Ballet Hispanico at Jacob's Pillow

Hot Dance Ends a Cool Summer

By: - Aug 27, 2009

Ballet Hispanico Ballet Hispanico. Ballet Hispanico

Ballet Hispanico
Founder: Tina Ramirez, Artistic Director, Eduardo Vilaro
Rehearsal Director, Gina Bugatti; Ballet Mistress, Irene Hogarth-Cimino; Executive Director, Verdery Roosevelt; General Manager, Derek R. Munson; Production Stage Manager, William Schaffner.
Dancers: Eric Rivera, Rodney Hamilton, Candice Monet McCall, Angelica Burgos, Waldemar Quinones=Villanueva, Nicholas Villeneuve, Jessica Batten, Min-Tzu Li, Jeffrey  Hover, Yesid Lopez, Vanessa Velecillos, Jessica Alehandra Wyatt, Marina Fabila
Jacob's Pillow Dance
Ted Shawn Theatre
Becket, Mass.
August 26-30, 2009


Goodnight Paradise (Excerpt, 1994)
Choreographer, Ramon Oller; Music, Eduardo Rodriguez, Marina Rossel and Maurici Villavecchia; Set Design, Chris Varreca; Costume Design, Ramon Oller and Susan Ruddie; Lighting Design, Roger Morgan; Dancers: Yesid Lopez, Rodney Hamilton, Candice Monet McCall, Nicholas Villeneuve, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, Jessica Batten, Jessica Alejandra Wyatt.

Tito on Timbales (1984)
Choreographer, William Whitener; Music, Tito Puente; Costume Design, Patricia Zipprodt;  Costume Remount Interpreter, Leanne Mahoney; Lighting Design, Roger Morgan; Dancers: Rodney Hamilton, Candice Monet McCall, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, Nicholas Villeneuve, Jeffrey Hover, Jessica Batten, Min-Tzu Li, Jessica Alejandra Wyatt.

Destino Incierto: Carmen Trio (2008)
Choreography, Carloa Sierra Lopez; Music Rodion Schedrin after Georges Bizet; Costume Design, Anita Yavich; Donald Holder; Dancers: Angelica Burgos (Carmen), Rodney Hamilton (Don Jose), Eric Rivera (Escamilo)

Locked Up Laura (World Premiere)
Choreography, Annabele Lopez Ochoa; Music Bart Rijnik; Costume Design, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa; Lighting design, Josh Preston; Dancers: Jeffrey Hover and Angelica Burgos (August 26, 27, 28 & 29 Evening) Jeffrey Hover and Min-Tzu Li (August 29 and 30 matinee).

Club Havana (2000)
Choreography, Pedro Ruiz; Music, Israel Lopez, Ruben Gonzales, A.K. Salim, Perez Prado, Francisco Repilado; Costume Design, Emilio Sosa; Lighting Design, Donald Holder; Dancers: (Son) Yesid Lopez, Vanessa Calecillos, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva, with the Company (Mambo) Candice Monet McCall, NBicholas Villeneuve, Jessica Batten, Jeffrey Hover, Min –Tzu Li, Rodney Hamilton (Cha Cha Cha) Todney Hamilton, Angelica Burgos, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva (Bolero) The Company (Rhumba, Congo) The Company.

The magnificent Ballet Hispanico provided a sizzling salsa ending to what has been a mostly cold and rainy summer in the Berkshires. Last night the red hot Latino company knocked the chill off the Ted Shawn Theatre of Jacob's Pillow Dance. They will bring the 77th season of the renowned Becket based summer dance festival to its end on Sunday, August 30.

In 2006 Ballet Hispanico made a post season appearance at Mass MoCA with an evening long piece "Palladium Nights." It recreated the mood and rhythms of a Latino nightclub with its many characters and flavors. The memory of that stunning performance filled us with anticipation for a return visit. At Mass MoCA there was a post performance discussion between Pillow artistic director, Ella Baff, and Ballet Hispanico's founder, Tina Ramirez. She spoke warmly of many years of bringing dance off the streets in Spanish Harlem, out of the clubs, and into the rehearsal spaces. She has recently stepped down and the new artistic director is Eduardo Vilaro.

