Interview with Eduardo Vilaro, Artistic Director of Ballet Hispanico
Posted on 07/01/2018
Ballet Hispánico, the nation’s premier Latino dance organization, has been bringing communities together to celebrate and explore Latino cultures for more than 48 years. Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro joins us to discuss how the group came into existence and what people can expect on the evening of the show on October 11.
Bert: There is a terrific show that is coming up Thursday October 11th, and it’s actually going to be a State Theatre debut and Kelly always likes when the new entertainment is coming in and making its debut at State Theatre, you want to talk about who’s going to be there that night.
Kelly: Yeah. always great to have a new performer or act on stage at State theatre, always bringing new shows at the State Theatre that are very important to us, and for the first time we’ll be bringing Ballet Hispanico, and with us today is the artistic director, Eduardo Vilaro, welcome Eduardo.
Eduardo: Thank you, thank you, it's wonderful to be here.
Kelly: So, Eduardo tell us about Ballet Hispanico, for those who don’t know about your company…when did you guys get started, when did you join the company?
Eduardo: Sure, well Ballet Hispanico has been in existence for over 48 years, it was started by Tina Ramirez who was a performer, dancer, and an amazing flamenco artist, who wanted to give voice to the Latino artists in New York City and our nation, so she began with six young ladies, a handful of young ladies, trained them to an ability that far surpassed what she began, and that’s how the company began. So, I always like to say that the company began with the view that the art and the education as going hand in hand is important for a community.
Bert: Terrific, what I think about this show, Eduardo, is something about dance like this, something tells me that it's an unparallel level of passion and excitement, is that what people can expect that night, that’s kind of what I'm getting from you just listening to you here.
Eduardo: Absolutely, a lot of excitement, a lot of athleticism, and of course always the passion that is in every culture found, but certainly ours is full of music and dance passion.
Kelly: Nice, and tell us about your role as an artistic director
Eduardo: So, I am the artistic director, so I am the keeper of the mission and vision, I am a curator in essence, I am also the CEO of the situation, so I work with both sides of my brain here, and uh you know I have the honor and the opportunity to uh make beautiful works of art with the other artists that come, the choreographers the teachers, I get to nurture students, and we get to bring the vision of diversity to uh throughout our world, and that is spectacular. We were just in Europe for about a month touring with the company.
Bert: Excellent, and I like the idea of being an art director and CEO, cause one side of the brain says “this is fun,” but the other side says “let's go with it” and exactly.
Eduardo: Or the other way around, it’s like this is great can I have this, “nooo.”
Bert: But then you talk yourself out of it, the artistic side
Bert: Born in Cuba, came to the U.S. as a boy, was it an artistic pursuit that brought you here, how did you find yourself in the U.S. Eduardo?
Eduardo: No no no, we’re an immigrant family, my family was fleeing the new regime that was coming in the 50s in Cuba, and uh they wanted to give us a better place, uh to find and live our lives without feeling repressed from a government, so they brought us here, we were not the Miami Cubans, we came straight to New York we had family in New York, and um you know America is my home, I grew up here, I was six years old, and it's been an amazing journey. I found dance while I was in catholic grade school by a production of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and I was Linus and I had to dance, so I created the dance and I was hooked by the audience's response.
Kelly: Nice, and engaging with kids through your school of dance that’s very important for Ballet Hispanico, correct?
Eduardo: Absolutely, uh I think you know, giving everyone access to the art, cause you never know where you’ll end up you know, sure, everyone wants a profession or a professional person in their family, a lawyer a doctor, but you know sometimes we have another calling, and we love giving access, we have tons of scholarship opportunities here for kids, um and we’ve seen a lot of people grow and go on into the world and find themselves in this artform. So, really, it's one of my favorite parts of my job is just seeing those young people unleash themselves.
Bert: It’s a sort of split right down the middle Eduardo, whether its traditional dance or more contemporary things, cause we talk to dance troops all the time on this program and they have a very modern, very contemporary approach to what they do but at the same time, they're respectful towards traditions and sort of generational music and generational style, is that something you’ve accomplished with this group here?
Eduardo: Yeah, yeah, it’s a fusion of classic with the contemporary, but of course we do a lot of our full tradition throughout all of Latin America, we do a lot of the Spanish forms of flamenco as well, but yes, it is keeping it in formal training and just having fun with all the contemporary infused.
Kelly: Now, looking into the program on October 11th at State Theatre, what are those three pieces, are they more on the modern side or are they combined with tradition?
