Behind the Look of Día de los Muertos

While Halloween might be over, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) still gives you a reason to celebrate. The Mexican holiday is a three-day event (which began yesterday) of gathering with friends and family to honor the dead with offerings. Though it originated in Mexico, the holiday has spread throughout Latin America and to Hispanic communities worldwide, with a variety of celebrations incorporating music, dance, candlelight processions, kite-flying, and more.

Ballet Hispanico is excited to present a world premiere by Mexican choreographer Edgar Zendejas, Umbral, inspired by Día de los Muertos and showing at the Apollo Theater on November 23rd. The dance is a seductive reimagining of the holiday and the atmosphere it evokes. A key figure of the holiday is the character of Catrina, the traditionally feminine representation of death who wears a distinctive face, which has become increasingly popular around Halloween–even trending as the “Mexican Skull Candy” look amongst celebrities and fans.  For Umbral, Zendejas chose to cast dancer Mario Ismael Espinoza as Catrina, adding an intriguing spin to what is sure to be an exceptional piece.

“It is a mythical being that inspires fear, but also joy and celebration of people’s lives.”

Mario worked with Zendejas to perfect the makeup for Catrina, which the dancer will be sporting on stage. Here’s how they put it together, with commentary from Mario about the process:

When Edgar was creating the work, he made it very clear that Catrina is a very solitaire character. Catrina has no age or gender. It is an androgynous personality.

When Edgar was creating the work, he made it very clear that Catrina is a very solitary character. Catrina has no age or gender. It is an androgynous personality.

Throughout the dance, I have several fleeting connections with the dancers, but ultimately end up alone.

Throughout the dance, I have several fleeting connections with the dancers, but ultimately end up alone.

For me, Catrina is a very special character to play, partly because I am Mexican and the face of Catarina is very iconic to me.

For me, Catrina is a very special character to play, partly because I am Mexican and the face of Catrina is very iconic to me.

It is a mythical being that inspires fear, but also joy and celebration of people's lives.  Death is part of life, and Catrina is the punctuation mark at the end.

It is a mythical being that inspires fear, but also joy and celebration of people’s lives. Death is part of life, and Catrina is the punctuation mark at the end.

Whenever I think of the Catrina, I think of a dancing marionette with a colorfully painted face, in a beautiful dress. In Umbral I get to give life to Catrina, with Edgar's choreography, Catrina gets to dance without strings.

Whenever I think of the Catrina, I think of a dancing marionette with a colorfully painted face, in a beautiful dress. In Umbral I get to give life to Catrina. With Edgar’s choreography, Catrina gets to dance without strings.

We can’t wait to see this on stage–be sure to join us at the Apollo to see it live!

Photos by company dancer Johan Rivera.

Advertisements

Company Dancer Lauren Alzamora: How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation

All summer, we’ve been checking in on our dancers on their “vacations.” Up next, we hear from Company dancer Lauren Alzamora!

Hello friends! I hope you’ve been enjoying the summer as much as I have so far…… Since our final show of the season in Prospect Park, I have been catching up on some much needed rest and relaxation. I find that my body really appreciates some days at home where I can just lay low and hang out with my cat, Conan. In fact, I will include a picture of how he and I like to stay cool (well, mostly him…..).  He is a special needs cat, and sometimes he needs a little extra help bringing his body temperature down on these hot, humid days. I call it “kitty kooler” or “kitty on ice.”

After a day or two at home I feel the need to get moving again.  I teach Pilates and Gyrotonic year-round, as much as our rehearsal/performance/tour schedule will allow. But the summer is a particular time when I can teach a bit more and also take other teachers’ classes.  There is always something new to learn!  It is one of my favorite ways to cross-train during our season, as well as a great way to stay in shape off-season.

Something else that has kept me busy is assisting my friend Maryana Hordeychuk who has been pursuing her Masters in Digital Photography from the School of Visual Art in NYC.  After collaborating on a few projects last year, she asked me to be her thesis advisor for her final project. It has been wonderful to see the culmination of all her hard work, and it is satisfying to know that I was an integral part of the whole process.  This is a photo of some of the images from her thesis, entitled “Tabula Rasa,” which will be featured in a gallery exhibition in October 2012.

Maryana and I also drove out to Fort Tilden beach where we did a photo shoot with fellow company dancer, Mario Espinoza. Two of the images we caught are shown below.

I have also taken a few ballet technique classes with the advanced level at the Ballet Hispanico summer session – it is wonderful to see young dancers working hard and taking in all of the information that the BH faculty has to offer.  Caridad Martinez taught a particularly humbling 2-hour technique class on Monday….. I hope the students take advantage of being in her class  – she will make you strong and has such a wealth of knowledge to offer!

I am currently in Aspen, CO where I am visiting friends and also helping my boyfriend pack up to move to NYC! We are going to take about 4 days to drive across the country together.  This is a very exciting time for us and I am thrilled to share it with all of you!  So I guess that is about it….. drink your Coco water and take a visit to the beach if you have a free day. Some of the BH dancers and I took a trip to Long Beach and it was so lovely – even on Saturday, the crowds weren’t too bad and the ocean was heaven on earth!