“Tito on Timbales.”
Photo by Rosalie O’Connor
Photo by Rosalie O’Connor

Ballet Hispanico, recognized as the preeminent Latino dance institution in the United States, returns to The Joyce Theater for its annual New York Season from April 17-29.

This year’s program pays tribute to the richness and range of the company’s Latino roots – and the diverse talents of the dancers – and features African and Caribbean influences.

Works to be performed include a World Premiere, Espiritu Vivo, created especially for Ballet Hispanico by Ronald K. Brown and set to music by Afro-Peruvian Latin Grammy Award winner Susana Baca, who will perform live during Program A; the Joyce premiere of “Asuka,” Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro’s first work for the company, an exuberant homage to salsa legend Celia Cruz; and the New York premiere of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Nube Blanco. The Joyce Theater is located at 175 Eighth Avenue (at 19th Street), NYC.

The program includes three premieres:

“Espiritu Vivo,” an exciting collaboration between Ballet Hispanico and Brooklyn-based choreographer Ronald K. Brown, explores the intersection of the African and Latino diasporas in the Caribbean and in Latin America. Using the rich history, tradition, and dance forms from these regions, the work explores the stages of grief and the promise of a new day. Susana Baca will perform live during Program A.

“Asuka” is a celebration of the music of Celia Cruz through the lens of the Latino experience. Cruz, renowned as the “Queen of Salsa,” captured the heart of Latinos the world over and became a symbol of perseverance for many. Through rich imagery and humor, Eduardo Vilaro explores the struggles of departure from one’s homeland and the exuberance of success experienced by a community.

“Nube Blanco” (White Cloud) is inspired by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s childhood memories of the beautiful songs of Maria Dolores Pradera. Lopez Ochoa brilliantly integrates the Spanish zapateado technique or footwork that is found in flamenco dance and gives it a contemporary twist.

“We are thrilled to work with such gifted collaborators this season,” said Eduardo Vilaro, artistic director of Ballet Hispanico. “Ronald K. Brown’s work, set to the music of the incomparable Susana Baca, is mesmerizing. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa has showcased the emotional range of our dancers in her pieces. And Celia Cruz’s remarkable impact on the Latino community was the inspiration for my first work for Ballet Hispanico. I wanted to honor her music, which captured the voice of so many immigrants.”

The program also includes a revival and repertory favorites:

The revival Guajira features the guajira, the women of the Cuban countryside who spend their days toiling in the sun beside the men, then enjoy a little rest and perhaps a bit of flirtation, and in the evening forget their day of toil in a rousing guateque (party) with the other laborers. The typical guajiro rhythm is heard here, notably in the second (“Guajiras”) section. But, like the culture of Cuba itself, the music and the gestural language of the piece hark back both to Africa and to Spain. Guajira was created by Pedro Ruiz and is set to the music of Los Activos, Conjunto Céspedes, and José Maria Vitieir.

Mad’moiselle, a highly theatrical work that explores iconic male/female images and gender role-playing in Latin American cultures, was created by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to a soundscape inspired by Chavela Vargas. The score, developed by Ms. Ochoa with composer/sound designer Bart Rijnink, draws on the music of Ms. Vargas, who is best known for her rendition of beloved Mexican rancheras.

“Locked Up Laura,” a sensuous pointe duet by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa set to the music of Bart Rijnink, explores the human struggle to maintain authenticity in the face of routine through the lens of an artist.

“Tito on Timbales” is a tribute to the music of master percussionist Tito Puente. In this ballet, choreographer William Whitener captures the joy and intricacies of social dance through cascading patterns, sensual partnering and the community of celebration.

Dancers: Lauren Alzamora, Donald Borror, Jamal Rashann Callender, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Rodney Hamilton, Min-Tzu Li, Andrea Salamanca, Jeffrey Sykes, Vanessa Valecillos, Kimberly Van Woesik, Joshua Winzeler, Jessica Alejandra Wyatt.

Ballet Hispanico will perform April 17-29, 2012 at The Joyce Theater, with performances Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; and Saturday at 2:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

“Asuka,” Eduardo Vilaro’s first work for the company.
Photo by Paula Lobo
Photo by Paula Lobo

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