Eduardo: Well, they are certainly combined with tradition, and some, there are some aspects that you say oh that’s very folkloric, so one of the things with the company that I try to do is really have a contemporary point of view for culture, so we’re talking about Latino culture, so the first piece, Sombrerísimo*, which extends from the word sombrero, which is hat, it really is uh amazing because it is like the bravura of the male dancer, it is uh seven male dancers dancing together through the kind of exploration of physicality, lots of fun, of course yes there are hats involved. (laughs) And so that’s really great, and then we move on to um a beautiful piece called, Con Brazos Abiertos which means with open arms, and it is this, choreographer, Michelle Manzanales view of herself as a second generation immigrant in America, and uh you know having to deal with everybody in the homeland, once you’re like this you know everyone here expects you to be like that, so uh you’re always somewhere in between, either your one side always trying to overpower the other, so she speaks to that and its really beautiful. Here again you’ll see some iconic representation, again a hat, a Mexican hat this time. I'm not going to divulge what the other first piece hat is, so um this is a Mexican hat, you’ll see some Mexican silhouette of their costume so that’s um very interesting, but the movement is very mixed as we talked about earlier. And then finally we have a work that transports you somewhere totally else, its baroque music, some pieces from the 3.Catorce Dieciséis, which is really a beautiful piece, and that is again another Latino and Mexican choreographer, and she wants to explore, and some choreographers come in and say “ I'm thinking of this” and I say great I want you to do something that explores your culture, and then they come back to me and say “you know what I'm Latina enough, I want just to explore this idea” and I'm like okay cool, so she plays with this idea about the number pi, and that cycle and how it's never ending, so um 3.1415, and it is athletic and just gorgeous, and makes you think wow these are just incredible artists.
Bert: This is really terrific, and now in addition of course to these hats, to be able to go on this extensive tour and I'm just looking at the dates and this is just very comprehensive and a lot of places you’re gonna be playing, uh how many performers are a part of this show, and just the costuming and wardrobing I'm sure are something that is a big part of this performance I'm guessing
Eduardo: Yes, yes it's a theatrical performance that really relies on all of those aspects you just mentioned, costumes, beautiful colors, the lighting is exquisite, very contemporary and exciting. And then the music again, you go from some Mexican music to some contemporary music, to um even some Cheech and Chong. Yeah yeah, (laughs) and finally some classical music which is just driving. So, it’s a wide birth. So again, for us, it's just the diversity found throughout any culture.
Kelly: And when you take on a new choreographer, what are you looking for in a new choreographer when you're out there on tour and you need some new pieces, what are you looking for in a new choreographer?
Eduardo: I'm looking for a choreographer who is really excited about utilizing these artists we have here and there talents to the fullest, looking for a choreographer who knows how to speak, and I'm just going to say this, truth about their vision or you know what Latina and Latino culture is for them, uh that’s very important. And I'm looking for someone who does art that reaches beyond the presidium, that you’re just not sitting back and going “oh that’s beautiful” but you’re on the edge of your seat going “oh my goodness.”
Kelly: Nice, and we look forward to this show very much., I can tell you that the photos themselves really speak out to you, I would think that even putting together those photos, your portfolios of photos that you put out there to the world, really takes a team of people right, you're looking at It and saying, “what message do we want to put out there” and “what do we want to put out.”
Eduardo: Well that’s when my artistic director kicks in and pretty much I am a fan of the photos, I love photography and the photoshoots, capturing what the vision is, because I have to make sure it connects. It’s a great team of external affairs, that then works on putting the photos, and what goes on it, and what was said, but yeah the photos is that artistic moment that I really enjoy being a part of.
Bert: Yeah and just looking at your work Eduardo, you worked all over the world, central, south America, and Europe, do you prefer kind of being out there and being out on the road or do you like kinda working out of New York City and just making sure things go as they should go, what's the best part of your work.
Eduardo: You know I fell in love with dance, by the way I was a dancer here at Ballet Hispanico, I won't give you the dates, (laughs), but you know I fell in love with the dance because of the ability to reach out to other people. So I travel with the company as often as I can, and I just love seeing the audiences and how they react, but there's nothing like coming back home, and you know our home audience is amazing.
Kelly: Yeah, and people that are interested in learning more about Ballet Hispanico what's your website, your social media
Eduardo: We’re on all platforms so, www.ballethispanico.org , were on Facebook and were also on Instagram and Twitter
Bert: This is going to be just one terrific night, so I erg you to get your tickets Thursday October 11th state theater new jersey 8pm for the state theatre debut of Ballet Hispanico which is going to be a terrific terrific night that I'm sure we’ll remember for a long time, Eduardo Vilaro thank you so much for your time today and we look forward to seeing you in New Brunswick New Jersey to bring this very special artform to our stage, we’re really excited about it.
Eduardo: Well thank you it’s been a pleasure speaking with both of you, I'm really looking forward, thank you for this.
*Program has since changed; Sombrerísimo has been replaces by Línea Recta