Dallas — Spanish in spirit, balletic in style, Ballet Hispánico revealed a company Friday night at Moody Performance Hall that is sleek, cosmopolitan and firmly planted in the present. The New York City-based company, on the TITAS Presents season, offered three new works that abstracted elements of flamenco, folkloric and even a hint of street dancing, and all created by female choreographers.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Linea Recta (2016) distilled what is fiery and anguish-ridden about flamenco into a strikingly beautiful ballet, devoid of emotion. Four men wearing long-waisted red gaucho pants and taking an attitude of cocky matadors, served at first as merely handsome suitors to an impetuous and headstrong Carmen.
The Carmen figure appears alone on stage at the beginning with her back to us, her body wrapped in a flame-red ruffled train that pools out on the floor when she is not whipping it around, gathering it to her bosom, or grasping it in her teeth. She strides, spins, and coils snake-like, commanding the stage.
The men use her train to spin her around, toss her high or pull it against it her as though she is a filly trying to break away. They also take turns partnering her with smooth, overlapping lifts and slides to the ground.
In the second part of Linea Recta (“Straight Line”), the light dims as three women in half-skirts appear carrying two fans each. They dissolve to leave one woman to face two men, who lift and entwine her in intricate, smooth motions. The men walk off with the fans.
Linea Recta ends in a fiesta spirit, drums and guitar goading everyone on.
Michelle Manzanales’s Con Brazos Abiertos (“With Open Arms”) was just as lively as Linea Recta but much more compelling. Set to a dizzy array of music that ranged from Julio Iglesias, Cheech and Chong’s “Mexican Americans” number and a version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” the dance tackled the conflict between Mexican and American cultures with wit and style.
On a dim stage, dancers appear in white boxer shorts or white underwear. They move slowly, stopping and starting and reversing direction. But just as the light and music switches gears, the costumes do too. The second section embraces the clichés about sleeping Mexicans: 14 dancers parade forth dressed alike in high-waisted pants, their red-tasseled sombreros hiding their faces. They move in smart formation and as the light dims, slowly roll away. That leaves a woman in white underwear to contemplate her yellow sombrero as an alien object: she sits, falls backward, stands as she tries dangling her hat by one foot, maneuvering it, and tossing it away.
Three other scenes stand out: men and women alike surging forth in voluminous billowing white skirts that they whip and whirl with dramatic force; men leaping and swinging each one over; and at the end, to the music of “Mexico,” dancers move in wide strides, limbs elongated and supple. As the music warps to a slow pace and the light dims, the dancers walk off.
If Con Brazos Abiertos was dramatic and peppered with irony, Tania Pérez-Salas’s 3. Catorce Dieciseis (“3, 14, 16”) was abstract and serene. Inspired by pi and set to the Baroque music of Marais, Frescobaldi, Vivaldi, Couperin and Pergolesi, the dance played with every permutation of geometric patterns.
In somber light and clad in costumes that changed length as well as color (gray, black, white and red), the movement consists sometimes of no more than walking formally or slowly revolving on an axis. The dancers move in circles, lines and jagged formations. There are duets, trios, and ensembles that act as counterpoints; leaps and spins and glorious tumbleweed rolls. The action is uncannily cohesive, bold and clear, and the overall impression one of elegance.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.