Despite how minimal the arrangements are, the three pieces that premier this run show enormous range in vision. Belgium-based Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Andrew Bartee (a Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer soon relocating to Vancouver) contributed the first two pieces of the night. Ochoa’s piece was not just a highlight of the night; it is my favorite performance thus far in 2014.
Her piece Les Biches hit me personally in all the right places: Aesthetically, musically, conceptually it could not have been more tailor-made for my tastes, but even when I step out of that gleeful state of appreciation I see a work that is of lasting quality, extremely unique and easily appreciated by a broad audience. The four dancers, Geneva Jenkins, Mia Monteabaro, Tory Peil and Lara Seefeldt were transformed into something reptilian and insect and human all at once by Ochoa’s costume concept: a full-body beige and ivory blend of makeup and textured leotards by Mark Zappone, hair covered by more beige, and hands tipped by arterial red plastic talons.
The talons were such a fantastic invention, extending movements without hindering them and adding a sinister chittering and clicking at moments when the dancers twisted and flipped their hands in synch. The music was eclectic but perfectly chosen, beginning with the two opening tracks of producer Richard D James’ album Selected Ambient Works Vol II. The tracks, Cliffs and Radiator, are at once soothing and strange, combining warped plucking, chromatic percussion and unidentifiable snippets of speech in a lilting pulse that complemented the alien yet familiar terrain that Ochoa explored.
“Les Biches” choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Photo by Bamberg Fine Art.
The four female creatures made territorial displays, pawing and clawing at each other, flipping alpha, beta and omega roles but also coming together for synchronized motions. The dancers emoted so thoroughly with their expressions that in dividual characters emerged despite being stripped of most identifiable features by the costuming. (Monteabaro and Peil in particular know how to talk with their eyes.) With humor and subtlety and a touch of the uncanny, the dancers combined competition and camaraderie, empathy and subterfuge in a display one might summarize as “the lizards who lunch.” The arc was toward civilization, toward a more familiar humanity, but still with hissing, chittering traces of the primal, so that when in the third vignette the dancers soften their postures and in the fourth vignette they dance in synch to Tchaikovsky, a clear portrait of female dynamics emerges—one of strength and cunning more than tenderness.
Whim W’him’s core concept—classical modes reinvigorated by their fusion with contemporary movement and a multidiscplinary approach to all aspects of production—has been proved to be more than viable by Wevers and his collaborators, and in #UNPROTECTED one sees just how much variety in vision and style is yet to be explored. Ochoa’s piece in particular feels bound to become canon as her reputation grows, and all of the choreographers have demonstrated their ability to mature as they take risks. It’s rewarding as a repeat viewer to see it, but for first-timers and those wary of modern dance, it’s a program absolutely worth seeing.
La Havana, Feb 27 (Prensa Latina)
Belgium-Colombian choreographer Annabelle Lopez today pervades celestial energy to the Cuban National Ballet (BNC) with a new choreography inspired by the only concert for violin by Russian composer Piotr Ilich Tchaikowski.
The dancers of the prestigious company are breathing another dynamic, enjoying the change of air, and have been rehearsing for four weeks until sunset imbued with a romantic song and a classical dance proposal that in turn is far from traditional conceptions. I like to compose with the esthetic of classical lines and point shoes, and that kind of elegant music, but I would like to depict a stronger image of the woman, the choreographer told exclusively to Prensa Latina.
The BNC is well-known for its virtuoso dancers, so I thought: we will play with this, however I like to change the archetype of the classical ballerina and the man behind that is barely visible, said Lopez applauded as a new star in the Dutch press since the beginning of her professional career. Celeste is an abstract piece, full of sense, presenting the evolution of a star in a nocturnal sky,where each of the three soloists who performs the star has a male companion, because according to the choreographer, a person reveals itself through its relations with others. This last week with the BNC is for me the week where we will be pinpointing the intentions of the dancers, because we are going to feel that later more than the movements, the choreographer said.
On the pictures; Viengsay Valdes and Gian Carlo Perez.
