Ballet Hispanico mixes ballet with Latin dance

Photo provided by Ballet Hispanico -- The Ballet Hispanico dance company will perform on Saturday, Dec. 8, in the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans. The performance is presented by the New Olreans Ballet Association.
Photo provided by Ballet Hispanico -- The Ballet Hispanico dance company will perform on Saturday, Dec. 8, in the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans. The performance is presented by the New Olreans Ballet Association.

The prospect of warmer weather is appealing, never mind that it’s raining in Louisiana.

At least, it was raining at this moment, when Eduardo Vilaro spoke from New York City.

That’s where Ballet Hispanico is headquartered, and Vilaro is the dance company’s artistic director. It’s also a place that’s often covered in snow.

“We are really looking forward to coming to New Orleans and its warmer weather,” Vilaro said. “It’s going to be so nice.”

Ballet Hispanico will be coming to New Orleans on Saturday, Dec. 8, where the company will perform in the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts, the second show in the New Orleans Ballet Association’s 2012-13 season.

But it doesn’t stop there. The company will stay in town a little longer to host a Latin Dance Party in the Pan American Life Center immediately after its performance.

So, even if Louisiana’s unpredictable weather might take a chilly turn, Ballet Hispanico surely will heat things up with its mix of ballet and Latin dance. Add the Grammy Award-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to the mix, and the experience is complete.

“The jazz orchestra is coming with us,” Vilaro said. “We’ll be dancing to their live music.”

Now if Paquito D’Rivera were traveling with the company, he would step on stage during the piece, Danzon. Vilaro collaborated with the jazz clarinetist in creating the piece.

D’Rivera wrote the music, and Vilaro choreographed it.

“We did this some years ago, and when I told him we would be bringing it back, he was excited,” Vilaro said. “He took the music and tweaked it.”

D’Rivera usually plays his clarinet on stage when the piece is performed.

“But he won’t be in New Orleans when we perform it there,” Vilaro said. “It’s still a great piece, and the audience will have fun with it.”

Ballet Hispanico also will be performing Tito on Timbale, a tribute to master percussionist Tito Puente. The piece is choreographed by William Whitener and captures the joy and intricacies of social dance through cascading patterns and sensual partnering.

And then there’s the finale, Club Havana, created by Cuban choreographer Pedro Ruiz.

“Club Havana is Latin dancing at its best,” Vilaro said.

“It captures Havana in the 1950s, and the costumes are so great.”

As for Vilaro, he was 6 years old when he moved to New York from his native Cuba. He began dance training as a teenager on scholarship at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, then studied at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance.

He received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts in dance from Adelphi University and his master’s degree in arts in interdisciplinary art from from Columbia College in Chicago.

Vilaro has been Ballet Hispanico’s artistic director since August 2009, following a 10-year record of achievement as founder and artistic director of Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago. Vilaro has been part of the Ballet Hispanico family since 1985.

So, as Christmas season cools things down, Ballet Hispanico will be heating it up with its combination of Latin and classical in New Orleans.