Without a doubt, 2016 has been a trying year, and this past week especially reminds me of the importance of the work we do to support voices of color and gender in our curation. Long-term relationships with artists have been a hallmark of this company since Tina Ramirez’s founding. It continues to be an important value as we still struggle for recognition, equity, and visibility.
In order to change the cultural and critical lens, it is crucial to focus on those choreographers creating works that reshape, reverse, and at times, replay the essence of our culture. Artists such as Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who has developed into a much sought-after choreographer in both the ballet and contemporary worlds of dance, or Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, another prodigious choreographer who continues to astound audiences with his masterful humor and humanity, are among that group.
“It is crucial to focus on those choreographers creating works that reshape, reverse, and at times, replay the essence of our culture.”
I have known and worked with these fine artists for over a decade and am honored to continue bringing their voices–different voices–to our audiences. This weekend, please join us at the Apollo Theater in coming together in the name of art, and unity.
Artistic Director & CEO
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!
In addition to an exciting line-up that includes one World Premiere and live music, our upcoming New York Season at the Joyce Theater is especially noteworthy as we pay tribute to our beloved company dancer Vanessa Valecillos, who will be retiring later this year. Vanessa has played a huge role with the company since Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro came on board at Ballet Hispanico, but her journey with Eduardo started long ago in Chicago when the two first met. Eduardo himself offered this thoughtful reflection on this very special dancer:
I met Vanessa Valecillos in 1997 on a Fourth of July weekend by the waters of Lake Michigan. We were meant to meet. We began to work together as I found that her amazing technique and dramatic instincts were rare to me. No other dancer I had worked with previously could drum up the very soul of Latin passion while subtly fusing it with classical line and modern sensibilities. We made duets together, we danced together, she discovered my choreographic idiosyncrasies and molded them for me to catalog in my mind. In essence, she became my muse. Yet there was more to her than just artistic inspiration, with an uncanny ability to bring others into the folds of a vision–she began to collect people for our work. Audience members, supporters, friends and donors all gave in to her magic. Seventeen years later, we continue the work.
This Joyce season we will pay tribute to my first muse with a devoted performance that demonstrates her talent and abilities to inspire. Please join us on Sunday, April 27th, as we honor Vanessa’s lifetime work as an artist. An unforgettable evening for such a remarkable woman.
– Eduardo Vilaro, Artistic Director
“No other dancer I had worked with previously could drum up the very soul of Latin passion…”
Program D of the Joyce Season, which takes the stage on April 27th at 2 pm, has been specially programmed to celebrate Vanessa’s departure and features Edwaard Liang’s moving duet, A Verme. Vanessa and fellow dancer Jamal Rashann Callender debuted this work at the Fire Island Dance Festival in 2012 and are looking forward to performing the work again in light of this special, personal moment for the pair. Vanessa and Jamal gave their thoughts on A Verme here:
A VERME at the 2012 Fire Island Dance Festival. (c) Rosalie O’Connor
A Verme is a rare and special treat for me because I have the opportunity to perform with Vanessa. As it will be performed in program D of the Joyce season, I am delighted to have our moment together on stage. It’s a perfect piece to perform because like our friendship and partnership, our connection will never go away. The duets speaks exactly to that matter. Two beings who always find one another in different life times. Though she is moving on, we will always find each other and dance together. This is for you Vanessa. Thank you for everything you have taught me. It has been an honor and extreme privilege.
A Verme. I am very grateful to perform this beautiful work by Edwaard Liang. The music and movement speak for itself. For me, it is about souls- those souls that I have touched and the ones that have touched me, wherever they may be. I am very excited to perform it with a very special person from the last 3 years of my career, Jamal Callender.
The work reminds me of a quote from one of Pablo Neruda’s poem “Pero hacia donde vaya llevare tu mirada, y hacia donde camines llevaras mi dolor.”
Thank you, Vanessa, for all that you have done for Ballet Hispanico! We have loved watching every moment of you lighting up the stage. Mil gracias!
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.”
Here at Ballet Hispanico, we returned from a restful Thanksgiving holiday eager for our upcoming performance at the Apollo Theater! After months of preparation, our performance is just days away.
No one is as excited as our Company dancers. Let’s check in with Martina Calcagno, who makes her debut at the Apollo Theater on December 1, and Lauren Alzamora about why they cannot wait to take the stage.
“It’s my first season with the company, and I’m excited about so many aspects. It’s going to be my first show in New York, and I’m honored that it’s in a theater as historic as the Apollo.
“I’m excited about the ballets we are going to perform because they show the diversity and the versatility of the company and our repertoire.
“The Apollo is also a great venue to perform with live music. Our show will demonstrate how two different kinds of art can meld so perfectly together and create such a magical atmosphere.”
