BWW Reviews: BALLET HISPANICO at The Joyce Is a Celebration of Dance
Ballet Hispanico was founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez in order to "explore, preserve, and celebrate Latino cultures through dance." Through its repertory of over 100 works, Ballet Hispanico attempts to represent the diversity of Latino culture. This range was fully evident during their Saturday matinée performance at the Joyce Theater.
Ballet Hispanico began with Jardi Tancat, originally choreographed in 1983 by Nacho Duato for Nederlands Dans Theater; it tells the story of six famers who dance for rain. Although rain dances are found in many cultures, Jardi Tancat (which translates to Closed Garden) is perfectly able to capture the farmer's desperation and melancholy over the drought. Duato mixed movements reminiscent of farming (for example, dragging their hands as metaphorical plows) with classical steps set to Maria de Mar Bonet's folk songs. The repeated use of patterns reveals the farmer's existential hopelessness. Dancers repeated phrases, reversed them, and performed them in rounds. While this piece was not originally set for Ballet Hispanico, they prove to be an excellent vessel by capturing the required gloom and Catalan flair.
The second work, Sombrerísimo by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, is-according to the program notes-inspired by the paintings of René Magritte. Many of his paintings riff on a man wearing a business suit and bowler hat. Ochoa attempted to recreate this Surrealist anonymity with six men in street clothes and bowler hats. The dancers moved as an amoeba and rotated and against an empty, black stage. They moved playfully as a group: lifting each other up, and performing acrobatics as they traveled across the space. At one point they even performed the Worm! Ochoa also referenced Bob Fosse, another bowler hat aficionado, through many repeated small hip movements in a pliéd demi-relevée. The dancers' motions were accompanied by a mixture of industrial noises, guitar, and rhythmic thigh slapping. This light-hearted piece thoroughly entertained the audience.