costumes will make the dancers look “amazing” and “perfect” on stage. For more of the designer’s amazing collections, visit their website HERE.
Cayetano is certainly a busy choreographer: for the rest of the year, he will travel from Munich to Santa Fe, Sao Paulo, back to Santa Fe, and to The Netherlands. Despite his demanding schedule, he never compromises his work or his vision. A piece can never be truly finished for him: “Dance is a living art. Like a child’s education, the creation never ends. The process can never be stopped.”
To witness the evolution of Sortijas, you can catch its world premiere at Ballet Hispanico’s 25th New York Season at the Joyce Theater April 16-28, 2013. Visit our website HERE for complete performance and ticket information.
For a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the piece, check out the photographs below taken during last week’s rehearsals!
Images © Joshua Preston