Ballet Hispanico is proud to celebrate 45 years of sharing and reflecting the diversity of Latino cultures with the launch of a new brand that will propel the organization into its next 45 years.
Artistic Director & CEO Eduardo Vilaro, who brought a fiercely contemporary aesthetic to the organization six years ago, sought a design that embodies the bold, inspiring and uniquely Latino qualities that characterize Ballet Hispanico’s professional dance company, School of Dance and community engagement programs.
“Given the ever-increasing influence of Latinos on the cultural landscape of this country, it felt like the right time to re-introduce Ballet Hispanico as the new expression of American contemporary dance,” said Eduardo Vilaro. “Founder Tina Ramirez’s mission of celebrating the beauty of Latino culture through dance remains unchanged—but we now push every day to challenge, through our work, people’s notions of what it means to be Latino in 2016 and beyond. The new brand strikes a beautiful balance between honoring the organization’s roots and embracing our forward-thinking spirit.”
“The new brand strikes a beautiful balance between honoring the organization’s roots and embracing our forward-thinking spirit.”
Ballet Hispanico’s thanks go to branding firm Project 2050, led by its founder and Ballet Hispanico Board member Phil Colón along with designer Daniel Arenas, for capturing the future of Ballet Hispanico with their design; to the Board of Ballet Hispanico for their unwavering support; and to Ballet Hispanico’s marketing team for their key input.
Please share your thoughts on our new look with the hashtag #45yearsnew!
Every new year always brings exciting changes to Ballet Hispanico, and this year is no different. Members of our School of Dance community may have noticed a familiar face in a new role around the studios lately. Flamenco Program Advisor Kiri Avelar recently joined the School of Dance’s administrative team as the new Associate School Director.
We’re thrilled to have Kiri in this new position and caught up with her to learn more about herself, to see how the transition has been, and to hear what plans she has for the new school year:
Many people might just know you as one of our flamenco instructors, but you have quite a varied background in dance, both in styles and geographic locations. Could you share with us just a summary of your journey with dance, and how you came to find Ballet Hispanico?
I started my training in ballet. The older I got the more varied our curriculum became. Studying at the Boston Ballet School at age 14, I was introduced to Spanish dance in a class taught by Ramon de los Reyes. I didn’t care much for other styles at that age, and I was so focused on ballet that was all I cared about. I later received my B.A. in Dance in New Mexico. Flamenco and Spanish dance are huge there, and because of my ballet and Spanish dance base I easily assimilated into that community; I had an immediate in-road. I eventually fell in love with the art form of Flamenco, but never let go of my respect for ballet and modern dance. Looking back I can see how all of the pieces of my life’s puzzle fit together, now bringing me to Ballet Hispanico in New York.
Give us a sample of what your daily tasks look like now as an administrator for the School:
You can find me either in the classroom teaching, observing other faculty members teach, walking through the building to make sure kids get to class on time, or greeting families. The hours I spend behind the desk are dedicated to processing scholarships, working closely with School leadership and our advisors, and checking in with our marketing team.
What is it like to balance being both an administrator and a faculty member and advisor in the School?
I love my job. I am so at home in the studio, and yet there is a side of me that is fascinated by the arts administration that it takes to support that work – I get to work in the best of both worlds! I am able to see both sides of the coin, and I feel my work in one area informs my work in the other.
What’s one goal you have for the School of Dance this year?
To provide enrichment opportunities (performances, workshops, lectures, etc.) for our students that will further support their learning inside the classroom.
In an alternate life, if you weren’t dancing, what would you be doing right now?
Thanks for catching up with us, Kiri! Keep an eye on our blog for our next School Spotlight Q&A.
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!
In May, Company dancers Joshua Winzeler and Vanessa Valecillos traveled to Guatemala City, Guatemala to work with the dance students at Dance Studio. Last year, the entire company traveled to Antigua to perform at the Festival Internacional de Cultura Paiz 2011. On this trip, however, Joshua and Vanessa were on a different mission: to bring their professional experience and dance wisdom to young and eager-to-learn students.
Vanessa and Joshua reflected on their incredible experiences, and we are excited to share their with you! It’s amazing what our dancers are up to, so we hope you enjoy learning about what BH dancers do in their “free” time! You can find more information about Dance Studio on Facebook. Enjoy!
Joshua and I traveled to Guatemala City on May 21. We stayed at the house of Laura Galvez and her family. They truly made us feel at home! Laura is the director of the jazz program that Dance Studio has.
