By Devanshi Khetarpal, Staff Writer
Last Saturday, New York’s Ballet Hispanico showcased three pieces at the Apollo Theater: Bury Me Standing (1998), choreographed by Ramón Oller; Espiritu Vivo (2012), choreographed by Ronald K. Brown; and Con Brazos Abiertos (2017), choreographed by Michelle Manzanales.
Ballet Hispanico, a premier, quintessentially Latin dance organization aims to celebrate and break through the stereotypes of Latin culture through the medium of dance. In the three pieces that were showcased at the historic Apollo Theater, an extraordinary range of dance forms were employed and blended together to throw light on the histories, the present and the core values of the cultures each of the pieces sought to express.
The first performance, Bury Me Standing, set to the gypsy melodies and Flamenco music by Lole Y Manuel, unveiled the culture of the gypsy or “Roma,” people. While the choreography was both fine and delicate, there existed a suggestion of trepidation. Even in their incontestable and practised finesse, the dancers managed to add an element of spontaneity and rawness.
The second piece, Espiritu Vivo, explored the intersection of African and Latino diasporas. The dancers were impeccably synchronised but possessed an individuality as well. Each brought their own flavour to the performance. The performance mirrored a micro-history, presenting the progression from tragedy and marginalisation to hope and inclusion.
The third piece, Con Brazos Abiertos, was the most spirited. It was a dialogue: between the choreographer’s personal story and struggle about her identity, and the larger culture and dilemma of belonging, specific to Mexican-Americans. There was a vivid energy to this piece, accentuated by the light and costume changes as well as the sense of community that was tangible on the stage.
The light and costumes were both flawlessly done, and complemented the texture of each performance. At the end of the show, Ballet Hispanico received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. Moreover, in the light of the current political scenario, where Latin and African communities stand twice beleaguered, the function of art, which in the current regime is endangered as well, to showcase diasporas, conflicts, identities and emotions is all the more important. Ballet Hispanico, therefore, is performing a duty of foremost importance.
Ballet Hispanico performed at the Apollo Theater on December 1-2, 2017, at 8PM. More information about the organization and forthcoming tours can be found at: www.ballethispanico.org.