Last Thanksgiving, I saw an avant garde video installation at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof. It was installed in the large, dark, open space behind the reception desk where the trains used to pull up to the platforms. The space has been a museum for a while now, housing carefully and sparsely displayed modern art (think, a can of Pepsi sitting on a white plinth) — but in this case less is just right, it really takes a lot of brain power to pour some of that stuff into my head.
Friday night, as the theater emptied, a great many audience members cut moves to the eponymous Enrique Iglesias song, playing over the loudspeakers. Couples young and old swayed and swung their hips. It was very apropos, considering the song’s lyric refrain is ‘Let the rhythm take you over, Bailamos!’ [‘We dance,’ in Spanish] a commandment all but impossible to refuse given the energy and warmth of the performance.
Orlando Ballet’s Bailamos! is in the dead center of the current season, but last Friday night they also threw a gathering for board members and interested community (like us blogging ladies) about their next season. The 2019-2020 season debuts on Halloween night with a reVAMPed Vampire’s Ball, “Complete with projections!” Mr. Robert Hill announced.
Also coming down the line are the ballets Nutcracker (at Christmas, per usual), Cinderella (the Prokofiev version), Made in the USA (dances from a range of American choreographers), and Mowgli (a Lion King-esque treatment of the Rudyard Kipling story). There will be kid-attention-span-friendly versions of Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Mowgli, too, in which each performance is only about an hour.
Mr. Hill looked bashful when he mentioned that he’ll be dancing in one of the pieces from Made in the USA. The dance in question was choreographed by his friend Jessica Lang (this one, not that one), who had always wanted him to perform the lead role. “It’s just me doing a bunch of port de bras, waving my arms around,” Mr. Hill said. “Anything else and I wouldn’t have done it.” Don’t be fooled by his self-effacing nature, Mr. Hill still looks very much up for the part.
But back to Bailamos! The purpose of the show was to pay homage to Orlando’s Latin community, and the theme involved dances from across time with a Spanish/Latin theme. To show support for Puerto Rican citizens displaced by Hurricane Maria, Orlando Ballet donated 1000 tickets for the weekend performance to the and the
Did it work? As with any ballet, each dance’s ability to tell a coherent story drove the emotion of the audience, and while some of the pieces weren’t as able to connect, perhaps due to being removed from their greater context (like the technically stunning but emotionally muted dances from Don Quixote and Carmen), some pieces worked very well.
My favorite numbers from the smorgasbord presented in Bailamos! were the ones that stood alone and presented a complete emotional story. I adored the tale of a man mourning his lost love in Cucurrucucu Paloma, and the beautifully delineated tale of existential angst danced by three dancers in Ojala-Chavela Vargas Excerpts. The other extremely strong, and obviously well-rehearsed, piece was in the second act, Mr. Hill’s choreography of Bolero.
Why were these pieces so good? In Cucurrucucu Paloma, dancers Blair Bagley and Daniel Benavides conveyed the music’s lament beautifully, infusing Mr. Hill’s choreography with meaning and emotion in every longing-infused writhe on the stage floor. Ojala I enjoyed because it’s wonderful to see dance built around themes of human emotion that are more complicated than just love. Staring out the windows and trying the door of a small room, three dancers are more in their own heads than with each other, and I appreciated the angsty navel-gazing of dancers Nick Patterson, Hitomi Nakamura, and Boris Ceballos.
Another strong piece, Ay Milonga, featured Boris Ceballos and Anna Ciriano in what resembled a tempestuous romance. Both wore black figure-hugging pants as they tussled, flirted, and twirled. Ciriano was especially commanding as she tossed the much taller Ceballos around the stage.
Bolero just blew everyone’s socks off. It had the precision that spoke of long, all-ensemble rehearsal, and the choreography and music ramped up together to a fire-filled finale.
We’ll be back, undoubtedly, to tell you how the rest of the season goes!
Jen and Achariya co-wrote this piece.
The Nutcracker Ballet is such an intrinsic part of Christmas that it would be difficult to imagine a world without the music, and without the well-known story performed through dance. The reason why the ballet is so magical is the cast of children who convey all of the new wonder of the season.
I am interrupting Late to the Theater’s horror month to bring you my review of Orlando Ballet’s Carmina Burana, and I will start with a confession: I did not pay close enough attention to the playbill to notice that there was no intermission, and I kept patiently waiting for it so that I could go powder my nose.
By dance number sixteen I thought: holy cow this is going to be a four-hour extravaganza! And by dance 25, I realized it was already the reprise of O Fortuna, and I’d watched the whole ballet. (And then I raced myself to the beautifully appointed Harriett’s Lady’s Lounge after the second or third curtain call…)
Clocking in at an hour-fifteen it is a spare yet intense ballet. We discussed the creation of it with Mr. Robert Hill, choreographer, in this piece a few weeks ago, and I’ll point you there for some background in the earworm-inspiring music and philosophy behind the choreography. On to the review.
I am digging deep into my memory to write up a few things in preparation for the memorial of my dad, Dr. Fred Stone. This will be a continuing series.
It was 1984, and the late afternoon rain poured around us. We were sitting in a guest house in Chiang Rai because my dad, Fred Stone (not yet Dr. Stone), had heard rumor of a possible fertile population of albino cave cockroaches deep in the limestone backbone of the northern Thai mountains.
But the rain (which, in 2018, has proved to be a dangerous hazard to the caves in this region) had stymied us on the first day of our trip. Until the rain stopped, however, there was something important dad had to do: teach me how to swallow my malaria pill.