Ballet Hispanico Explores Latino Culture at NYC's Joyce Theater

Ballet Hispanico at The Joyce Theater
Grant Halverson

Ballet Hispanico is known for celebrating, exploring, and illuminating Latino culture. Last night at New York City's Joyce Theater, the renowned dance company did precisely that - and then some - with three diverse works by choreographers from Miami, Mexico, and Spain. Said Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro in a post-show Q&A, Ballet Hispanico advances the concept of dance by starting a conversation that asks "What is Latino culture? And what is Latino dance?"

Here, a look at and review of three pieces from the company's repertoire that address these questions.

In Show.Girl., the first piece created for Ballet Hispanico by Miami-based choreographer and 2013 Princess Grace Award winner Rosie Herrrera, the Latina female identity is examined through the lens of the Cuban cabaret aesthetic. Rife with cliches meant to challenge the audience to consider the ideas of female strength, sex, youth, and societal value, it is a piece that is sometimes successful and sometimes not.

In one section, the company's female dancers pose and tease the audience and each other with a lively debate - both verbal and physical - about the characters in their favorite telenovela. "Who'd she marry? Which one is Johnny? Why did he kill her?" The questions are shouted and purred by the dancers as they undulate and writhe and work themselves into a spasm of twitching hands and whipping hair.

For those unfamiliar with Latina culture, the dialogue and movement might be alternately shocking, funny, charming, and discomforting. For Latinas who watch telenovelas on the regular - or whose mothers do - the conversation will likely hit home. It's the over-the-top movements and vocalizations that are less realistic.