Women’s footwear in Ballet Hispanico, the company returning to Jacob’s Pillow this week to conclude the season, reflects its varied repertory: toe shoes, low heels, sparkling high heels and bare feet.
The 13 lively and passionate dancers from Manhattan’s Upper West Side defy stereotype by blending ballet, jazz, modern and folk styles from Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. As Ballet Hispanico’s founder, Tina Ramirez, put it, “Crouching in the corner with a sombrero is not who we are.”
Daughter of a Mexican bullfighter, the Venezuela-born Ramirez came to the United States as a child, performed at Jacob’s Pillow in 1948 and founded her company in 1970. Its outreach and school divisions aim to abolish prejudice that results in stereotyping.
Last spring she passed the company’s directorship to Eduardo Vilaro, a former soloist with the troupe who plans to continue her vision, and this week’s performances — from signature pieces to a premiere — are Vilaro’s first in his new role.
Ballet Hispanico is not Flamenco, nor “crouching in a sombrero,” but its most infectiously sizzling moments, with flashing ruffled skirts and leaping boys (and yelps) hint at “West Side Story.”
“Club Havana,” the smoking (as in, everyone brandished cigars) full-company finale, was what the delighted audience had been waiting for: hot Latino dances that are the bread and butter of Arthur Murray-type schools plus the formality of red and black cocktail dress, liquid shoulders, bobbling heads, stunningly arched backs, heels, mambo — “I want to live in America.”
“Cha Cha Cha,” an up-close-and-personal trio in the middle, featured the gloriously flexible Angelica Burgos, who has danced with the Joffrey Ballet and well-known choreographers. Clearly a gal who knows how to handle two guys (Rodney Hamilton and Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva), she wraps herself around partners and flops to the ground, big frizzy hair flying.
Happily, Burgos was around a lot Wednesday. In the premiere of “Locked Up Laura,” a duet by the Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, a disconsolate Burgos has lost interest in routines en pointe. Lying immobile as a loud-speaker summons her to the stage, she is stood up by her worried partner, Jeffery Hover, who maneuvers her like a rag doll into a spotlight. Twirling and somersaulting her, sometimes mirroring her motions, he repeatedly puts a short skirt on her, which she promptly pushes down. He loses when she walks off in disgust.
“Destino Incierto” (Uncertain Destiny) by the Puerto Rican choreographer Carlos Sierra Lopez is an odd take on the final scene from “Carmen,” to a (heavy) take on Bizet’s score by Rodion Schchedrin. Burgos as Carmen, strong, swift and torrid in a voluminous red gown, has her way with Don Jose (Hamilton, who makes despairing gestures) until Escamillo (Eric Rivera, topless in black tights with red side designs) arrives. Dancing by turns with each, she is flung over their shoulders, legs split apart about 200 degrees. The three resolve it amicably — a goal in politics that is less effective in art.
The confusing narrative of Ramon Oller’s dark, brooding “Goodnight Paradise,” which opened the evening, may benefit from revision. But “Club Havana” made a vibrant, perfectly clear ending.