Choreographer Profile: Edwaard Liang

This weekend, Ballet Hispanico will be presenting the world premiere of A Verme, a duet by world famous choreographer Edwaard Liang, at Fire Island Dance Festival 18. This work is Mr. Liang’s first piece for Ballet Hispanico, and we could not be more thrilled!

He has been in the studios over the last few months creating and rehearsing the piece with our Company dancers. We caught up with him during lunch to learn about his career, his creative process and this new duet.

A Verme or “Into Me See,” a duet set to the lush music of Ezio Bosso, explores the concept of intimacy and the push and pull of energy that connects two individuals. The piece follows the tension and release of a timeless attraction between two lovers outside of time and space.

When Mr. Liang first came in May, he began choreographing on the spot. He explained that while he may have a concept for a piece in mind, he does not plan the movement ahead of time. Instead, he works with the bodies and contours of the dancers themselves to find inspiration and use their strengths.

Mr. Liang had nothing but kind words about our Ballet Hispanico dancers. “They’re so freaking nice!” he exclaimed at one point. Because of his choreographing style, dancers need to be flexible, open-minded and ready to work. Our dancers met that challenge as they gave their all during the long 6+ hour rehearsal days.

Although Mr. Liang has traveled the world and frequently works internationally, he calls New York his home base. He first moved to the city 22 years ago and still finds it so comforting every time he returns home. He particularly enjoyed his work with Ballet Hispanico because he felt comfortable working from home.

Mr. Liang will be at the Fire Island Dance Festival this weekend, but it won’t be long before he jets off to work in China, Australia, Houston, San Francisco and Germany. With such a busy schedule, we asked him if he ever slept. His response? “I don’t really stop working because I don’t want to.”

If you’re in the area, be sure to check out A Verme at the Fire Island Dance Festival this weekend! For event information and to purchase tickets (proceeds support Dancers Responding to AIDS), visit the DRA’s website. Stay up-to-date with Mr. Liang by checking out his website.

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(c) Josh Preston

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Our Board Chair Goes on Tour with the Company!

As the Ballet Hispanico Company tours the nation this spring, Kate Lear, Chair of the Board of Directors, enjoyed the opportunity to travel with them to three cities. Here, she offers us an insider’s look at the innumerable joys of a Ballet Hispanico tour. Enjoy, and be sure to check out photos from BH on the road on our Facebook page!

You don’t need to be away from New York to be part of the fun. Catch the Company up close April 17-29 at The Joyce Theater. For tickets, please visit www.joyce.org.

Thoughts from the Road

This month I had the privilege of traveling with the Ballet Hispanico Company to three tour stops to see what life is like on the road for these wonderful cultural ambassadors. What I found was universal admiration and respect for Eduardo Vilaro and the Company, a warm and supportive camaraderie amongst the dancers, an exceptional crew headed by Gregory Stuart, generous and gracious presenters and their staffs, and audiences that loved the combination of great artistry and cultural connection that puts Ballet Hispanico at the forefront of today’s dance companies.

St. Louis

I was picked up at the airport by Josephine Weil, the mother of one of our dancers, Rodney Hamilton. After a lovely dinner with Josephine and her kind husband, Dick, it was off to the Edison Theatre for the performance. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Who would our audience be? Would they like the program and what we have to offer as a contemporary, culturally-inspired dance company? When I arrived, I saw a mixture of faces and ages milling in the auditorium; there was an excitement in the air. By the end of the performance, my questions were answered – they loved the program. I was particularly moved by a large group of Latino children who had attended one of our Education and Outreach programs that day and had been taught some of the repertory by the dancers. That night their eyes were open wide with excitement as they saw their culture represented on stage – many of them for the first time. They were beaming with pride.

Boston

The Company had the pleasure of performing at the Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College, a beautiful 19th century gem of a theater. This sophisticated dance audience wholeheartedly embraced the Latino-infused style and themes of our program. Thankfully, they embraced it wholeheartedly. Our dancers basked in the attention of enthusiastic applause and cheering. The backstage crew, led by technical director Joshua Preston, wardrobe supervisor, Diana Ruetigger, rehearsal director, Michelle Manzanales, and stage manager, Gwendolyn Kay, put on a world-class show for our audiences. One additional thing that I couldn’t help but notice – the incredible stamina it takes to tour! Each Ballet Hispanico tour is accompanied by one or more additional activities other than the performances. In the case of Boston, there were company and school auditions, more Education and Outreach in local schools taught by Eduardo and our dancers, and receptions organized by our presenters. I was exhausted and I’m not sure how they all do it city after city!

