Master Class with Ballet Hispánico

Joyce Master Class with Ballet Hispánico. April 13th at Gibney Dance.

I had an amazing time learning from Michelle Manzanales. We worked on an excerpt from “Con Brazos Abiertos”.

What I remembered the most were the subtle cultural significance in the piece, Michelle’s emphasis on connecting with other dances, and her reminder to relax. No tension on stage. Not even in our eye brows.

Ballet Hispánico at the Joyce

Ballet Hispánico. April 11th at the Joyce Theater.

Tonight’s program featured two of my all-time favorite choreographies.

The bold and visually stunning “Línea Recta” by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. During the curtain chat, the discussion focused on the contrast between Ballet Hispánico’s strength in partnering and the lack of contact in Flamenco (based on which the piece was created). I thought it was fascinating that Annabelle was able to create the connection between her dancers with limited physical touch.

The powerful story of “Con Brazos Abiertos” by Michelle Manzanales. Ive seen the piece four times, and am still touched by its narrative and feel empowered by its ending. Every single time.

Both of the new works required additional interpretation at the post-curtain chat, for me to appreciate their significance.

“Waiting for Pepe” had several unusual and beautiful choreographic moments. However, without knowing the play “The House of Bernarda Alba” on which the dance is derived, I had trouble following the story arc (e.g., Why is there a chicken lit in neon lights above the stage???), until it was explained by the choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra afterwards.

Similarly, “Espíritus Gemelos” told the story of two Spanish artists, Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí. I didn’t grasp the significance of their relationship, until after the curtain chat.

Ballet Hispánico

Bravos to Ballet Hispánico for a stunning performance last night at the Apollo Theater.

Ballet Hispánico was one of my favorite companies to present the Joyce Theater last season. Their show was not just visually stunning, but prompted me to write this blog post on Why Dance Matters.

I was so glad to see more of their work last night.

I still love every aspect of “Con Brazos Abiertos” by Michelle Manzanales. Even though the dance, music, and sounds are about Michelle’s experience growing up as Mexican American in Texas, her choreography resonated with me growing up as Taiwanese Canadian in the US. I love the emotional, powerful, uplifting spirit of the piece; the struggles of finding one’s identity as an immigrant; and seeing the protagonist grow stronger and more confident through the dance.

During the post-show chat, an audience member asked how the choreography is received in the rest of the US. Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro gave the reaction of a lawyer working for DACA youths, who saw the show in Texas. Even though she had gone into the theatre disheartened, she was so overwhelmed and so inpired by the dance, that she felt rejuvenated and found purpose in her work again.

I also enjoyed “Bury Me Standing” by Ramón Oller that reflected on the experience of Gypsies or “Roma” people living in Spain, and “Espiritu Vivo” by Roland Brown showcasing the lively music and dance of African and Latino diasporas in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Ballet Hispánico: Why Dance Matters

History, progress, and why dance matters.

Dance is a reflection of our times. I’m lucky to see two amazing shows in two days, that mark the progress we’ve made in the past 70 years.

Yesterday, I saw a 1940s classic choreography, set in New York and forged at a time when the city needed an escape from the great war. In the dance, sailors on leave looked for beautiful women on the streets, catcalling them, grabbing them by the ass, and snatching their purse for fun. A smash hit in 1944, the work enlivened the city when its inhabitants needed it the most.

However, in between the gorgeous movements and comedic scenes, the story also reflected its own times when men had power, control, and are the only ones with a character and a voice on stage. Women looked pretty in their dresses.

Today, I went to see Ballet Hispánico one more time this season at the Joyce Theater, and re-watched their new work premiered earlier this week. The dance is a coming-of-age story about growing up Latina in Texas, created by a female choreographer, told by a female character, through the movements of a ballerina. The external struggles to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and be more American than the Americans. The internal struggles to beautiful, to be perfect. The character merged, at the end, strong and confident in her own identity.

Coincidentally, I sat next to a 12-year-old pre-professional dancer training at Alvin Ailey. She loved the show. More than just enjoying the performance, she now has an incredible story to guide her (she’s Latina) and a role model she can look up to.

And that’s why dance matters.

Dance has the power to entertain, communicate, connect, empower, and inspire people. Let’s keep dancing. Let’s keep telling the stories that need to be told. Let’s make a difference.

Ballet Hispánico

Girl Power and Strong Women! A stunning performance tonight by Ballet Hispánico featuring all female choreographers at the Joyce Theater.

Love the sensual yet explosive fusion of flamenco and ballet in “Línea Recta” by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Love the storytelling in “Con Brazos Abiertos” by a lead female character who has depths, is expressive and thoughtful, and who evolves and grows with the story. Thank you for the choreography, Michelle Manzanales. Wow! Just wow!

Plus, an educational post-show curtain chat.

Plus, taking Pinguino to his first show at the Joyce. Hello, Penguin Ballerina!