by Catherine L. Tully
I recently had the chance to see Ballet Hispanico for the first time at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, and it was an interesting experience. The program for the evening included four pieces: Naci, Locked Up Laura, Espiritu Vivo and Asuka.
Unless something strikes me in a particularly strong way, I find I usually don’t say too much the first time I watch a company on stage–especially if they are performing works I have not seen before. Instead I prefer to let the evening wash over me a bit so I can get a feel for the style, the dances being presented and the overall dynamic that the company puts forth. What I was left with after walking out of the theatre here can be summed up in one word–honesty.
There is an earnestness and ease that the dancers had–and it felt very genuine. This was especially so during the more upbeat portions of the choreography; as if expressing joy came a bit more naturally than anything else. Indeed, the choreography took a back seat to the personalities of the dancers here. This is especially true of Jessica Alejandra Wyatt, who dazzled the audience with more than her sequined dress in Eduardo Vilaro’s Asuka – a tribute to salsa legend Celia Cruz.
Other images that stand out from the offerings here include Min-Tzu Li’s gorgeous extension during Locked Up Laura and company member Jamal Rashann Callender–who simply commands attention every time he steps onto the stage. The dancers in Ballet Hispanico are strong technicians with beautiful, athletic bodies–which adds another layer of visual appeal.
I’ll look forward to seeing them again the next time they come to Chicago.