New York-based dance company Ballet Hispanico will perform at the Mondavi Center on Oct. 11. Through modern dance, the dance company explores the Latino voice, experience and tradition.
Ballet Hispanico was founded in 1970 by dancer, choreographer and National Medal of Arts recipient Tina Ramirez. The company became committed to exploring, preserving and celebrating Latino culture through dance. Since their small, grassroots beginnings, they have grown to become internationally recognized for their work.
The organization has performed for over two million people around the world and has worked with over 45 choreographers to commission 80 original dance pieces. The pieces tend to be inspired by either a specific Latino identity or a fusion of many Latino identities.
UC Davis professor and contemporary Latina/o and Chicana/o theatre scholar Jon D. Rossini is set to moderate Ballet Hispanico’s Mondavi visit. Rossini believes dance is one of the many ways people can communicate their cultural uniqueness and that it helps the audience to see the differences in each culture’s experiences.
“There are a wide range of bodies that are being represented and some of the choreographers and artists are coming from outside the U.S. and think more broadly about Hispanic identity,” Rossini said. “Others think of dance in less specific terms, especially artists from the US The experiences of Latinos in the US can be very different than those in other countries.”
In 2009, founder Ramirez retired from her post as the artistic director and was replaced by company dancer Eduardo Vilaro. Vilaro, founder of the Luna Negra Dance Theatre in Chicago, has choreographed multiple dance pieces and has been widely recognized and honored for his work.
Jeremy Ganter, director of programming at the Mondavi Center, experienced Vilaro’s work firsthand when he sat in on one of the company’s New York rehearsals.
“I was taken by Vilaro’s energy and blown away by the pieces I saw. They are looking at the past, present and future of Latino dance. Vilaro takes great joy in his work and it shows through their performance,” Ganter said.
Though the company puts great emphasis on their performance, they also offer a lot of opportunities for community involvement, especially with young people. In Manhattan, the studio holds dance classes for ages two to 18. Classes are offered for those who dance as a hobby and for others with pre-professional outlooks.
Along with the Manhattan classes, the company also holds workshops and master classes in schools around the country as they tour. Unlike many dance companies, Ballet Hispanico holds beginner classes for students who may be interested in the art, but have never had the chance to partake.
“We are interested in exposing students to working artists. We’re used to groups mostly teaching master classes for already highly-trained students, so it’s great the company is willing to work with beginners,” Arts Engagement Coordinator of the Mondavi Center Ruth Rosenberg said.
The company will be holding a class at a high school in Dixon as well as Natomas Charter School in Sacramento. As for UC Davis students interested in learning more about Ballet Hispanico, there will be a Q&A session onstage immediately following the show on Oct. 11.
Ganter believes the experience will be one-of-a-kind and is excited for Davis to welcome them.
“They show what modern dance can do all while expressing their culture and that deserves to be seen in this community,” Ganter said.
For ticket information, visit the Mondavi Center Box Office or tickets.mondaviarts.org.
AKIRA KUMAMOTO can be reached at email@example.com.