I taught all the ballet classes, and Joshua taught the contemporary classes. I had students who ranged in age from 7 years old to teenagers. I enjoyed all of the students! Some of the classes were high levels and very challenging.
I love to see the young ones that have a lot of potential paying so much attention and really listening to me. I find so much satisfaction in them really understanding dance at such a young age. For the older students, it was great to see them working so hard because they were given an opportunity to see what else is out there in the dance world and not just what they see on an everyday basis.
My biggest challenge was to teach ballet class to the jazz students. Most of them have never had ballet before. So I had to start with the basic positions and postures rather than the more difficult technique. And I only had one day to do it!
One evening we went to a dance challenge that was being held at El Teatro Nacional, a beautiful theater, where a lot of the dance schools compete. It was very interesting to see because it showed us the various levels of the different schools. (By the way, Dance Studio won first place in ballet and third place in jazz and hip hop!)
A great moment for me while being there was going to Antigua on Saturday afternoon. It brought great memories of when I went there with Ballet Hispanico last season!
I am looking forward to going back in the near future to teach at Dance Studio again and to see the great friends that we made while being there.
The facility where we taught was amazing! It was sort of a country club, with a pool, karate, a gym, a spa, spin classes…the works. After we got there, we observed some of the classes we would be teaching. Vanessa taught Ballet, while I taught Contemporary dance.
Both Vanessa and I had a lot on our plates. Most of my classes consisted of ballet-trained dancers who had never taken a Contemporary class in their lives, some not knowing what it was. Their technique reflected that of Ballet: poised, light and not very fluid in their movement quality. I had about 3 classes with them that each lasted an hour. I utilized the some Horton and Limón technique along with some Bartenieff fundamentals. I felt like it was important that the dancers knew the endless possibilities that the body could move in. How to release into the floor. To transition from one movement into another effortlessly. How to suspend or sustain a movement. How to dance from your core and not just the arms and legs. All terms vital in the dance world.
At first these dancers were timid and laughed at what I was showing them. They were uncomfortable and embarrassed that they might make a mistake. It was important for them to know that class was not only a place to discipline yourself in technique and style, but also a place to explore new ways of moving and discovering what works best for your body. It was obvious that these dancers were intimidated by Vanessa and me—“the professional dancers from New York and Ballet Hispanico”—but we were still human and had once been in the same place they were. They started opening up, and the shift of energy was like night and day. The girls were hungry and willing to learn. It was amazing to see such a vast change in their quality of dancing in such a short amount of time.
I went there with a goal. If I was able to teach them ONE thing, whether it be a new term in dance or a new way of dancing, I would have done my job. And that I did. One dancer asked me, “Why do you dance”? I replied, “Two reasons: one, dance is a gateway that allows me to forget about everything that happens in this sometimes mundane world and I am able to express myself in whatever way I chose. And two, I believe dance to be another form of communicating though the movements of our body.” It was something so powerful and profound to them. I could see it in their eyes. It was like they saw dance as a hobby at first and then realized that there was so much more dance had to offer. The icing on the cake was receiving status updates via Facebook or Twitter about how Vanessa and I have helped not only the dancers, but also the teachers to see dance in a new way. We have lit a brand new fire in them and that they are ready and willing to go the distance to achieve any goal they set for themselves. We are very optimistic that we will have another opportunity to reunite next year and create another successful workshop like this one.
I would also like to thank Nicholas Villeneuve for this amazing opportunity. Originally, Nicholas planned on going on the trip, but was unable to travel because of the School of Dance recital. He referred Dance Studio to me, and I am so thankful I was able to take advantage of this amazing experience.
The Ballet Hispanico Company dancers have been back in our studios this week from their summer break, looking all rested and refreshed, and eager to start their rigorous rehearsals. Our building truly hums with a different kind of energy when they’re around!
This year we are thrilled to have four new lovely faces joining us: Jamal Rashann Callender, Andrea Salamanca, Kimberly Van Woesik, and Joshua Peter Winzeler. Read on for their bios and (gorgeous) pictures. We are equally thrilled to have the following returning dancers with us: Lauren Alzamora, Donald Borror, Rodney Hamilton, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Min-Tzu Li, Christian Elán Ortiz, Vanessa Valecillos, and Jessica Alejandra Wyatt. Stay tuned next week for journal entries from each of them on what they did during their summer vacation!