Chicago

What a beautiful city! And for Eduardo, a wonderful return visit to his former home where he has strong ties to Columbia College and his former company, Luna Negra. The Company performed at the Dance Center at Columbia College and friends and fans filled the audience. It was old home week for Eduardo as well as some of the cast and crew, and an air of joyous reunion permeated the theatre. Eduardo had the honor of showing his friends and colleagues his newest piece of choreography from the Ballet Hispanico repertory, “Asuka,” and it was wonderfully received. I decided to see much of the show backstage and got a birds-eye view of what it’s like! Watching the dancers warm up, having final costume tweaks by Diana, getting psyched up for their entrances, supporting one another from offstage, noticing Greg’s sharp focus as he was on the lookout in case something was needed – it was all so interesting and exciting!

Final thoughts

I loved my time on the road as an honorary member of the Company and plan to go again as soon as possible. The lasting impression it gave me is that audiences everywhere, regardless of their nationality, respond to dance, to music and to great artistry. I am proud to be a part of Ballet Hispanico as we try to fulfill our mission of bringing the joy of Latino art and culture to a broad audience.

–Kate Lear


BH2’s First School Performance: A Total Success!

Those of you following us on Facebook know all about BH2, Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro’s training initiative for young and talented dancers. For you newer fans, BH2 is Ballet Hispanico’s second company, created to help pre-professional dancers develop their artistry and prepare them for a life of learning in the professional dance field. As a component of Ballet Hispanico’s Education and Outreach (E&O) division, BH2 expands the reach of the main company by providing performances, workshops and lecture demonstrations to schools, community centers and organizations.

On Wednesday, October 5th, BH2 performed at the Portledge School in Locust Valley. Principal Alan Cohen invited Ballet Hispanico as the featured assembly for Hispanic Heritage month. Our E&O team (Nicholas, Franchesca, AnaMaria and Josh) were on site to ensure the experience was engaging, well-presented and fun. In a gym packed with students and parents, the Portledge School was transported on a journey through Cuba, Brazil and Mexico. The kids were particularly blown away; click on the pics below to see their adorable handwritten messages to the dancers!


How BH Preps for an Outdoor Performance (i.e. Bryant Park!)

We hope you and your family will join us TODAY, September 18th, at 6:00 PM for a FREE outdoor performance by the Ballet Hispanico Company at the Bryant Park Fall Festival!  Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis; picnics and blankets are more than welcome.

Preparing for an outdoor performance such as this one is exciting, but it also takes a little more behind-the-scenes work. We asked our Artistic Director, Technical Director, and a BH Company Dancer to share the ways in which they are preparing differently for the performance at Bryant Park. Here’s what they said…

Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro
Preparing the Ballet Hispanico Company for an outdoor performance is no different than preparing for our indoor performance. However, we do need to alter cues that were designed for a dark proscenium theater. For instance, if I asked a dancer to move when the light changes color in a certain ballet, they would not be able to do so under sunlight because you can’t see the color or light change. Daylight also tends to take away texture that theatrical lighting gives on stage. Since the mystery of lighting is removed, the dancers must be more expressive in both movement and, when necessary, emotion.

Technical Director Joshua Preston
Preparing for an outdoor venue is slightly different simply because of the lack of protection from the elements. As a lighting designer, daylight is my biggest foe since there isn’t any guarantee how bright or dark it will be outside. The natural lighting also changes as we progress into the evening. Weather is the other variable that we don’t deal with in a standard theater. Bryant Park has been gracious enough to offer us heaters in our dressing rooms and we have alerted the dancers regarding the possibility of a slight chill.

Company Dancer Donald Borror
Getting ready for this show at Bryant Park has been great. Dancing outside is always an amazing experience… And usually has some pretty important variables!

Temperature is huge, because when the sun goes down, the air gets significantly cooler, which isn’t so good for our bodies. I always try to pack lots of warm-up clothing options because the weather is never what you expect… Sometimes you need sunglasses and swimsuits in the same day you need a blanket to keep warm offstage at night! But that was in Guatemala (where we toured last year) and NYC is far more temperate, so while I’m not expecting anything too crazy I’ll come prepared either way.

Also depending on the time of day, it might be sunny still which means we will have to be extra careful with our exits and entrances because we usually do them with blackouts, making for a more invisible get-away. With the extra light, after a really hard dance it’s an added challenge to get offstage gracefully when we usually run away in the dark, which sometimes isn’t as graceful as you would expect 🙂

It’s going to be a great show! I’m most excited to be performing outside in New York City because that means it’s free general admission! I can finally tell friends “it’s your chance to come check us out! No charge!”  Hope to see you there!