167 West 89th Street
NY, NY 10024
Tina Ramirez, Artistic Director
Verdery Roosevelt, Executive Director
Gina Bugatti, Rehearsal Director
Derek R. Munson, Company Manager
Presented at Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, NYU
Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
November 11, 2003
Ballet Hispanico was founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez, and its Repertory includes a fusion of Ballet, Latin dance, and Modern Dance. Ballet Hispanico has performed for over two million people worldwide, including appearances in Kansas, Chicago, Arizona, Wolf Trap, Jacob's Pillow, Zurich, and Barcelona. The Company has toured Spain and South America. Ms. Ramirez has commissioned over 70 new choreographed works for Ballet Hispanico. A year-round School of Dance provides over 600 young people with training in specialized dance techniques and cultural heritage. In addition, Primeros Pasos (First Steps) is an education initiative to bring this talented Company into public schools across the country. Ms. Ramirez, from Venezuela, studied with Lola Bravo, Alexandra Danilova, and Anna Sokolow. In April 2002, Ms. Ramirez received the Dance Magazine Award, and, in 1999, she received a Hispanic Heritage Award at The Kennedy Center. She has also received several awards from NYC Mayors. (Company Notes).
NightClub: Conceived by Tina Ramirez; Choreography by Graciela Daniele, Alexandre Magno, and Sergio Trujillo; Music by Astor Piazzolla, Tito Puente, Pink Martini, dj St.Germain, Gotan Project, and X Alfonso; Libretto by Jim Lewis; Set Design by Neil Patel; Costume Design by Paul Tazewell; Lighting Design by Peggy Eisenhauer, Howell Binkley, and Don Holder.
Scene 1: Cada Noche...Tango: This was a repeat viewing of Scene 1 of this work, which has evolved from the Joyce Theater presentation, one year ago, and the Summer Dance Residency at Skidmore College, in which I had the honor of participating, as a roving photo-journalist. Tina Ramirez has brilliant ideas, and this full-length work, with roots in Latin American music and culture, is one of her finest ideas. I happen to be an Argentine Tango aficionado, and this Scene was highly anticipated. Piazzolla's music is intoxicating and electrifying.
In the past year, Ballet Hispanico dancers have perfected Tango choreography to include Gonchos and Boleos (kicks through the partners' legs and swinging kicks against one's one back), but could still develop the necessary posture and balancing techniques, which can take years to refine. In Tango, the partners lean forward and have shifting of weight and pressure as they dance. These dancers seemed to be too upright and chemically unconnected with each other in open style or close embrace.
Yet, Pedro Ruiz and Eric Rivera as the brothers, and Natalia Alonso as the Madam, were mesmerizing and stylized, stamping their feet and causing tension and terror, as machismo fighting and sexual abuse ran rampant in a 1920's Buenos Aires Dance Hall and in a Brothel. Julio Monge, as the Narrator, was perfectly cast, with his roguish and professional way of engaging the audience in history and fantasy. The Company was exciting and energetic. Kudos to Graciela Daniele for a very stylized series of Tango vignettes and to Paul Tazewell for the accurate costumes, so critical to the Tango image. Lighting and sets were also characteristically crafted for 1920's Argentina, with light bulbs and smoke.
Scene 2: Dejame Soñar: Alexandre Magno has choreographed for a 1950's Spanish Harlem social club. The Mambos and Cha-Chas were wild and wonton. Pedro Ruiz is a dancer (and choreographer) to watch. Pedro was at the center of much of tonight's action, and his presence magnetizes the performance with psychosexual energy and sensuous style. His dance, whether it be Latin, Modern, or Ballet, seems effortless and elegant. He has lightness of step and largess of leaps. His partnering is flawless, and Ms. Alonso and Mr. Ruiz are a great duo.
Julio Monge, once again, narrated this dreamlike sequence, with the rhythms of Tito Puente and Pink Martini, with aplomb. The Company performed this Scene with in celebration of its Latin roots. Of course, there are dancers, such as Yarden Ronen from Israel, and Chan Paik from Korea. Another dancer to watch is Rodney Hamilton, from St. Louis, with his lightning spins and charismatic theatricality.
Scene 3: Hoy Como Ayer: This is the scene that was still in progress and performed as such at Skidmore, and which has also evolved in an exciting fashion. With high tech lighting and sets, Rodney Hamilton, as DJ, juggling records and sporting a futuristic costume, was clearly a major presence in this work. Sergio Trujillo has choreographed this Hustle/Rock/Ballet to the music of dj St.Germain, Gotan Project, and X Alfonso. This Scene is about a drug-infested nightclub, with cocaine and sex run rampant. I was amazed at the progress that was made in a few short months on this dynamic and driven work. Pedro Ruiz, as the Stranger, who seems to transcend the ugliness and low-life of this environment, again gives forth powerful centering and fierce focus in his dramatic dance.
Julio Monge as the quintessential Club Owner, Irene Hogarth as Queenie, Sarah Skogland as the Snake, and Walter Cinquinella as the Boyfriend, are an enticing ensemble of performers in this hard-driving Scene, danced with energizing and exotic pulsation. Kudos to Ms. Eisenhauer, Mr. Binkley, and Mr. Holder, the Lighting Designers, to Mr. Patel, the Set Designer, and to Mr. Tazewell, the Costume Designer, for the lights, sets, and costumes that marvelously matched the sexy, sultry society, which this work symbolized.
Kudos to Tina Ramirez, Verdery Roosevelt, Derek Munson, and Gina Bugatti for such a memorable evening. I look forward to seeing this evolving work and Ballet Hispanico again and again. And, kudos to New York University for Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, a well designed and stunning, new dance space with excellent sight lines and acoustics.
Ballet Hispanico NightClub Soñar Duo - Pedro Ruiz & Sarah Skogland
Photo courtesy of George Kalinsky
Ballet Hispanico NightClub Trio - Walter Cinquinella, Irene Hogarth, Pedro Ruiz
Photo courtesy of George Kalinsky