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.