Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ballet Hispanico and A Palo Seco Flamenco Company Celebrate Spanish and Latin Culture

By Tami Shaloum
Photos by Heather-Ann Schaeffner

Two dance companies showed how rich and how distinct Spanish and Latin cultures are from one another on Wednesday night at Rumsey Playfield. Although often conflated, the two cultures represented by the dancing of A Palo Seco and Ballet Hispanico have their own unique zest. The wild flourishes and intricacies of A Palo Seco’s flamenco was a nice segue way for Ballet Hispanico, a company that aims to explore and preserve Latino culture through dance. The two sets complemented each other well, as A Palo Seco represented a more classic, traditional way of dance and Ballet Hispanico pulled from that Spanish tradition to create something entirely its own, a more contemporary take on classical dance and Hispanic tradition.

A Palo Seco consists of three female dancers and a four-piece band. What I really love about flamenco dancing is how it is not just the body that is used to express the art form, it is also about the live music for the rhythm, the shoes stomping to the beat, and the dancing with fans, skirts, and scarves that add to the aesthetics of the movement. A Palo Seco exemplified everything wonderful about flamenco—the clothing was vibrant, the music dramatic, and the dancers elegant. In fact, the performers were so skilled that the specificity of their movements made their dancing look both precise and improvised all at the same time.

Ballet Hispanico is an exciting company in that they infuse their classic dancing with a lot of other styles and some amazing physical feats. They began their set with an all-male piece that incorporated some acrobatic-like dancing, then went on to perform a piece with salsa and flamenco movements, and finished with some Afro-Latin dance moves. Like A Palo Seco, they wore very bright costumes but in a modern twist, they were neon colors. This was used to great effect during the last piece, which had an EDM-like sound scape. The company also gave a nod to Latin music greats Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, who provided much of the soundtrack to the set, and furthered the company’s cause to celebrate Latin culture.

While the one-night dual performance is over, the good news is that both companies are based in New York City, so you are bound to find them performing somewhere relatively soon. Separate from each other, they would definitely stand up on their own; but together, they were magical. 

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