Written By Diana Dunbar
April 3, 2019 at 3:51 PM

Ballet Hispanico returns to Miami this weekend with a program which features two alumni of the New World School of the Arts, Laura Lopez and Melissa Verdecia.  Lopez is a graduate of both the high school and the college division while Verdecia attended the high school then went on to the Juilliard School for college.  In speaking by phone with each dancer, both acknowledged the huge role New World School of the Arts played in their development as dancers. Verdecia says it was at New World that she was first exposed to Modern dance and the techniques of Jose Limon and Martha Graham among other choreographers. Lopez hasn’t performed in Miami since 2016 while Verdecia is herself a choreographer who has created pieces for the Peter London Global Dance Company and Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami.  Lopez performed with Complexions Dance Company (NYC) and BHdos before joining the main company, Ballet Hispanico. She is in her first season with the company; Verdecia is in her seventh season.

Ballet Hispanico is presenting an all Latina program as all three pieces being performed are choreographed by Latin women. Eduardo Vilaro is the artistic director and CEO of the company, a position he has held for the last ten years. Vilaro was a dancer with the company when it was led by its founder and artistic director Tina Ramirez (1970- 2009).  The troupe is an “organization which gives a voice to the voiceless,” says Vilaro in a phone conversation.

By presenting a program with choreography by three Latin women Vilaro says it is a way to “show that we have Latina leaders in the field of choreography.” The three pieces on the program are: “Linea Recta” by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa; “Con Brazos Abiertos” by Michelle Manzanales; and “3. Catorce Dieciséis choreographed by Tania Perez- Salas.

“Linea Recta” recognizes the company’s connection to Spain and to Ramirez who was a flamenco dancer. It is a fusion of flamenco with contemporary dance and with flamenco guitar music by Eric Vaarzon Morel. Verdecia says Ochoa was influenced by images in black and white of flamenco dancers. “She saw the negative spaces and the tension in the images.” Ochoa is one of the most prominent choreographers working today and her piece also examines flamenco done without physical partnering while still remaining true to the roots of the art form.

“Con Brazos Abiertos” Vilaro says is a work which describes what it is like to live in the middle.  It has its world premiere at the Joyce Theater in 2017. Manzanales is Mexican-American and the piece brings up identity issues and is performed to a wide range of music, from Julio Iglesias to rock in Spanish. The piece is full of humor and intertwine folkloric movements with contemporary styles of dance.

The final piece on the program, “3. Catorce Dieciséis “touches on the “never ending, cyclical nature of life…the work is very athletic and passionate” Vilaro says. Perez-Salas examines the number Pi to express how our lives are a circular movement through time. The piece is very theatrical and is performed to music by Vivaldi and other Baroque composers. “A work of dance art,” Vilaro says.

Vilaro, who is Cuban-American, has a long history with Miami as he used to spend summers here visiting his grandmother. “Miami has a wonderful training ground, starting with Miami City Ballet and the work Lourdes Lopez is doing. New World School of the Arts does an amazing job teaching, and there are many Cuban teachers. It is a beautiful training ground.”

Jordan Levin, former dance critic for the Miami Herald, will moderate a free dance talk with Mr. Vilaro at 6:30 pm in the Lab Theater. A post -show discussion will take place immediately following the performance.

Ballet Hispanico will perform the All Latina Choreographers Program at 8:00 pm Saturday, April 6, at South Miami- Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211 Street, Cutler Bay. Tickets are $25-45. Call 786-573-5300 or go to

PHOTO: Ballet Hispánico’s Eila Valls and Mark Gieringer, photo by Paula Lobo is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, music and performing-arts news. Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.

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