In Latin cultures, it is the iconic female name — embracing sacred and profane, encompassing women from Maria Magdalena to the Virgin Maria to the romantic lead in West Side Story.
It also is the inspiration for Mad’moiselle, a richly theatrical and frequently tongue-in-cheek examination of the Marias in all our lives.
Performances will begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3. Tickets are $35, or $30 seniors, $25 for Washington University faculty and staff and $20 for students and children.
In addition, at 11 a.m. Saturday, Ballet Hispanico will present a special matinee performance of ¡Viajes!, an all-ages exploration of Latin American and Caribbean dance forms, as part of Edison’s ovations for young people series. Tickets are $12 flat.
Tickets to both Ovations and ovations for young people shows are available at the Edison Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
In conjunction with the performances, Edison also will host Algo Nuevo (“Something New”), a series of free activities exploring the history and aesthetics of Hispanic dance and traditional costuming. The series is funded by a $10,000 Challenge America Fast-Track Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
For details and schedule, contact Ann Rothery at (314) 935-3389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program will open with Mad’moiselle, choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Commissioned in 2010, this piece for 11 dancers explores Latin American gender identities and male/female images, interspersed with witty, and occasionally pointed, references to Heaven, Hell, the Garden of Eden and even surrealist painting.
The accompanying soundscape, by Bart Rijnink, collages songs and samples relating to various Marias, from Charles Gounod’s Ave Maria to four versions of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story ballad to voice excerpts of Bernstein and opera star José Carrera.
The program will continue with Espiritu Vivo, a new collaboration between Ballet Hispanico and Brooklyn-based choreographer Ronald K. Brown, which debuted earlier this year.
Set to music by legendary Peruvian singer Susana Baca, this piece for eight dancers examines the intersection of the African and Latino diasporas in the Caribbean and Latin America. Employing both dance forms and narrative traditions drawn from across those regions, Espiritu Vivo unfolds in four sections based on the stages of grief: The News, Prayer, Spring and New Day.
Concluding the program will be Asuka, an homage to Salsa legend Celia Cruz. The piece, which premiered last December, is choreographed by artistic director Eduard Vilaro and represents Vilaro’s first new work for the company since taking the helm in 2009.
Cruz, who was known around the world as the “Queen of Salsa,” came of age amidst the diverse musical climate of 1930’s Cuba and in many ways personifies the evolution of salsa, from its roots in African rhythms to its emergence as a contemporary genre in the United States. (The title is a reference to Cruz’s famous catch phrase, “Azúcar!” or “Sugar!”) Over the years, her 23 gold albums inspired countless immigrants, providing comfort and solace to those seeking shelter on foreign shores.
The New York Post praises Mad’moiselle, “a smart, spicy piece of dance theater,” while The (New Jersey) Star-Ledger says that, “This dance company can wake up the neighborhood with a sudden, brassy shout or it can croon softly in your ear, whispering words of love.”
The Washington Post says that, “Ballet Hispanico dances with elegance and lyricism,” adding that the company’s “graceful phrases look effortless. Audiences will return to see Ballet Hispanico for its enduring graciousness.”
Ballet Hispanico was founded in New York in 1970 by Tina Ramirez. The daughter of a Mexican bullfighter and grandniece of a Puerto Rican educator, Ramirez was born in Venezuela and came to the United States at age 7, studying with Lola Bravo, New York’s grande dame of Spanish dance, and noted ballet teachers Alexandra Danilova and Anna Sokolow.
As a professional dancer, Ramirez toured with the Federico Rey Dance Company but, in 1963, returned to New York to fulfill a promise to take over the retiring Bravo’s studio. In 1967, Ramirez created Operation High Hopes, a professional dance-training program for inner-city children, which led, three years later, to the establishment of Ballet Hispanico.
Vilaro was born in Cuba and arrived in New York at the age of 6. He began his dance training as a teenager on scholarship at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and joined Ballet Hispanico as a dancer in 1985, performing works by Vicente Nebrada, Talley Beatty, Ramon Oller and other. He returned to the company in 2009, after 10 years with Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago, which he founded and directed.
In addition to the professional company’s extensive touring, the Ballet Hispanico School of Dance offers year-round professional training in ballet, Spanish dance and modern for more than 600 students. School alumni, who include Jennifer Lopez, have gone on to careers in theater, television and film as well as dance.
Founded in 1973, the Edison Ovations Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis.
Edison programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors. The Ovations season is supported by The Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.