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 Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
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.