Despite the name of the work, CARMEN.maquia is actually a story about Don José, whom you portray. As this is Ballet Hispanico’s first story ballet, can you talk us through what it’s been like taking on a character role, what working with Gustavo is like, and what you hope to accomplish on stage at the Apollo for this one-night-only NYC premiere?
At the outset, CARMEN.maquia‘s narrative form isn’t wholly different from the majority of work we do at Ballet Hispanico. To me, dance always contains narrative and in each work of the BH rep I am always asking myself who I am and what I want at different moments. Some pieces are a series of very short stories, some have a unified through line. Some don’t. The constant is the desire to communicate an idea. The mechanism for that communication is intent within movement. Each piece becomes a series of intents, motivations, and actions. To me, that is story.
CARMEN.maquia takes this process a step further in two main ways. The first is that the story is told over the course of somewhere around 65 minutes. This allows for a great deal of narrative detail. The second step is that this story is specific and set.
“Dancers do not have the benefit of words.”
When Bizet created the opera he told his story using words. My experience with words is that they are the form of communication that offers the most potential for specificity of meaning. Dancers do not have the benefit of words. This makes every single movement crucial to the audience’s understanding of the narrative. It also leaves the interpreters (i.e. the dancers) with a great deal of agency in deciding how the story will be told. I imagine that Bizet’s poetry gives singers a huge amount of information about how they should play their characters–I do not have that information.
Choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano is guiding me in my portrayal of Don José, but he is not making decisions for me. He has offered me the freedom to remake Bizet’s protagonist in an image of my choosing. Don José’s actions are my landmarks. The brunt of every tragedy is the fall from grace. In CARMEN.maquia, Don José commits three great transgressions that drag him into the dirt. My work in developing this character is deciding how I arrive at each of these watershed moments. I know that Don José falls in love with a meritless woman, I know this leads him to abandon his brothers in arms and I know that, unable to cope with Carmen’s rejection, Don José murders the woman he loves.
But how does a military officer, a principled man justly proud of his position and moral character, fall so far; fully abandoning the values on which his life has been built? That question is the source of my portrayal of Don José.
“It is an exciting place where people move fast, no one hides who they are, and people bleed blue.”
My hope for the performance at the Apollo on Nov. 22 is to be able to bring the audience into the world of CARMEN.maquia that Gustavo has built. It is a different world from the one in which we live. It is an exciting place where people move fast, no one hides who they are, and people bleed blue. When standing on the Apollo stage, facing those three towering tiers of people, what I want is to give every audience member an intimate experience. I want each of them to walk away feeling like we danced solely for them.
Thanks for your insight, Chris! Click here for more details and to purchase tickets for this one-night-only Apollo performance on Saturday, November 22, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more about #CarmenInHarlem.
Click through the image to see this interview with Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro and company dancer Kimberly Van Woesik!
The two recently spoke with NBC’s Cozi-TV station about the company’s two-day appearance at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College, coming up on February 8th and 9th.
“Dance, as in all art, is that breaker of all fear. It allows you to commune, so not only Latinos can talk about their culture but other people from other cultures can enjoy, and be immersed in those cultures.”
-Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro on BH’s creative philosophy
For tickets to the shows, click HERE.
Our BH dancers just had a spectacular two nights at the John F. Kennedy Center–and don’t just take our word for it! The Washington Post praised their performance as a “cutting-edge crowd pleaser” and we couldn’t be more thrilled. For Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro, the company’s return to the D.C. venue was particularly special and prompted feelings of nostalgia for his time as a company dancer in the same venue:
The first time I walked on the Eisenhower stage at the Kennedy Center was as a dancer with Ballet Hispanico back in 1992. It was an amazing moment for me as a young dancer and an immigrant. Performing in our nation’s national theater was a major reflection of my American dream and the truth of determination. As I walked onto that same stage last weekend, now as the artistic director of Ballet Hispanico, I was once again reminded of the immensity of possibilities we find ourselves in because of this great nation and am grateful that I am in a position with BH where I can inspire, nurture and help develop young people so that they too might find themselves in awe.
“Performing in our nation’s national theater was a major reflection of my American dream.”
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
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!
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!