Ballet Hispanico | Dance review
In Asuka by Eduardo Vilaro for the company he directs in New York, Ballet Hispanico, a soothing, white male voice oversimplifies Cuba in a voiceover. Cuba’s an island, the man tells us, whose inhabitants are descended from “original Spanish settlers, Negroes brought over as slaves” and various peoples of Europe and the West Indies. Radio static and crackle tune us into this news as a song by Celia Cruz ends. Out through more static we enter another tune sung by Cruz. (Tracks from the “Queen of Salsa” score the piece, besides these broadcast interludes and a thin club mix of her “Pa’ la Paloma.” Vilaro, who founded Chicago’s Luna Negra Dance Theater, was born in Cuba and his work’s title is a play on Cruz’s trademark shout, “¡Azúcar!”)
Asuka (2011) and the three pieces that precede it on a mixed bill, closing tonight at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, better describe composite culture. Opener Nací (2009) by Andrea Miller reflects in movement, more than usual, her past membership in Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Ensemble. Its subject is Sephardim and its score comes from a French Algerian filmmaker, a New Mexican band inspired by Turkish and Eastern European traditions, and a Spanish early-music ensemble’s album of traditional Sephardic songs. Miller was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to an American Jewish father and a Spanish mother.
Locked Up Laura (2009), by Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, “explores…the human struggle to maintain authenticity in the face of routine,” says its program note. Laura is dancer Min-Tzu Li, wearing a leotard, short shorts and flesh-toned pointe shoes. The brief performance-within-the-piece that represents working dancers onstage is a somber caricature of ’80s duet work by William Forsythe, an American choreographer who’s spent most of his career in Germany.
Espiritu Vivo (2012) by Brooklyn-born choreographer Ronald K. Brown is set to four covers by Peruvian singer-songwriter Susana Baca. The originals were recorded by another Peruvian singer-songwriter, Javier Lazo; an Icelandic pop star, Björk; a Brazilian composer and musician, Cayetano Veloso; and “Mongo” Santamaría, a Cuban artist who, according to David Peñalosa, wrote the first jazz standard built upon 3:2 cross-rhythms common in African music. Vivo, like much of Brown’s work, is a finely balanced cocktail of African, African-diasporic and contemporary movement. Brown organizes this movement in ways common to Western concert dance.
Ballet Hispanico’s dozen dancing bodies come from Colombia, Mexico, Taiwan, Venezuela and around the United States. In all four of these choreographies, they work together cooperatively and effectively. Ignore radio static and crackle and tune into that.
Ballet Hispanico performs its third of three shows at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago on March 24 at 8pm. Simultaneously, Luna Negra Dance Theater premieres CARMEN.maquia at the Harris Theater.