Jamal Rashann Callender began dancing at Ballet Tech in New York City. He attended the Professional Performing Arts School/The Ailey School under the late Denise Jefferson, while dancing at The Restoration Dance Theatre and the Harlem School of the Arts. Jamal also attended Perry-Mansfield and Springboard Danse Montreal. He graduated from The Juilliard School under Lawrence Rhodes, and has worked with The Atlanta Ballet, Peridance Ensemble, Buglisi Dance Theater, Formal Structure Inc., and Hubbard Street 2. This is his first season with Ballet Hispanico.
Andrea Salamanca graduated from The School of Incolballet in Cali, Colombia. Andrea joined the professional company of Incolballet in 2005, under the direction of Gloria Castro Martínez. Performed works by choreographers such as Jorge Amarnte Tangos, Yanis Pikieris Mirages, Rayneth Meredith, Gonzalo Galguera, Patrick D Bana, and Edward Lock. In 2008 she participated in Incolballet’s tour in Spain and in Cali’s II International Ballet Festival. This is her first season with Ballet Hispanico.
Kimberly Van Woesik graduated from Southern Methodist University. She has trained at Chamberlain School of Performing Arts, American Ballet Theater, Miami City Ballet, the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. Performed works by Ben Stevenson, Twyla Tharp, Arthur Mitchell, Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, Alison Chase, Jessica Lang, Adam Hougland, Gerald Arpino, and George Balanchine. This is her first season with Ballet Hispanico.
Joshua Peter Winzeler was born in Miami, Florida. He began his ballet training with The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet and the Miami Conservatory. He furthered his training with the School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. Joshua graduated from New World School of the Arts receiving his B.F.A. in 2011. Joshua has performed works from Martha Graham, Darshan Bhuller, Robert Battle and Michael Uthoff, to name a few. This is his first season with Ballet Hispanico.
For anyone who knows anything about Ron Brown, it would seem only natural that Ballet Hispanico has decided to team up with this respected choreographer for a unique collaborative project. Mr. Brown’s work has been characterized by his ability to seamlessly blend culture and tradition with modern contemporary and urban dance styles. Drawing on Latin American, Caribbean, and West African traditions, Mr. Brown’s interest lays in exploring the potential of folkloric and cultural dance to tell stories in a contemporary context. As BH Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro says, “Ron Brown takes the inherent sense of purpose from these traditional dance forms and makes them relevant in today’s society.”
We are extremely excited to be collaborating with Mr. Brown on his latest piece, “Espiritu Vivo,” which has been prepared for our 2011-2012 season. Mr. Brown and Eduardo have joined together to conduct extensive background research in order to develop the choreography’s multi-cultural themes and storyline, and the company dancers have spent three intense weeks in the studio with Mr. Brown to produce the final work. Click here to see rehearsal photos!
The world premiere viewing of “Espiritu Vivo,” will be presented on Friday, March 25 for Ballet Hispanico’s Circulo de Honor.
About Ron Brown
Ronald K. Brown was born in Brooklyn and founded the New York-based contemporary dance ensemble Evidence, A Dance Company in 1985. In addition to his work with Evidence, Brown has created work for the African American Dance Ensemble, Philadanco, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Grace in 1999, Serving Nia in 2001, IFE/My Heart 2005 and Dancing Spirit, a tribute to Judith Jamison), Ailey II, Cinque Folkloric Dance Theater, Jennifer Muller/The Works, and Jeune Ballet d’Afrique Noire. He has collaborated with such artists as composer/designer Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya, the late writer Craig G. Harris, director Ernie McClintock’s Jazz Actors Theater, choreographers Patricia Hoffbauer and Rokiya Kone, and composers Robert Een, Oliver Lake, Bernadette Speech, David Simons, and Don Meissner. Brown has received numerous awards and fellowships including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Choreography, a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in choreography, New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie), a Black Theater Alliance Award, the American Dance Festival Humphrey/Weidman/Limón Award, and fellowships from the Edward and Sally van Lier Fund. In addition, Brown was named Def Dance Jam Workshop Mentor of the Year in 2000. In 2003, he received an AUDELCO (Black Theatre Award) for his choreography for Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, originally produced by the McCarter Theater and presented off-Broadway in 2003. In fall 2006, Brown received The United States Artists Rose Fellowship. He was one of only four choreographers of 50 artists to receive the inaugural award.