Credit: Nancy Reyes
By Rebecca Ritzel
Excerpt of the article "Ballet, modern dance separated by blurred line"
Over the next two weekends, Washington audiences will have a chance to see programs that demonstrate just how fuzzy that line is. On Wednesday night at the Harman Center for the Arts, the Washington Ballet will present its “Jazz/Blues Project,” featuring works by Trey McIntyre and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, two relatively young choreographers known for flying back and forth, across continents, creating works for ballet and contemporary companies.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Belgian-Colombian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa grew up dancing at the Royal Ballet of Flanders but began her professional career with a jazz dance troupe. As a choreographer, she has become a global commodity. Her work was seen in Washington last month, when Ballet Hispanico performed “Sombrerísimo.” That was a light ensemble piece for the company’s men, but she also is known for her serious pointe pieces, including “A Streetcar Named Desire” for the Scottish Ballet. Later this year, she’ll become the first outside choreographer to receive a paid commission from the National Ballet of Cuba. Her new work for the Washington Ballet is called “Prism,” and it’s set to a piano score — which will be performed live — by Keith Jarrett.
“I am a contemporary choreographer who is in love with the aesthetic of the pointe show. I was not going to have this new Washington Ballet work be performed in toe shoes, but I changed my mind a week into rehearsals, because they look so beautiful on pointe.
“People dream away when dancers are on pointe shoes, because it’s so supernatural. It’s abstract. But contemporary dance reflects the society where we are today, more than a piece by Balanchine. It can be about themes, like loneliness. It’s much more raw, and the bodies of the dancers are more like us. Ballerinas are elegant. The audience is asking for that distinction: What I am paying for? That’s why [places such as the Kennedy Center] make a distinction between contemporary and ballet.
“In Europe, people like to be surprised more. The innovative thing is more fashionable here. I like the variety. That I am not put into a box. That’s a bit of a problem, because people don’t know what to expect. My tools are the dancers, and I adapt to what I see. I don’t want to label myself into one form of movement, to one energy. And I hope that’s how my career continues. I like being able to view ballet as just dancing in a very high-heeled pair of shoes.”
It’s been three weeks since I’ve started my new work for The Washington Ballet and I’m so excited to see the work come to life on one of my favorite compositions: Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert. It will probably ring a bell to many jazz-lovers as being an iconic album that has sold millions of copies since 1975. I’m so happy to share this music (which I’ve known for twenty years now) with the fans and also with the ones who will discover it for the first time.
For this creation I’ve been focusing on how to honor this mesmerizing music, and as I got to know the music better every day, I feel that there should be more room for stillness, room for the music to be, for the moment to happen, for an image to appear and sustain.... ‘Stillness’, a strange choice of words in a world of movement.
The costumes that I’ve designed myself for the piece have also been a work-in-progress these three weeks. I’m passing by Monica’s [Monica Leland, TWB’s Wardrobe Supervisor] workshop almost every day to talk about details but also about the build-up from stillness to celebration. How can we translate and achieve this in costumes?
Creation is a continuous progress of ideas, until D-day arrives.... at the end of January 2014.
Delighted that Sombrerisimo was included to Wendy Perron Dance Magazine's Best of 2013.
"Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s snazzy, jazzy Sombrerísimo for Ballet Hispanico, commissioned by Fall for Dance at New York City Center. When these six guys toss their hats while salsa-ing, you want to follow them to the beach."
For their third, one-night only appearance at the Apollo Theater, Ballet Hispanico presented three works. As a company rich in the tradition of Hispanic culture, artistic director Eduardo Vilaro is taking Ballet Hispanico in a different direction than former founder and artistic director Tina Ramirez. Though the nod to Hispanico culture is still the integral focus of the company, Vilaro is directing the company to include dance works that celebrate the depth and width of the entire Latin traditions, not just Euro-Western Latino culture. The dance triptych presented on Saturday expresses Ballet Hispanico’s more expansive point of view.
The ballet that came closest to having audience appeal while blending a variety of dance styles was Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Sombrerisimo. Using a derby hat as a prop has been done on countless occasion. (Bob Fosse was a genius at winding unique ways to incorporate hats, canes, and gloves into choreography without allowing the prop to be the main focus of the work.)
Ochoa’s utilizes great partnering for the men in this male tour de force. Ochoa also infuses technique from modern dance, ballet, flamenco and lyrical jazz, all while several derby hats are passed back and forth, caught in the air, ricocheted and used as a centerpiece of the choreography. Though Sombrerisimo highlights the versatility and technical acumen of Ballet Hispanico’s men, the work is not without humor or lyricism. Jamal Callendar and Mario Espinosa are the standouts in this work with Callendar setting himself apart as the premier danseur of the company.
—William S. Gooch