“Thinking back on last year, I recall being excited and nervous for Ballet Hispanico’s premiere at the Apollo Theater. I didn’t know what to expect, especially with the live music component for two pieces…. And also the pressure of having Mr. Vilaro’s world premiere of Asuka, his first piece choreographed for BH. The experience turned out to be incredibly enthralling and quite memorable. The energy from the audience was palpable before we even opened the curtain.
“I have never worked with Paquito D’Rivera before but I am very excited to do so. I have heard such great things about him! I think his and the other musicians’ improvisations will add a whole new dimension to Danzón.
“When there is live music, we as dancers tune in much more intently – and if something takes us by surprise (as it most certainly will) we pull together that much stronger.
“The Apollo is just around the corner! I am curious to see how people respond to their performance this year, as the program is quite different from last year. It is definitely a consolation of sorts to be able to picture the stage and the beautiful house in my mind’s eye, as I re-live last year’s shows. I hope Ballet Hispanico returns year after year to conjure up and take part in the magic of this historic theater.”
We all look forward to making magic on December 1! Find complete program and ticket information on our website here.
Ballet Hispanico’s return to the Apollo Theater is just around the corner! All of the dancers and staff are busy preparing for the big night, which will include three Ballet Hispanico premieres and live music by Latin Jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera.
Behind the scenes, Wardrobe Director Diana Ruettiger is hard at work crafting new costumes for Danzón, a piece choreographed by Ballet Hispanico Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro. We visited her workshop last week to speak about her creative process and the long, but rewarding, journey of designing for Danzón.
Her office is filled with fabric, mannequins, props, and fashion photos for inspiration. When faced with a new collection of costumes to design, Diana’s first steps are to watch, consulate, and experiment. She has been attending Company rehearsals, watching taped footage of the work, and meeting with Mr. Vilaro about his vision for the piece.
And his vision?
“Purple and lace. That’s what he wanted.”
Diana got to work. With a sense of direction for color and texture, she also had many other factors to consider: how do the dancers need to move in the costumes? What design will work best on all the women’s body types? How can she capture the essence of the piece in her design?
She showed us what she had so far. She found some beautiful fabric in her own collection that evoked lace. There was one slight problem: the fabric was pink. Diana, who always thinks fast on her feet, simply dyed it an elegant shade of purple.
For now, she’s playing around with a few different ideas and isn’t exactly sure what the final product will be. One thing is certain, however: Diana’s costumes will be as beautiful, creative, and fabulous as always.
You can see these new costumes for yourself when Ballet Hispanico performs at the Apollo Theater on December 1, 2012 at 7:30pm. For complete performance and ticket information, visit our website here.
Until then, enjoy this sneak preview of Diana Ruettiger’s new Danzón costumes!
Labor Day is just a week away, and that means summer will be officially over. While that may be bad news for those of us who love the beach, it also means that Ballet Hispanico will be kicking off another exciting season full of new works and great performances.
Before we mark the beginning of fall, we have a final installment in our Company dancer summer vacation series! Jamal Rashann Callender shared his great break with us, capped off by his 2012 Princess Grace Award. Enjoy!
Summer Break? It flew by so fast with so many activities. After the company left the stage at Celebrate Brooklyn, I took a week to rest and reflect. Soon after, I was given one of the most amazing opportunities for which I am forever grateful. I was invited to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Jacob’s Pillow. The Men Dancers: From the Horse’s Mouth was an homage to Ted Shawn (Founder of Jacob’s Pillow) and his men dancers. This performance was unique because it was all improvised, and I never worked with any of the other male dancers. There were 25 male dancers from various backgrounds and styles of dance, including Gus Solomon, Lar Lubovitch, and Arthur Mitchell. Each dancer also told a two minute story about dance, and I choose to talk about how I first learned to dance with my grandmother in Barbados.
I almost forgot to mention, before I actually arrived at Jacobs Pillow I had an emergency tooth extraction of tooth #32 (wisdom tooth). I missed the group bus heading to the Pillow and instead lay in my in bed. On that same day, toothless, in pain, with a numb lip and barely able to open my mouth, I received the wonderful news that I won the 2012 Princess Grace Fellowship award for Dance. I cried, and my mom and dad were so thrilled and proud.
I returned to NYC back at BH preparing for the DRA Fire Island Dance Festival where Vanessa and I premiered Edwaard Liang’s newest creation, A Verme. I had performed in this festival once before, so it was great to return to the same love and warmth of the organization that does a fantastic job fundraising to fight HIV/AIDS. Immediately following our weekend of performances on the Pines (Fire Island), Vanessa and I got on a plane to New Orleans to teach with the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA). This was one of the highlights of my summer. I love to give back to a community who, just like me, didn’t have the funds to go away to summer camp or dance program. These students were given a unique opportunity to work with professional dancers, directors and choreographers. Mr. Vilaro even came down and spent some time with the students which was rewarding for them as well. The program culminated with a performance which included a piece I created titled Slate.
