BWW Reviews: BalaSole Visages
Dance, BalaSole, Roberto Villanueva, The Ailey Citigroup Theater, Jason Garcia Ignacio, Anna Brown Massey, Delphina Parentiv
Ten dancers of all shapes and sizes take the stage in uniform black costumes. The lights come up, and we see them standing in height order, center stage, in a vertical line. The classical and bubbly Franz Joseph Haydn score begins to play, and at first, I judge harshly. My first thought is: this is certainly not a cohesive company. There are dancers of all different technical levels, and they are even experiencing difficulty keeping time with the music. But the dancers smirk and even giggle with each other, so I am curious; I know something must be up.
I am soon let in on the joke. The seasonal company members only met each other six days earlier, and in the time since, they put together this piece in order to get to know each other, artistically and otherwise, artistic director Roberto Villanueva tells us when he takes the stage.
Villanueva explains that his company's mission is to educate the public about the gaps that exist today in concert dance. Villanueva offers a chance to dancers who may have otherwise been overlooked for reasons like body type, technical level, and race, among others. Villanueva knows this problem first hand, as he was often overlooked for his height (he can't be more than 5"5', but you hardly notice his lack of height as he exudes enthusiasm and presence). He offers his diverse company members mentorship and the gift of artistic freedom.
The remainder of the program consists of small vignettes, solos of 3-5 minutes in length in which each of the dancers gives the audience just a taste of his or her own personal flavor.
Christa Hines starts off the solos with her projected breath and deep backbends. Next, Janina Clark, adorned in a kimono-style costume, moves through circular patters with flexed palms. She moves with grace and sharpness; she is "appreciative for the chance to show her culture through dancing." Steven E. Brown showcases clarity of emotion and movement in his slow and sustained solo Revealed. Brown clearly creates an arc, not revealing his face to the audience until the last moment. Ursula Verduzco lets loose and even engages in some hairography, and Jason Garcia Ignacio entrances the audience with his strong, smooth and buttery flow to conclude the first half.