Ballet Hispanico Breaks Through

December 2, 2009





Andrea Miller’s new
demolished all stereotypes of Ballet Hispanico. Like anyone else, I appreciate when the company is delicious and brazen, as in Club Havana, or experimental, as in Solo by Susan Marshall in which a guy dances with a bowl of splashing water on his head. But often the rep falls into a predictable category of seductive, highly technical, glossy dancing with a Latino flavor. But on Tuesday night, the new director Eduardo Vilaro took a risk by commissioning emerging choreographer Andrea Miller. Being part Hispanic and part Jewish, she dipped into the area of Sephardic songs and culture, giving the the company a more international look and sound. But more than that, she cut through the dazzle of leggy dancers who wink at the audience and found a place of forlorn, torn honesty with the BH dancers. Seeing her women in loose-fitting print dresses trudge, bent over like they were carrying mud to build a house, or mud to bury a relative, made me feel something I hadn’t felt earlier in the evening. The men were kind of treading and then stopping mid-tread in a gently jarring way.


I have always admired the sleek power and finesse of BH dancers, but this was something deeper.
Beautiful, duets and trios ensued. The music ranged from flamenco to Ladino, to Moroccan. The words were not instantly recognizable as one language or another, which somehow expanded the piece in the imagination. At one point Jessica Alejandra Wyatt held upside down and starts to sing one of these wonderful songs—like Sephardic blues. Turns out she’s lip-synching but that doesn’t take away from that surreal moment.


And while I’m on the subject of
Jessica Alejandra Wyatt, she
was also the life of the party in the finale of
Batucada Fantástica,
a revival by Vicente Nebrada. Vilaro brought her over from Luna Negra, the company he founded in Chicago. He has also hired as second African American, Rachel McSween, so it seems to me this is another way that Vilaro is making the company more international, more global, more inclusive.


Photo of Ballet Hispanico in
Naci by Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy BH