Overall I enjoyed my summer break. Some may look and think it wasn’t a break; however, this was more rejuvenation I could ever ask for! I also played with my 11 week old Niece Aubrey who loves to smile. I have already started to stretch her and point her feet just in case…you never know!
Ballet Hispanico kicks off its 2012-13 season on Monday when Company dancers begin rehearsing a new work with Spanish choreographers Inma García and Meritxell Barberá. As the summer ends, we welcome three new dancers to Ballet Hispanico: Major Nesby, Melissa Fernandez and Martina Calcagno.
Melissa, originally from Miami, graduated from The Julliard School in May 2012. She’s had an exciting summer as she waited to join Ballet Hispanico. She shared her summer vacation with us:
This warm and eventful summer has come and gone as quickly as a midday rain storm. This past May I graduated from The Juilliard School and found that outside of the invaluable but protective bubble of an arts conservatory there is a whole wide world to experience and explore.
Shortly after graduating I had the privilege of performing one last time as a member of The Juilliard Dance Ensemble in Beijing, China for the Beijing International Ballet Competition gala. While in Beijing I experienced so many exhilarating events such as walking (more like hiking) a portion of the Great Wall of China. Once my journey to the other side of the world was complete, I happily traveled back home to my family in Miami, FL where we spent quality time reconnecting and sun bathing by the crystalline shore of the Gulf coast.
Then came the most uplifting and exciting news of the summer! I auditioned once more for Ballet Hispanico and was thrilled to hear that Mr. Vilaro wanted to hire me for the 2012-2013 season! I’ll never forget the joy in my heart as Mr. Vilaro took me to meet Greg Stuart, our Company Manager, who the following day so kindly helped me sign my very first professional contract.
Finally, my summer concluded with a week long trip to Kodak, Tennessee where I spent my time hiking the expansive Smoky Mountains, exploring impressive underground caves and of course creating beautiful memories with friends.
In a nutshell my summer can be described in one word, “blessed.”
I’ve been blessed with experiences that have helped me grow not only as an artist but as an individual. As I begin my first season with Ballet Hispanico I pray that as I engulf my self in my craft and in learning from my fellow company members I will be as fulfilled and inspired as I was when I walked the Great Wall, hiked a portion of the Appalachian trail or spent quality time with family and friends. I have a strong feeling that I will.
You can meet all of the Ballet Hispanico dancers on our website!
Deputy School Director Nicholas Villeneuve and some of the Ballet Hispanico Company members have traveled down to Louisiana to teach at the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) for their summer residency.
Nicholas has been teaching in New Orleans for the past week. He comes back to New York this week, but he will return to NOBA for the final showings of the summer. He has shared his experience so far:
Nestled in a quaint corner on St. Charles Ave. in a spectacular old guest house, I have been here for a week enjoying warm southern hospitality. Ballet Hispanico and the New Orleans Ballet Association have partnered once again to lend some of New York’s strongest tutelage to New Orleans. Later this year, Ballet Hispanico is slated to perform on on NOBA’s bill. The NOBA summer residency consists of two members of Ballet Hispanico’s main company, Vanessa Valecillos and Jamal Callendar, along with myself teaching technique classes and creating works that will be showcased in their final performance at NOCCA on Sunday, August 4th.
Our presenter Jenny Hamilton has arranged quite the schedule as students are rotating on four individual tracks similar to our own intensive in NYC. I have had the pleasure of working with the more advanced student groups. While Richard Chen See, formerly of the Paul Taylor Company (and an Instituto Coreográfico panelist!), is setting an excerpt of Esplanade on the green track, I have created a new work for the purple track titled “Incantations.” The work explores a calling of souls and chanting to new life while paying homage to the deep rooted rituals and spirituality of the south.
Such rich and vast plethora of cultures exists here, you can feel it in the streets as you drive by the stunning mansions, churches and old buildings along every street. I have enjoyed thoroughly my experience this last week and will be returning to NYC this week to revisit our own summer intensive with Director, AnaMaria Correa. Fortunately for me, I will be coming back to NOLA to see my students’ performance on the 4th. This experience is a great opportunity for both the students of NOBA and the organizations. The students in New Orleans are privy to a wide variety of highly trained and accomplished artists and companies. Ballet Hispanico and NOBA bring much knowledge to these young dancers and aid their professional development throughout the four-week dance residency.
Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro has had a long standing relationship with NOBA and pledges to deliver only the best to each community that his company visits. I would say this residency is on its way to success, and I can’t wait to see the final performances. I have handed off my work to the amazing dancers of Ballet Hispanico today. I know when I return it will be terrific.The students have attended all my classes thus far with an eagerness and a fire that inspires me. Each day I am able to see them improve a bit at a time. I enjoy teaching and I am honored to pass on the legacy that was once given to me!
Till next week, NOLA!
Reporting from the beautiful sunny south,
Deputy Director, Nicholas Villeneuve