The New York City-based Ballet Hispánico company was meant to celebrate their 50th anniversary at The Joyce Theater in April. Although they weren’t able to perform due to the urgent coronavirus lockdown, the company has generously shared a range of performances for their online community. Their latest program is Noche Unidos, an informal gala and fundraiser for the company dancers and their educational outreach programs. Hosted by Artistic Director, Eduardo Vilaro, Ballet Hispánico’s Noche Unidos lasts approximately one hour, without intermissions. It premiered on June 30 at 7:30pm EST and is still available on the company’s YouTube page.
Noche Unidos Review
In contrast to the San Francisco Ballet SPELLBOUND gala, which had already been filmed live earlier in the year, Noche Unidos is comprised of pieces that were created and recorded during lockdown. The choreographers donated their time to create short new works to be filmed and shared as screendance.
Each of the three female choreographers whose work featured in The Power of the Latina Voice created a special piece for the Noche Unidos program. (The choreographers are Michelle Manzanales, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Andrea Miller.)
The gala highlights the creativity of dance artists in quarantine, proving how eager they are to continue creating pieces, as well as the services the company provides their community. Not only do they commission work that represents a range of LatinX experiences, they also train dancers at the Ballet Hispánico School of Dance and host workshops in public schools.
The show begins with Serenata by Ballet Hispánico Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro, danced by Laura Lopez. The woman embodies winding rhythms with sinuous movements. Her warm welcome is amplified with projections of the beach and glimpses of palm trees through the studio windows. The allusion to the outdoors connects it with Andrea Miller’s duet Orilla on Chris Bloom and Gabrielle Sprauve, who kick sand on the shoreline and let their hips fall into a merengue motion.
Michelle Manzanales’ Cautivadx on Jared Bogart and Simone Cameresi plays out on a small white loveseat, while Danda Vega primarily dances Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Pajarillo Escondido while precariously perched on a windowsill – like a little bird, indeed. Nancy Turano’s Mambo for 50 sees Lenai Wilkerson wearing pointe shoes in a garden and a golden dress at a studio, dancing over a woman’s gravelly singing and throaty laughter.
Carlos Pons-Guerra’s outrageous Gazpacho duet livens Ballet Hispánico’s Noche Unidos with two male dancers (Omar Rivera and Antnio Cangiano) passionately brandishing tomatoes and sword fighting with cucumbers. At home, they also pretend to play castanets, hold a sacrifice on top of the kitchen counter and toast to each other after working out their drama. It’s wacky but wonderful.
The two final pieces of the gala feature Ballet Hispánico academy students. Julienne Rane Buenaventura may be young, but she’s a grounded, mature dancer. She shifts her hips and undulates to the drum beats, each isolation precise – but not overly stiff, in Rodney Hamilton’s Ayer y Hoy.
And the doe-eyed Ruby Castillo, choreographed by Kiri Avelar, performs a very pleasant flamenco number in a red dress with scalloped ruffles, a flower behind her ear. While she stamps her feet with hands on hips and plays castanets, she takes you on a tour through her house, giving insight into the quarantine for dancers. (The first part of the title Mi Baile en Casa simply means ‘my dance in the house.’)
Although these are the last two dance pieces, the Noche Unidos evening closes with an invitation to dance. A quick salsa routine is shown on screen, featuring Eduardo Vilaro and participants of the #BUnidos dance class series – a fitting end to the occasion.
While the online gala isn’t bursting with dazzling dances, it’s impressive to see how everyone created art during a pandemic. It fully demonstrates the cooperation of creatives during lockdown with limited contact in response to Covid-19. The artists’ responses were quite varied, so there doesn’t seem to be a larger theme, despite similar constraints – but the genuine passion of Ballet Hispánico artists and administrators shows throughout.
Did you tune into Noche Unidos with Eduardo Vilaro on 30 June – or afterwards? If so, which pieces did you particularly enjoy – or which celebrities did you enjoy spotting? Let us know in the comments section below.