Ramirez was born in Venezuela and settled in New York with her family when she was seven. She appeared on Broadway in "Kismet" and "Lute Song." In 1963 she opened the Ballet Hispanico School of Dance. By 1970 she established Ballet Hispanico with a mandate to bring serious dance to young Latinos. Since 1984 this is the fourth appearance of the company at Jacob's Pillow.

The original impulse of Ramirez was to take the energy and passion of Latino ballroom dancing and to combine it with the discipline and choreography of  classical ballet. Over time, working with that base, the company has evolved with dynamic and diverse dance that has never lost touch with traditional vernacular forms. It has been said that "No one struts, kicks, spins, leaps and gyrates the way they do."

The program last night of five pieces aptly demonstrated the range and diversity of the company. This is very exciting dance full of invention and variety as well as palatable to  the eye with narratives full of sex and raw passion that eat into our hearts and souls. It was evident that the capacity audience delighted in dance and choreography that told stories and was readily accessible. It was a refreshing change to experience an evening of dance that was unrepentant about offering substance and not just form and style.

The program began in a languid, sensual manner with a woman on the floor under a blanket slowly writhing to the music of  Spanish guitar, Catalan vocals and percussion in "Goodnight Paradise." It is a large work im several movements with partners engaging in aspects of erotic foreplay. The variant is that there was a numerical mismatch and the odd woman out created tensions and jealousies disrupting and intruding on partners. The stage was set with a line of tall backed chairs to which individuals would repair from time to time. At the back of the stage was a bar with glasses of wine. Occasionally a woman would hold one above her head and pour it down over her bosom. Then rubbing it in to express the notion of cooling down from heat and passion.

The women wore ruffled panties and camisoles (designed by Ramon Oller and Susan Ruddie) and later in the dance put on long skirts. There was constantly morphing change as the dance evolved including elements on the floor and unusual partnering.

With the second piece "Tito on Timbales" (1984) the company gave us a sense of its roots in traditional Latino ballroom dance. The partners executed steps to the torrid tempo of Tito Puente on timbales accompanied by congas and other percussion instruments. At times the dancers moved quite literally to the beat and at then riffed and scatted.

For the third piece "Destino Incierto: Carmen Trio" (2008) there was a variation of the music of George Bizet's opera "Carmen" with a fairly faithful contemporized arrangement by Rodion Schedrin. In a striking red dress Angelica Burgos streaked by in a flash. This was followed by a similar dash across the stage by Carmen's two rival lovers Rodney Hamilton (Don Jose) then Eric Rivera (Escamilo). Playing them off again each other Carmen teases and torments them. At time tossing up her skirt and draping it over a supine lover. There was steam on the walls of the Ted Shawn Theatre. After that the audience needed a break to cool off.

The world premiere of "Locked Up Laura" proved to be wonderfully clever, inventive and witty. With very catchy and intriguing  music by Bart Rijnik, an extension if not departure from a Latin beat, the lovers prove to be on and off again. Angelica Burgos was teasing and uncooperative with the ardent Jeffrey Hover. He kept trying to get her to do things she resisted. She appeared in a revealing black mesh leotard. He tried to force something over her head. She kept tossing it off but finally relented. It proved to be a short skirt and he had therby "dressed her" rendering her more modest. She appeared to cooperate and even acted more demurely. Wearing toe shoes Burgos executed many variations of ballet steps in an very elegant and stunning dance of seduction and rejection. The dance ended cleverly when she took off the skirt in a huff and stormed off. We were stunned by the abrupt conclusion.

The program ended at a fast pace with "Club Havana" (2000). Although a fairly recent work yet again the company brought us back to its roots. The music began with the familiar opening track of the magnificent "Buena Vista Social Club." There was a clever Cuban touch as the men smoked cigars. Even their partners took an occasional puff. In one nice accent, when a man got a bit rough, his partner shoved the guitar in his mouth and stormed off. In this richly evocative and thoroughly satisfying conclusion to a great evening of dance the company demonstrated the Son, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha, Bolero, Rhumba and Congo. There was wonderfully saturated lighting by Donald Holder that added rich color to the dancers.

This season ending program left us hungry for more. It will be a long winter but this great evening left us with something under our pillow to dream on.