The modern music and dance worlds owe much of their stylistic wealth to Latin culture. And recent National Medal of Arts recipient and Ballet Hispanico founder Tina Ramirez deserves the extensive credit she's received for helping spread that wealth across the world.
Since 1970, her New York City-based repertory has entertained millions of people with more than 70 cultural dance productions by noted choreographers and celebrated artists.
NightClub, Ballet Hispanico's first full-length ballet, is captivating audiences nationwide this winter with a fusion of Latin social dance, classical ballet and modern dance. The sultry show recounts three passionate narratives in three acts, each act based in a different era and geographical hotspot of Latin influence.
The first act, "Cada Noche ... Tango" ("Every Night Tango"), visits the Latin dance culture of the 1920s, as seen through an Argentinean brothel. Act Two, "Dejame Soar" ("Let Me Dream"), captures a migrant's tale of alienation as he reaches for the American dream inside the social clubs of Spanish Harlem in the 1950s. Act Three, "Hoy Como Ayer" ("Today Like Yesterday"), occurs in a modern Manhattan night club, highlighting the impact of Hispanic influence on the current dance scene.
"Each act is really a story unto itself," says Hispanico's Diane Karlin, "but the night's theme is Latin culture's history as it migrated and melted into popular American culture. There are definitely seductive elements to [NightClub's] dance --there's a lot of sensuality and passion inherent to the Latin dance element."
Choreographers Graciela Daniele, Alexandre Magno and Sergio Trujillo borrow music from Tito Puente, Astor Piazzolla, Pink Martini, Gotan Project, DJ St. Germain and X Alfonso to re-create the show's respective periods.
Like the Hispanic protagonist who immigrated to America in Act Two of NightClub, Tina Ramirez also faced the challenges of coming to the United States and adapting. Ramirez was born in Venezuela; her father was a Mexican bullfighter and her mother an educator from Puerto Rico. At the age of 7, she, too, found dance, and eventually studied under many of New York's finest teachers.
In addition to Ballet Hispanico's touring performances, the organization provides unique year-round dance schooling. It also educates people about contemporary Latino culture via Primeros Pasos (First Steps), an arts initiative that brings dance into public school systems across the nation.
In April, Ballet Hispanico plans to premiere its second full-length production at New York's Lincoln Center. The show is a collaboration with Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, an 18-piece ensemble that will complement a dozen dancers in a re-creation of an evening at the famous Palladium nightclub.
-- Matthew Schniper
Ballet Hispanico's NightClub
Colorado College's Armstrong Hall, 14 E. Cache La Poudre St.
Friday, Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35 (cash or check only), or free with CC ID; visit the Worner Campus Center (902 Cascade Ave.) for tickets. Call 389-6607 for more information.