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Flash Review 2, 11-30: The Banality
...But New Oller, Energetic Dancers Make Ballet Hispanico
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Ballet Hispanico's program
at the Joyce Wednesday included "Besame," choreographed for the company by Spaniard
Ramon Oller, in its world premiere run. It shared the program with David Rousseve's
"Somethin' From Nothin'" and Pedro Ruiz's "Club Havana." Most of the evening's
music came in the form of suites of pop songs, adding an inadvertently monotonous
tone to an otherwise energetic program.
"Besame," three stories about love
to a set of Latin American songs (and an excerpt of music by Arvo Part), opened
and closed with appearances by long-time company member (and choreographer) Pedro
Ruiz, who suffused the simplest movements with meaning. It almost seemed like
an optical illusion, but in the same arm movement as other dancers, he had a way
of somehow willing his arms to extend further and seem much longer than their
actual length. With Jennifer DePalo as an exuberant partner (but young for what
was supposed to be an "older couple"), Oller depicted love as it passed through
stages of sheer joy to painful loss, shown as sort of grim reapers. The performers
used the onstage table and sofa as diving platforms, allowing Ruiz to frequently
catch DePalo in states of rapture or distress.
A giddy slapsticky episode saw Irene
Hogarth, Yarden Ronen, Nicole Corea, and the funny Solomon Bafana Matea pair up
only to switch partners at the whim of capricious hearts. The third story involved
Jae-Man Joo as a figure of romantic fantasy (dressed in frilly shorts and a corset),
attempting to cheer up the morose Hector Montero. The statuesque Joo clearly relished
his time before an audience, milking each technically wrung-out phrase to the
nth degree. He combined his showy ballet skills with a dash of MTV, to dramatic
effect. "Besame" was an intriguing study of the highs and lows of love, done in
a symbolist, surreal style.
A charming suite of dances made up
"Club Havana," choreographed by Ruiz to a group of songs representing different
styles of social dance, such as Mambo and Rhumba. In elegant, sparkling costumes
and beehive hairdos for the women, the five couples could have stepped out of
a nightclub from decades past. Ruiz built the dance on a classic ballet vocabulary
which included the most traditional partnering work of the whole evening. The
dancers, in particular Natalia Alonso, were precise, economical, almost surgical
in their movements, at times imparting the atmosphere of a top-flight ballroom
The program notes for "Somethin'
from Nothin'" included the curious addendum that the beginning of the piece was
changed from David Rousseve's original, and so the piece no longer reflects his
original intention. The current version begins with an answering machine's messages
being replayed, with RSVPs for the night's party and out-of -proportion complaints
by needy friends, as well. This is in stark contrast to the original tape, in
which a former slave discussed horrifying events. The appropriate tone of either
situation giving people a reason to dance the night away is to be settled down
the road between artistic principals, apparently. In any case, Rousseve's flair
for theatrics complemented Eddie Palmieri's lively score. Ruiz quietly commanded
attention in his brief solo segments. Snaky hip swivels alternated with bold ballet
moves, which stuck out as somewhat rigid in this eclectic style.
Under Tina Ramirez's artistic direction,
Ballet Hispanico, now in its fourth decade of existence, showed its solid technical
foundation and flashes of brilliant dancing. More balanced programming and reconciling
artistic visions will only add to the already winning mix.
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