writers on dancing


Hispanic: Old Habits

Ballet Hispanico
Eisenhower Theater
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
Tuesday, April 5, 2005

by George Jackson
copyright ©2005 by George Jackson

Smoke hangs in the air and cigarette butts, though swept up repeatedly by a handyman, seem to breed on the floor. Dark corners and bright spots give the clientele places to hide or be seen. The women slink. The men strut. Sex is patent. It's what the denizens dance about. Shoulders, hips and heels proclaim that this nightclub is Hispanic, no matter its era or location.

"Nightclub" took us from a Buenos Aires dancehall brothel in the 1920s to a social club in New York's Spanish Harlem of the 1950s and on to a contemporary disco in an unspecified part of New York. The trip lasted 90 minutes and there was not one intermission. Actually, it all seemed very much the same place and the dancers showed off approximately identical stunts no matter when or where they were supposed to exist. For the women (and the one man cast as a gay boy), exhibitionism consisted of high extensions; for the machos it was turns. Seldom were the turns neat and trim but they oozed feeling. Much time was taken up by doing a step here and another there and acting out ones attitude, but of sustained dancing there were just wisps. Each scene had nothing as elaborate as a plot but rather a situation.

The best moments of "Nightclub" happened in the Buenos Aires section. Graciela Daniele's tango-based trio for a woman and two men probed their longings and inhibitions just a bit. There wasn't much bite to Alexandre Magno's Spanish Harlem triangle for a male dreamer, a sophisticated city gal and his vision of the simple girl back home on the island. The New Look gowns worn by some of the women in this second scene of "Nightclub" made more of an impact than the romantic quandary (credit for the costume designs goes to Paul Tazewell). In the third and final scene, choreographer Sergio Trujillo transformed a timid "stranger" into a macho man without giving a clue as to why the character could be interesting. Trujillo had one woman at this disco stalk about in black toe shoes rather than high heels; she turned out to be a scene stealer for she deployed her pointes like a predatory bird's claws.

"Nightclub" was the conception of Ballet Hispanico's artistic director, Tina Ramirez, and it opened the company's 2-day Washington visit. Had a non-Hispanic company performed the work, likely there would have been accusations of stereotyping and pandering to a non-dance public. Today, a large proportion of the world's top dancers come from Hispanic cultures, but that wasn't what "Nightclub" was about.

Volume 3, No. 14
April 11, 2005

copyright ©2005 George Jackson


DanceView Times

What's On This Week
Index of Reviews
Index of Writers

Back Issues
About Us


Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Christopher Correa
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Gia Kourlas
Alan M. Kriegsman
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Sandi Kurtz
Alexander Meinertz
Tehreema Mitha
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
John Percival
Tom Phillips
Susan Reiter
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Meital Waibsnaider

Kathrine Sorley Walker
Leigh Witchel
last updated on April 11, 2005