Ballet Hispánico, America’s premier Latino dance company, makes its European premiere at The Festival Theatre Edinburgh tonight with two performance works – CARMEN.maquia, and the shorter opening work “Linea Recta”.
Before any review of these two performances, I think a little background information on Ballet Hispanico is maybe a good thing as this company is one of the great success stories in American dance. The easiest way to do that is to use some information about their history from their own website.
“TINA RAMIREZ founded Ballet Hispánico in 1970 and served as Artistic Director until 2009. Under her direction, over 45 choreographers created works for the Company, many of international stature and others in the early stages of their career.
Recognized for her achievements by the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest cultural honor, Tina Ramirez founded Ballet Hispánico in 1970. From its grassroots origins as a dance school and community-based performing arts troupe, the organization has grown into a world-class institution. Ballet Hispánico’s New York City headquarters house a School of Dance and state-of-the-art dance studios for its programs and the arts community.”
For far more information on this important and vibrant company and its wide dance programme and cultural projects , visit their website at
Time for the review, in reverse order.
This work had its New York Premiere on November 22, 2014 at The Apollo Theater, but of course is based on the globally famous and iconic opera by Georges Bizet – “Carmen” . This interpretation with Choreography by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano is at times bold in its approach but somehow never losing its traditional feel with strong references to Spanish paso doble and flamenco. Always though a sensual fluidity masks meticulous timing from our dancers. Our principal cast for this performance are
CARMEN - SHELBY COLONA
DON JOSE - CHRIS BLOOM
MICAELA - EILA VALLS
ESCAMILLO - MARK GIERINGER
Shelby Colona is how I have often imagined Carmen to be (as opposed to the wild haired voluptuous gypsy in the opera)- a sensual, strong and independent woman in total control of every man around her and single minded in her approach to life. All of these elements are brought out in this role tonight, and Carmen’s “Habanera” is what it should always have been.
Carmen is all about passion though and for some reason that spark between two people really only happens for me between Carmen and Escamillo (Mark Gieringer) and not so much with Don Jose (Chris Bloom) and I don’t have an answer to that as both dancers are very good dancers. Somehow though, Mark Gieringer has that allure and swagger that you would expect Escamillo to have and there is just something indefinable about his ability to stand out on stage wherever he is.
Eila Valls as Micaela provides a great counterbalance to Shelby Colona’s Carmen in this performance.
Costume Design by David Delfin takes the bold move to have Carmen in black (rather than the often used red or autumn tones) apart from the last scene, and this sharp contrast to the white costumes of everyone else works so well in making Carmen stand out visually wherever she is on stage. The lack of costume changes between scenes (so much white on set) may though make it difficult for some people not that familiar with Carmen’s story to follow where we are moving to as a story at times.
Set Design by Luis Crespo continues our theme with a Picasso-inspired, contemporary take. I hope many in the audience noted the artwork around the set. A few things could maybe do with a little tweak though. For some people that I spoke to, it was not that obvious that the gypsies and Carmen were with the large blue cards actually dealing Tarot Cards or that Carmen had just seen her fate in them; you really had to be familiar with the story to grasp that one. I am still not sure where the very tastefully done, backs to the audience, semi-nude sequence fitted in though as it for me added little to the story I was watching unfold.
Despite a few personal views here and there, this Carmen still stands as an extraordinary performance work from a company that I need to find a lot more about in the coming years.
Opening our show this evening was a newer and shorter work “Línea Recta” which had its World Premiere on November 18, 2016 at The Apollo Theatre.
Choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to music by flamenco guitarist Eric Vaarzon Morel is set to a visual feast of red from costume design by Danielle Truss.
In this work we explore traditional Flamenco dance but with a twist – there is none of the traditional partnerships that you would expect in this performance. The results are in the end though are just as mesmerising.
These two performances are it must be remembered Ballet Hispanico touring and one day I hope to catch their performances with the luxury of live music adding its always subtle layering to any performance.
Review by Tom King