New York Season Notes & Reflections from Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro

Each program for this year’s season at The Joyce Theater highlights a particular facet of the incredible range of Ballet Hispanico’s repertory. The following is a guide to my reasons, responses, and ideas that brought this season to life. I hope you will find this insight and context useful.

Program A (evenings week 1)  This program is the most contemporary and clearly indicates the evolution of the artistic aesthetic for Ballet Hispanico.
The evening started with Tres Bailes, a work created in 2008 by Jean Emile. It is European in style and rich in the movement vocabulary of Hans van Manen, the Dutch choreographer. But unlike Hans, choreographer Jean Emile’s approach is sleeker and more sensual and captures the grace and passion that our dancers attach to all movement, no matter how abstract the ballet.

On opening night the amazing Argentine ballet star Herman Cornejo joined us in honor of the 40th anniversary. Herman’s participation is a step toward Ballet Hispanico becoming the dance institution drawing in all Latino artists of note to share in celebrating the culture. Tango y Yo, a U.S. premiere, is Herman’s first choreographic work, and it blends Tango soul with the bravura and charisma of classical vocabulary. The work will enter the Company’s repertory in the spring.

After opening night and for the rest of the run of Program A, Tango y Yo was replaced by Before After. Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa catapulted onto the international dance scene with this work, and she has graciously donated it for the Joyce season in honor of our 40th anniversary. This duet for a man and woman is a powerful depiction of the push and pull in any relationship. For me, it is reminiscent of a boxing match, and it is full of lush movement and complex partnering.

Third on the program was the world premiere of Puntos Suspensivos. This work was born out of a conversation with the composer Gabriela Lena Frank. Discussing the fusing of cultures in our homelands, we were both struck by our similarities in heritage (Spanish, Chinese, and African) and what that meant for us. When the opportunity arose for a commissioned score, we invited Gabriela to create a new work for the season based on this idea of fusion and connection.

I chose to pair choreographer Maray Gutierrez with this commission because of her ability to construct emotional images without a linear narrative. Maray was also one of the choreographers chosen to have creative time with the dancers under the umbrella of the Instituto Coreografico. This enabled us to fund her investigation time and give her a more robust opportunity to develop the work. The movement vocabulary was developed through an improvisation process using a body map (score of body parts and interconnected movement) and the individual stories of the dancers. In this work Maray wanted to capture the intensity of emotions that is present during an extraction from homeland and the search for self-identity in that displacement.

Program A ended with another world premiere, Mad’moiselle. Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa explores facets of the icon “Maria” in this work. From hell to heaven, it is an investigation into the images that the name Maria conjures in Latin America and beyond. This work does not have a regular narrative but each section of the piece does draw from the stereotypes. The first section introduces us to the many facets or possibilities of a “Maria”; the movement is at times quirky, at times lyrical, at times combative, and all encased in a sound-scape featuring the song, Maria, from West Side Story. The sections that follow each present the images of the Maria constructs, from the romantic to the folkloric, ending with the most beloved of the songs about Maria, the “Ave Maria.” The work is not a comment on the culture of Maria but rather a reflection of the images we have created about women and how they continue to be a force in our culture.

Program B (evenings week 2)

This program featured two revivals, Tres Cantos and Farewell. Each helped celebrate Tina’s drive to commission and produce the work of choreographers demonstrating the passion of movement and narrative. Tres Cantos, created by Talley Beatty, has been performed exclusively by Ballet Hispanico and honors the strength and resilience of the indigenous people of Mexico during their conquest by the Spanish.

In 1975 when Tres Cantos was commissioned, choreographers like Mr. Beatty were drawn to create the narrative of a dance through the strength of music, in this instance the music of some of Mexico’s most famous composers, Revueltas, Fernandez, and Chavez. These compositions, which are expansive and thunderous, capture the landscape of the story and develop the emotional color of a people under siege. Mr. Beatty effectively used the modern dance vocabulary of contractions and architectural forms to elicit great emotion and delve deep into pain and sorrow.

In reviving this ballet, I felt it was important for it to benefit from the wealth of information and authentic representations we have learned since 1975. The costumes and props have been re-envisioned to pay homage to the artwork of the pre Columbian Indians and demonstrate the ferocious movement vocabulary of Mr. Beatty.

Farewell, a more subtle and soft approach to passion, was acquired by the company in 1994. Choreographer Christopher Gillis originally created this work for the Paul Taylor Company in the late 80’s, and one can see the tendrils of early modern dance in it. Christopher danced for Paul Taylor, and Paul danced for Martha Graham. (Of note is that Talley Beatty also danced for Martha.) Christopher’s work takes the formality of the modern dance form and fuses it with musical lyricism as well as a softened athleticism. His movements do not surge out to you. Rather they circle from the dancers’ center of gravity, giving this duet a stately elegance and passion.

This program also contained last year’s explosive commission, Nací, which is a polar opposite to a work like Tres Cantos. Nací contains a similar exploration of culture and community but is less presentational. It is my hope that these two works will demonstrate the diversity of the choreographic voice in our repertory and lead to interesting dialogues about history and the strength of the Hispanic diaspora.

Program C (weekend matinees)

Program C was our most accessible and multi-generational program during this season. It captured the old and new and included last year’s celebratory revival, Batucada Fantastica. I continue to develop programs that are geared to younger audiences so that our students of the School and Education & Outreach divisions can benefit from the Company’s work.  This program will be included in the Joyce’s student matinee series and has a study guide for the public school children attending the performance.

Thank you for a wonderful season!

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