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Dance Review (LA): Ballet Hispanico at the Ahmanson Theatre

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The internationally recognized New York company Ballet Hispanico made its Music Center debut on the weekend of June 5-7. The company is led by Tina Ramirez (Eduardo Vilaro after August 2009) and is described as being “one of the pre-eminent Latino cultural institutions.” The troupe consists of 13 hard-working dancers who must be able to dance a wide variety of styles to create a fusion of ballet, modern, and Latin dance.

The evening was divided into four parts. Pedro Ruiz choreographed the first offering, “Club Havana,” with music by Israel Lopez, Ruben Gonzales, A.K. Salim, Perez Prado, and Francisco Repilado. The piece began slowly with what can only be called a dance with cigars, representing a club in Havana complete with smoking. All the dancers including the women were required to puff on big cigars, creating a cloud of smoke that drifted into the audience; not a great idea in smoke-conscious California.

After that episode, though, the dancers gave us a tour of Latin dances from conga, rhumba, mambo, and cha-cha traditions. It is always exciting to see really good dancers perform these styles. Unlike those TV contests we have all seen, which tend to be over-choreographed, even stiff, these dancers glided through these numbers with sexual vitality and exuberant kicks and lifts.

The next piece was called “Tres Bailes,” with music by Astor Piazzolla, Gotan Project, and Albert Iglesias. The choreographer was Jean Emile. Originally shown at the Fire Island Dance Festival 14, benefiting Dancers Responding to AIDS, the piece was divided into three short sections, and showed off the athleticism of this young troupe.

After a brief pause, we were treated to a tribute to Bizet’s ubiquitous Carmen. Carmen in this case was the gorgeous and talented Angelica Burgos. She danced with Rodney Hamilton as Don Jose and Eric Roberts as Escamillo. This very sensual and thrilling piece explored the relationship among the three characters.

The last piece, choreographed by Broadway star Ann Reinking, was the audience favorite. Called Ritmo Y Ruido, it was danced by the full company. The choreography was actually heavily borrowed from Bob Fosse, with whom Ms. Reinking had a personal and professional relationship. The dance was funny, unpredictable, and thoroughly satisfying.

Ballet Hispanico performed under the auspices of Dance at The Music Center at the Ahmanson Theatre.

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