Ballet Hispanico

November 30, 2010

Ballet Hispanico // Joyce Theater, NYC // November 30–December 12, 2010 // Reviewed by Susan Yung

Min Tzu Li, Jeff Hover, Nicholas Villenuve, and Rodney Hamilton in
Mad’Moiselle. Photo by Eduardo Patino. Courtesy Ballet Hispanico.


In its second year under Eduardo Vilaro, Ballet Hispanico displays an increasing globalization that seems less referential to Hispanic culture, per se, and more concerned with, but not bound to, involving artists of Hispanic heritage. The highlight of the company’s opening night program was the season’s sole performance of Tango y Yo, by guest artist Herman Cornejo. This brief solo, a jazzy tango homage to music by fellow Argentinean Astor Piazzolla, showed the ABT principal’s charismatic virtues—a natural manner at odds with ballet’s strict demands, and an irresistible coiled magnetism. Together with a Fosse-like fedora, these qualities augmented Cornejo’s unsurpassed technique, as he exploded from a near standstill into a split jump, whipped through pirouettes, and made double turns in the air as sharp as spiraling darts. This star cameo felt like something Tharp might have set on Baryshnikov.

For better or worse, the other three works on the program felt as if they could have been performed by any number of contemporary companies, from NDT to Cedar Lake. Jean Emile choreographed Tres Bailes, a plotless work which featured three women in strappy red tankinis and two men in tear-away skirts. An artificial sense of drama prevailed as the dancers struck artful poses, pouted sensually, or pushed classical ballet positions past the norm. Puntos Suspensivos, by Maray Ramis Gutierrez, was performed to live string music by Gabriela Lena Frank. The fluid and arresting Min-Tzu Li led off with a strong solo, her loose hair covering her face as she ambled on all limbs. In grey ombré tunics, bare legs, and now-ubiquitous socks, the six dancers prowled restlessly, alternately resisting or caressing one another. With its prevalence of geometric shapes, this work’s lasting impression was a strong sense of sleek chic.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Mad’moiselle was also heavily stylized. It riffed off the name Maria, beginning with the lead in Bernstein’s West Side Story, which was sampled among several other songs about a Maria. Li sported a flaming red wig, black corset dress, and knee-high red patent-leather platform boots that she wielded like scalpels. She was a cipher, a puppet playing out roles demanded of her. The men wore black Ts and pants; the other women were dressed like Li, except with black socks (again) instead of boots. They were virtually indistinguishable under their wigs, a homogenization of sorts that could be a sly comment along the lines of “they all look the same.” In the striking finale, to Ave Maria, the group faced upstage, appearing to wear just pants (the women wore skin-toned bras), their arms forming crosses. Li, a ruined Madonna buried in red tulle, stumbled downstage to collapse under the descending curtain.