REVIEW: Ballet Hispanico Program A at the Joyce Theater
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]allet Hispanico holds a great luxury in their diverse and vibrant company members. Known for a colorful blending of classical and contemporary vocabularies with the grounded and passionate traditions of Latin dance, the company moves to further stretch boundaries with the works presented in their current season. The key to success for the evolving company lies in presenting their dancers as the athletic movers they are without losing the subtlety that draws audiences in. This balance was achieved to various degrees in Program A of their current Joyce season.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Nube Blanco (“White Cloud”) opened the evening with a stylized combination of rhythmic Flamenco footwork, contemporary undertones and a touch of humor. At times the search for an authentic experience feels forced with frequent verbal exclamations, but the connection between each individual is strong and compelling. A theme of self-examination crept in between pulsating rhythms of larger group sections. Perhaps this is due to Ochoa’s inspiration for the piece, noted as “childhood memories of the beautiful songs of Maria Dolores Pradera,” of whose music was featured. Regardless, it seemed there was one more step needed to take the piece beyond being well-thought out.
A treat for the noticeably more diverse audience came in a live performance by Latin Grammy winner Peruvian singer, Susana Baca. Ronald K. Brown’s, Espiritu Vivo, “explores the stages of grief after tragedy; the news, prayer, spring and new day.” While there is a clear progression both musically and choreographically, the dancers’ connections to the emotion embedded in such a subject do not translate consistently. Moments with less movement seem hurried, and a hopeful and driven tone could easily be missed if it weren’t for Baca’s heartfelt notes and the live musicians accompanying her.
Last for opening night was Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro’s Asuka. Vilaro, who presumably knows the dancers best, created a work in which the company seemed much more comfortable. Soloist, Jessica Alejandra Wyatt, moved seamlessly with a bright and open presence that constantly draws the eye. The work was more heavily focused on contemporary strengths, and individual characters emerge with what feels like a renewed investment in the movement. Lighting, choreography, and bright, corky costuming all seem to drive the dancers upwards in performance. The clear intention found in Asuka seems to be what is lacking for the dancers in the other works. As the company steps towards a broader range of choreography, finding an approach that captures both the bold and the understated makes all the difference.