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Ballet Hispánico Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic with B Unidos Series

by Bonnie Rosenstock
April 20, 2020
New York, NY
Instead of kicking off its 50th Anniversary Celebration at The Joyce Theater, April 7-19 with a program I was very much looking forward to, Ballet Hispánico joined the arts community’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic with an Instagram video series entitled B Unidos, which began on Monday, March 23. The well-conceived series features videos posted each weekday, created by the three arms of the organization: professional company, School of Dance and Community Arts Partnership (PAP). Something to kick up one’s heels about.

Each weekday at 3:00 pm, the company will release a new video generated by the dancers, teachers and administrators, with the goal of serving as class, exercise and inspiration: Motivational Mondays (inspirational messages), Take Action Tuesdays (technique tips for young dancers), Wepa Wednesdays (explorations of the varied styles of Latin Dance), Therapeutic Thursdays (focus on conditioning, health and wellness and stretching) and Flashback Fridays (a retrospective of the past 50 years from Ballet Hispánico's archives).

Artistic Director & CEO Eduardo Vilaro responded to my email questions about the 50th Anniversary program and the Instagram series, following below.

How did you come up with the idea for the Instagram series?
The idea came up from the need to stay connected with our audiences. It was a group effort with the staff even if the initial cue was from me. My original thought was to develop a bigger online presence for our students and audience during the pandemic and find different ways of bringing inspiration online.

So many dance companies and dance organizations are doing something similar. How does your series set you apart?
All artists should continue to do it. For me this is not a competition. Rather it is about how we work together to show the importance of dance and all the arts. What we offer at Ballet Hispánico is dance with an immersed cultural experience to the Latinx world. There are not many dance companies with this singular vision and offerings.

Where are the teachers teaching from?
Teachers are teaching in their homes, in living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens! All in the metropolitan NYC area. We have a core group of teachers that rotate dates, genres and age levels. We have a template of guidelines for teachers to follow, and we assess the classes weekly via Zoom meetings. At first, we began developing classes on a weekly timeline. Currently we are planning weeks in advance and hope to maintain this online presence even after this crisis.

Will the videos be archived to access at any other times?
Some of our watch parties and online classes are archived, and we are now working on archiving all of the work.

How do you and the dancers maintain physical and emotional well-being at this time?
Physical and emotional wellness is a personal journey, and all artists have their own individual methodologies. For me, it is important to remain moving. While I don’t dance anymore, it is still very important for me to stay connected to a physical practice, and I am certain it’s the same for most of our dancers. So I am taking our online classes as well as other forms, like Pilates, and Yoga, all online.

How did you choose the 50th Anniversary program?
The program for the 50th Anniversary season was lovingly curated to celebrate the history of Ballet Hispánico and the exceptional contributions of Latinx choreographers. It was a labor of love going through the different eras of the organization and finding the right mix. I am saddened we could not do it this April.

Will you be performing it at some time in the future?
We are already planning for the next performance after this pandemic and there will certainly be many of the same works on that program. We will celebrate the 50th and it will be more important and heartfelt than ever.

In the press release announcing the 50th Anniversary program, you stated that it “provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, get back to our roots by reaching out to community near and far, and look forward to what is ahead." Can you expand on this?
I chose certain works that were “firsts.” For example, we have a work by Graciela Daniele, the first Latina choreographer to choreograph on Broadway. We have a beautiful work by Mrs. Daniele called Cada Noche. . .Tango. Then there is Nacho Duato’s first work, Jardí Tancat, which is a world-renowned master work by the Spanish choreographer. Or the work of Vicente Nebrada, who was one of the first Venezuelan choreographers to make work for ballet companies worldwide. These works show us how far we have come to be included and be represented in the field and beyond.

Through programs like our Instituto Coreográfico, where we are nurturing new Latinx choreographers and putting new relevant works on stage, we reach into our community by supporting our own and giving them the opportunity that they have yearned for and deserve. I look forward to building up the field with our artists and our voices.

To access the Instagram series, go to Hashtag #BUnidos at www.instagram.com/ballethispanico

Photo © & courtesy of Michelle Tabnick

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