Did you know? In addition to receiving specialized dance training, the talented young dancers of second company BHdos have opportunities to perform on the mainstage for our wider audiences. After a successful run at the Apollo Theater this past fall, they’re sharing the stage with the main company again for the En Familia program of the company’s 45th Anniversary Season at the Joyce Theater.
We decided to catch up with some of our second company dancers to get more insight into their experiences performing as part of BHdos:
You get to perform company works for our youngest fans year-round, which can be a very different experience from performing for adult audiences. What’s one thing that surprised you about dancing for younger fans?
STEFANIE ROPER: The commentary they make throughout the dance–we can hear little comments on stage when we’re performing. It is so fun to hear their simple remarks from what they see, and their screams and applause are always THE BEST. They make you feel like you’re a celebrity!
NICOLE NERUP: I was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed to discover how enthusiastic the younger fans are about dance! I swear I have felt the closest I will ever feel to being Taylor Swift or the “Queen of Salsa” herself, Celia Cruz, at our performances for young people.
ASHLEY ANDUIZA: I am constantly surprised by how much detail our younger fans observe. Their curiosity and questions excite me and open another perspective that I enjoy exploring and that are just as valid as any others.
What motivates you to dance?
NICK FEARON: The thrill of being on stage is what keeps me going, and so is my mom. She has worked so hard for me to be where I am today that all I want to do is be the best dancer I can be for myself and also for her.
CHRISTOPHER R. WILSON: My motivation to dance stems from the sheer fact that I know I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else!
IOSU BASCARAN: Getting to learn new choreography and also getting to work with an incredibly talented and motivated group of dancers!
What’s it like sharing the stage with the main company dancers?
CRISS RODRIGUEZ: Just having them around is inspiring and a boost of confidence and joy. To have their help is great. Makes me feel like a part of the family, always trying to find ways to improve. It’s a great feeling of energy. They are always looking out for each other, which is amazing.
ASHLEY: Being able to see, hear and even work together through certain steps with company members that have performed the same roles in the past gives us such valuable information that enhances our experience and delivery.
STEFANIE: I can feel their energy and support in dancing as a group! I know that we all support each other and want all of us to succeed–that is rare. The main company dancers are so approachable and they always have great tips and tricks how to accent or fulfill certain movement that you are struggling with.
What’s the best question you’ve heard during a Q&A?
IOSU: How do you change costumes so fast?
STEFANIE: Why are you all so pretty?
NICK: The best question I’ve heard would have to be when a kid asked me about my hair and who cuts it. It was a great plug for my hairdresser Richard.
Any pre-show rituals or lucky charms?
HANNAH JEW: I like to do my four minute plank series and eat a banana and drink a bottle of Gatorade. I also have some cards with encouraging words from my mentor that I keep in my makeup box.
NICK: While I’m waiting in the wings I have to shake out my whole body and pop my toe knuckles.
NICOLE: Before every show I always do the same pre-class warm up that I have been doing every day for the past 4 years. Sometimes I shorten or vary it, but the elements are the same. This ritual not only prepares my body but also centers me–reminding of my younger self, how much I have grown, and why I love what I do.
CHRISTOPHER: I listen to a playlist I created called “Let’s Werk.”
If you weren’t a dancer, you would be a:
HANNAH: Gifted education specialist in a school system.
STEFANIE: School teacher or a full-time mom.
CHRISTOPHER: Finance/marketing advisor of an arts organization.
IOSU: I’m currently studying finance and mathematics, so possibly something having to do with that.
NICOLE: Writer, choreographer, or lawyer.
CRISS: Veterinarian, or marine biologist.
NICK: Wildlife veterinarian.
ASHLEY: Veterinarian! My career has never come close to going down this path but I believe that my passion for nurturing animals runs at the same level as my passion for dance.
Merde to our dancers on their Joyce Theater debut! Get a taste of the Ballet Hispanico En Familia experience in this video below:
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!
Ballet Hispanico is undoubtedly a fan of choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. For its New York season at The Joyce Theater, the Company will be performing three of her works: Locked Up Laura (2008) Mad’moiselle (2010) and Nube Blanco (New York premiere).
Everyone was thrilled to have Annabelle back in the studios recently! Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro had this to say:
“Annabelle is an inspiring artist. I am thrilled that she is back in the studio with the dancers as she has such a positive influence on their artistry. Her process allows the dancers to find themselves within the movement and intention while raising their performance potential. Her work, Nube Blanco, is a perfect blend of humor and contemporary investigation and I feel fortunate to have her be part of the new artistic aesthetic we are building at Ballet Hispanico.”
We recently caught up with Annabelle and asked her a few questions about her vision as a choreographer.
BH: This is Nube Blanco’s NYC premiere and the first time it is being performed by Ballet Hispanico. How, if at all, are you adapting the piece? How do the distinct flavors of the Ballet Hispanico dancers affect your choreography?
Annabelle: More than the Ballet Hispanico dancers, what influences me to change small things in Nube is what I have learned from life and arts in the past three years. This gives me another perspective on the piece.
BH: You originally composed Locked Up Laura in 2008 and Mad’moiselle in 2010. Does your perspective on the pieces change as time passes? Do they mean different things to you now?
Annabelle: I’m very clear on Locked Up Laura and I’ve been working with the dancers on what it originally was about when I created it. Likewise with Nube Blanco; we worked especially on my original intentions. Those are the same to me as they were three years ago. What I mostly tweaked was the rhythm of the piece. Unfortunately, for Mad’moiselle I only get one rehearsal with the dancers!
BH: What are you most looking forward to about working with Ballet Hispanico for the Joyce season?
Annabelle: Well, Nube Blanco is a revival so it’s always exciting to revisit a piece and to present it for the first time to New York City!
BH: Finally, what other exciting projects do you have coming up?
Annabelle: I start next week with my first narrative full-length ballet for Scottish Ballet: A Streetcar Named Desire. Very excited about that, indeed!
Photos: Eduardo Patino, NYC
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.