Ballet Hispanico Preview, by Franz Knupfer

Eduardo Vilaro was born to dance. In Chicago Magazine, Vilaro, the Artistic Director of Ballet Hispanico says “If you’re born Cuban, you’re shaking your butt in the crib. It’s in the DNA.”

Nederlandse Dansdagen 2012

Dancing and shaking is also in Ballet Hispanico’s DNA. The company is coming to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Wednesday, April 30, for a night of Latin dance in all its forms, from salsa to modern. And while it’s the oldest company dedicated to Latin dance in the nation (it was founded in 1970), Ballet Hispanico’s repertory is as fresh as anything from Por Que No.

All four of the pieces on tap for White Bird’s season finale are recently commissioned pieces. Three of the four premiered in the last year while “El Beso,” by much-talked-about Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, just premiered at the Joyce Theater in New York last week.

“Asuka,” by the Ballet Hispanico’s Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro, features the music of the “Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz. The title of the piece refers to Cruz’s catch phrase “Azúcar,” which means sugar, and the piece itself plays homage to Cruz and Cuba, Vilaro’s birthplace. “It’s a fun, energetic piece—colorful and very poignant,” he says in an interview with Patricia Graham for ThinkingDance. “Celia Cruz kept me connected to my home land of Cuba while [I was] assimilating here in the States.”

“Sombrerísimo,” by the Belgian-born choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (who is of Colombian descent), explores Latin identity and uses salsa music and a bowler hat—a reference to the work of Belgian painter René Magritte— as a prop. Wendy Perron of Dance Magazine included it in her list of Best New Choreography in 2013.

“Sortijas,” choreographed by Spaniard Cayetano Soto, is a duet that explores Latino notions of family. Like “Azuka,” “Sortijas” has biographical elements. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Soto says “some people go to a shrink; I go to a studio… I try to pass my demons to…the dancers… so that they know how to deal with them.”

Sansano’s “El Beso” takes the act of kissing and turns it into something new—Siobhan Burke of The New York Times described the piece as full of “invention, humor and spontaneity.”

Together, these four pieces represent the diverse DNA of Latin dance, which mirrors Vilaro’s own identity. He was born in Cuba, raised in the Bronx, and has African, Chinese and Spanish ancestry. “This is a DNA salsa that I celebrate daily,” he writes in The Huffington Post. It’s a celebration that’s evident in the Ballet Hispanico’s diverse mix of dancers and choreography. Don’t miss the party.

-Franz Knupfer

Ballet Hispanico

APRIL 30, 2014
7:30pm, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall