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IMPRESSIONS: Ballet Hispánico at New York City Center

IMPRESSIONS: Ballet Hispánico at New York City Center
Hannah Lieberman

By Hannah Lieberman
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Published on May 3, 2024
"Buscando a Juan." Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

Buscando a Juan (world premiere)
Choreography: Eduardo Vilaro
Music: Osvaldo Golijov


House of Mad'moiselle
Choreography: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Soundscape: Bart Rijnik
Music: Leonard Bernstein, Bart Rijnik, Chavela Vargas, Oro Solido, Charles Gounod

Choreography: Gustavo Ramírez Sansano
Soundscape: Bart Rijnik
Music: Pérez Prado

Dates: April 26 - 28, 2024  

Click here for dancer bios

Ballet Hispánico celebrated Eduardo Vilaro’s 15th year as artistic director with a powerful season at New York City Center.


The world premiere of Vilaro’s own eclectic and dynamic Buscando a Juan ("Looking for Juan") opened the program. With a clear emphasis on specific gesture and complex character relationships, the work dares you to trace its underlying narrative. Arresting choreographic intricacies and effortless partnering feats punctuate its pensive tone. I tracked a motif of veiled understanding — solidified for me by a trail of dancers slowly but assuredly making their way across the stage behind draping sheer curtains.

Ballet Hispánico in the world premiere of Buscando a Juan by Eduardo Vilaro. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor Photography

Buscando a Juan does not declare a clear choreographic aesthetic. Instead, and perhaps more powerfully, thrashing fists, covered eyes, and moments of subdued romantic surrender define its emotional drive. It mirrors the company’s unified movement style: a palpable energy that simmers beneath the choreography, hinting at explosive potential while maintaining a captivating restraint.

Antonio Cangiano and Leonardo Brito in world premiere of Buscando a Juan by Eduardo Vilaro. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor Photography

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s dances define their aesthetic almost instantly, and House of Mad'moiselle is no exception, with an ensemble in bright red wigs and minimalist black clothing, and a stunning drag queen in shimmering silver and black. Effervescent, feminine gestures and broken wrists reminiscent of voguing — which we also see in its authentic form — illustrate this very particular world. It’s a dance that almost never stops, full of complex and unexpected — yet visually satisfying — shapes and partnering. When one dancer’s authoritative tear across the stage is interrupted by a sweeping lift, we remember that there’s nothing wrong with being swept.

Ballet Hispánico in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s House of Mad'moiselle. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor Photography

The captivating drag queen around whom the work revolves appears at first without a wig or headpiece, her wig cap clearly exposed. Towards the end of the work, after a realm of campy, iconic femininity has been established through both choreography and scattered additional red costuming pieces, the dancers cry out for “Maria!” The soundscore also asks, “Where’s Maria?” and subsequently proclaims, “She left!”

Ballet Hispánico in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s House of Mad'moiselle. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor Photography

Later, the drag queen emerges with a full-feathered, red headdress and a matching tulle skirt — a moving proclamation of powerful and delicate femininity. The company seemed both particularly excited and at home in Lopez Ochoa’s choreography.

Ballet Hispánico in Gustavo Ramírez Sansano's 18+1. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor Photography

18+1 by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano feels like an iconic Ballet Hispánico work, encapsulating their ever-so-slightly bridled intensity. The company is clearly grounded (literally and metaphorically) in one another through rapid weight shifts and direction changes. The costuming — loose, asymmetrically-zippered, and business casual-esque — emphasizes those unmistakably deep contemporary-dance-dropped pelvises. It’s both polished and strange, silly and precise; the juxtaposition holds it together. The incessant musicality driving the work overtakes the dancers, sweeping them out and then snapping them back. It’s elastic, and it effortlessly rounds out the evening.

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