The Evolution of “yo recuerdo”

My first day working as an intern in the Marketing department here at Ballet Hispanico, I was surprised to learn that I would be attending a live in-house performance by the company.  Thrilled by the idea of getting to see the dancers perform (not to mention the fact that this was part of my job!), I spent the majority of the day looking forward to the evening’s showing.

The piece, yo recuerdo, was the most recent product of Ballet Hispanico’s Instituto Coreografico.  Company member Nicholas Villeneuve had worked for three weeks to conceptualize and choreograph the piece, and that night was to be its premiere performance.  For me, it was extremely interesting to be able to see a work of such magnitude, performed by such talented dancers, in a relatively an early stage of development.  Usually we as the audience are only privy to final products, while the process that the choreographers and dancers go through to create a final product is not revealed.  So the opportunity to see Nicholas’ work-in-progress was particularly exciting.  It was clear that there were still certain places that were going to be developed, certain ideas and concepts that were still going to be elaborated and explored.   This first showing was raw material- beautiful, compelling choreography that nonetheless still lacked a solid emotional or motivational intention.  Audience members asked, what exactly is it about?  Who are these characters, these couples, and what are their relationships to one another?

During the panel discussion, Nicholas fielded these questions with grace and eloquence, explaining that in some cases, he himself did not yet know the answers.  He told us that he was still in the process of creating the storyline, and that he was working with the dancers to crystallize the emotion and purpose behind the piece.  One thing, however, was clear to the audience: that this dance was about love.  What sort of love, and how it was manifested throughout the dance, was yet to become clear…

Two months later, I sit in a theater at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, surrounded by the high-pitched squeals of hundreds of children.  They are here as part of a special initiative to provide music and dance performances to grade-school students, and today’s show includes a presentation of yo recuerdo. Accompanied by the St. Luke’s Orchestra, eight Ballet Hispanico dancers are about to perform Nicholas’ piece, and I am looking forward to seeing how it has evolved and grown since I last saw it.

As the piece begins, elements associated with theatrical production are immediately apparent.  Lighting, costuming, and make-up combine to convert the stage into a separate, almost surreal space that the company members, now transformed into anonymous characters, inhabit.  The fourth wall has been raised, and there is a clear distance between dancer and audience member that was not nearly as articulated during the first showing two months ago.  The dancers begin to move with a certain assurance and relaxed confidence that immediately reveals that they have had time to explore the dance on a deeper level.  Their performance throughout the show confirms that they have spent time developing their characters and their relationships to one another.

But for me, perhaps the most interesting element of this performance is that the audience is given a glimpse into the now clarified and fine-tuned intention behind the dance: before the piece begins, Nicholas takes a few moments to address us about his experience with yo recuerdo, saying “I wanted to make a dance about four women, remembering their experiences of love.”  It is a simple statement, but with these few words Nicholas provides me with just enough of a storyline to be able to actually relate to the dance.  This small insight into piece’s intention allows me to recognize a multitude of new elements that were not quite as clear during the first showing: jealously, infatuation, betrayal, exuberance, tenderness, and of course, love.  I can now better appreciate the title, which translates to “I remember,” for the piece does indeed strike me as a memory- slightly nostalgic, sometimes fuzzy, but always informed by the theme of love.

Seeing these two performances of yo recuerdo was a unique opportunity to observe the process of artistic growth, and to witness how Nicholas’ work matured into a fully accessible and powerful piece of art, of which he should be extremely proud.

Joanie is currently the Spring Marketing Intern at Ballet Hispanico.  She is a junior at Barnard College, where she is studying Middle Eastern Language and Culture, as well as Dance.  Joanie is fascinated by the blending of traditional and theatrical dance forms, and is thrilled to be working at Ballet Hispanico.

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