Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: BALLET HISPÁNICO: DOÑA PERÓN at Kennedy Center

Review: BALLET HISPÁNICO: DOÑA PERÓN at Kennedy Center

The life of the woman you know as Evita effectively told in dance.

If you're going to do a history of Eva Perón based entirely on movement, you'd be sure to include that iconic pose of the Argentine First Lady hands aloft at the radio microphones before adoring thousands.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's "Doña Perón" for Ballet Hispánico begins and ends with that gesture and in between a whole life of the South American political diva from modest beginnings and parental rejection to the heights of leadership.

When Dandara Veiga strikes that pose to begin the company's remarkable piece at the Kennedy Center, she appears more than statuesque; she stands more than 10-feet tall - certainly on a pedestal before her celebratory Argentines below her represented by a dozen from the noted New York company.

The radio microphone before her is larger than life, almost like a celestial star for which she's reaching. The first lady's white dress grows and billows below her; her followers eventually safe within its parachute-like cover; then it swirls around, tight on her bodice as the story of her life begins to unfold.

Its telling is quite clear in Ochoa's choreography. The Belgian-born artist, half-Colombian has become an internationally sought after choreographer particularly for her narrative pieces.

Working in the Netherlands, in addition to notable dance interpretations of stories as familiar as "The Little Prince" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," she's created ballets about the lives of figures as prominent as painters Fernando Botero and Frida Kahlo.

Perón's story became more widely known from its creation into the musical "Evita" and its subsequent film version. But it's rarely been presented with such power and sweep as in this production by the country's leading Latin dance company.

Nina Basu portrays the young Perón, raised by her mother in abject poverty after being abandoned by her father (Antonio Cangiano), a wealthy rancher who already had his own family. That rejection is palpable as he flings her away repeatedly as she tries to cling to him.

After a whirlwind life in the city full of nightclubs, high kicking and flung shoes, fortunes change as the she meets Juan Perón (the dashing Chris Bloom), then a cabinet minister, with whom there is a serious attraction. Dancing together, Veiga and Bloom create a certain heat as events around them swirl them into the president's house, where she becomes a spirited young activist determined to help the impoverished from which she rose.

Amid this rise, and reflected in suddenly angular and anguished movements, she is slowly consumed by cancer, whose veiny death are reflected in the projections from lighting and set director Christopher Ash.

Mark Eric's costumes - similar for the energetic male and female dancers, are effective in portraying a strong, united proletariat. Despite the sorrow of her illness (she died as First Lady in 1953 at 33), she remained a pillar of hope for her people, something underscored by the vivid movement, and the effective music of British composer Peter Salem.

Seeing the story unfold through dance is quite a different experience than reading about it in a book or hearing dialog in plays or movies. It seems to make a deeper impression, and travel directly to the soul.

If there was extra unintended movement in the piece on opening night it was due to the camera crews from PBS, capturing the performance for its "Next at Kennedy Center" series, expected to be broadcast in spring 2023.

Running time: One hour, ten minutes, no intermission.

Photo credit: Paula Lobo.

"Ballet Hispánico: Doña Perón" was presented at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Nov. 30-Dec. 3. More on the Kennedy Center dance season can be found online.



Regalitos Foundation & Brevard Music Group Presents Jimmie Vaughan & The Tilt-A-Wh Photo
Regalitos Foundation has announced Jimmie Vaughan & The Tilt-A-Whirl Band coming to the Space Coast at the King Center for the Performing Arts!

Interview: Cheryl L. West & Kenneth L. Roberson Explain the Story of SHOUT SISTER SHOU Photo
As Ford’s Theatre gears up for the spring 2023 musical, SHOUT SISTER SHOUT!, director Kenneth L. Roberson and playwright Cheryl L. West had a conversation with Director of Artistic Programming José Carrasquillo.

Review: GISELLE at Opera House/Kennedy Center Photo
What did our critic think of GISELLE at Opera House/Kennedy Center? Giselle, like Hamlet for actors, Carmen for mezzo-sopranos, and Mrs. Lovett for musical theatre singer/actors of a certain age, brings audiences to the theatre to get to know the skills of the latest acclaimed ballerina. (Previous Giselles include: Makarova, Fracci, Julie Kent, Gelsey Kirkland, Alonso, Markova, Misty Copeland, Fonteyn, Virginia Johnson, Pavlova.) Ukrainian-Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, former director of the Bolshoi Ballet, current artist in residence for American Ballet Theatre, soon to be artist in residence for New York City Ballet, has brought three ballerinas to dance Giselle with a company of exiled, excellent Ukrainian dancers to the Kennedy Center through February 5.

News: CREATIVISTS IN DIALOGUE: A Podcast Embracing the Creative Life is Now Live on Substa Photo
A new local podcast, Creativists in Dialogue: A Podcast Embracing the Creative Life, launches February 1, 2023, at Creativists.substack.com. Supported in part by a fellowship to producer Elizabeth Bruce from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Creativists in Dialogue features thoughtful, in-depth interviews with people from all walks of life about the role creativity plays in shaping who they are. 


From This Author - Roger Catlin

Roger Catlin, a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, is a Washington D.C.-based arts writer whose work appears regularly in SmithsonianMagazine.com. and AARP the Magazine. He ha... (read more about this author)


Review: A MAGICAL CIRQUE CHRISTMAS at National TheatreReview: A MAGICAL CIRQUE CHRISTMAS at National Theatre
December 17, 2022

Because seemingly everything on stage in December has a mandatory holiday theme, so should a traveling circus. Hence, 'A Magical Cirque Christmas,' holding court at the National Theatre this weekend.

Review: BALLET HISPÁNICO: DOÑA PERÓN at Kennedy CenterReview: BALLET HISPÁNICO: DOÑA PERÓN at Kennedy Center
December 4, 2022

If you're going to do a history of Eva Perón based entirely on movement, you'd be sure to include that iconic pose of the Argentine First Lady hands aloft at the radio microphones before adoring thousands.

Review: KANSAS CITY BALLET: THE NUTCRACKER at Kennedy CenterReview: KANSAS CITY BALLET: THE NUTCRACKER at Kennedy Center
November 26, 2022


Review: HOME? at Voices Festival ProductionsReview: HOME? at Voices Festival Productions
November 6, 2022

The New York-based Palestinian-Israeli actress Hend Ayoub knew she'd been at it a while when, after being in America for a few years, the roles she was asked to audition for moved from terrorist's daughter and terrorist's wife to terrorist's mother.

Review: LA LLORONA at We Happy FewReview: LA LLORONA at We Happy Few
November 3, 2022