Flamenco has been the common thread in this week’s ballet and contemporary dance performances. First with Barcelona Ballet’s world premiere of Pálpito at New York City Center and now Nube Blanco, Ballet Hispanico’s New York premiere piece at the Joyce Theater. But can you blame the two companies? Flamenco is so passionate and forceful and so stylistically different from ballet that the two dance forms combined may seem polar opposites, however they work quite well together (like oil and vinegar). Nube Blanco, a more modernist piece with emphasis on flamenco had quite arbitrary music, or should I say noise. What could have been an extremely well mic-ed back alley with squeaking gates and leaky pipes was the soundtrack to this piece, along with the dancers’ own clapping and foot-stomping.
Bright, red shoes were the constant theme in this piece, with both the male and female dance shoes having a substantial flamenco heel. Not only beautifully performed and well executed, many times there were moments of comic relief – a quartet of male dancers let out high pitch honks and counted to four in Spanish then later in Japanese, giving the audience a moment to try and comprehend the babbling conversation. Then all of a sudden, in perfect unison, the men sighed and the juxtaposition of these schizophrenic dancers continued the ridiculous and nonsensical story. Witty and smart, the entire piece was driven forward with lingering characters from the scene prior and with an interesting use of props (the red shoes magically transformed into telephones). This whimsical style partnered with some serious dance technique reminded me of LA-based choreographer, Adam Parson, whose own personality comes through is his work, much like Nube Blanco.
Espiritu Vivo, featuring singer Susana Baca, was a collection of four pieces incorporating Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban dance along with Brazilian styles. With a more earthy feel, this collection showcased the live musical element that Latin culture encompasses and all of its dance is based on. Baca’s presence changed the mood of the dancers and the audience – her lively performance and noticeable interaction with the dancers from the orchestra pit brought on a new energy of life and deep spiritual connection between the floor of the stage and the microphone in front of Baca’s face. A real umbilical relationship of dancer with musician, this piece was a beautiful marriage of both.
Ending the evening was Asuka, an ode to Cuba – a piece driven by Cuban sones and mixed media recordings of propaganda-driven American radio ads from the 1950’s, the dancers were easily coaxed into natural hip-swinging movement. Celia Cruz’s signature voice and a live recording of Guantanamera by Jose Fernandez moved the colorful costumes swiftly and gently, carrying a true Havana old-style feel. A bit of overdone partnering where a counter should have been keeping track of the quick-spinning modern maneuvering, the piece ended with dancer Jessica Alejandra Whyatt left alone in the spotlight, dancing to her own rhythm, wearing a purple sequined dress. An abrupt ending, and also possibly a feeling of abandonment, maybe for the Cuban people, the lights went out and the audience reacted.
THE BARE FEET™ FIVE: 1. Ballet Hispanico performances: Ballet Hispanico will be performing at the Joyce Theater until Sunday, April 29th, 2012 with three different shows lined up. Be sure to get your tickets here and check out a few of their varying performances! 2. Ballet Hispanico classes: Ballet Hispanico also offers youth and adult classes in contemporary dance and Latin dances. For more information, go to BalletHispanico.org 3. On Tour: Ballet Hispanico will be on tour through June - be sure to check out performances in your area! 4. Susana Baca’s music: Baca is best known for her album Lamento Negro, available on Amazon. 5. Viva Cuba! Ballet Hispanico’s ode to Cuba featured incredible songs by Celia Cruz including Mi Amor Buenas Noches, Suenos de Luna, and Afro-Cuban folk song Yemaya - must-haves for Cuban classics!