In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, The Music Center partners with Ballet Hispánico to present INSIDE LOOK: Ballet Hispánico at 50, featuring performance excerpts from the company's repertory, including Línea Recta and Tiburones by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Con Brazos Abiertos by Michelle Manzanales and Club Havana by Pedro Ruiz. Highlighting dance engagement and commentary with company members, this interactive exploration will provide viewers insight into the connections, choreography and history of Latin American dance, music and culture with a bonus merengue dance lesson for viewers.
Artistic Director and CEO
Eduardo Vilaro joined Ballet Hispánico as artistic director in August 2009, becoming only the second person to head the Company since it was founded in 1970. In 2015, Vilaro took on the additional role of chief executive officer of Ballet Hispánico. He has been part of the Ballet Hispánico family since 1985 as a dancer and educator, after which he began a 10-year record of achievement as founder and artistic director of Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago. Vilaro has infused Ballet Hispánico’s legacy with a bold and eclectic brand of contemporary dance that reflects America’s changing cultural landscape. Born in Cuba and raised in New York from the age of six, he is a frequent speaker on the merits of cultural diversity and dance education.
Community Engagement Director
Natalia Mesa holds a master’s degree in performance arts administration from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in industrial design with a minor in business administration from Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia. Her dance training started at Ballarte Escuela de Ballet and Ballet Anna Pavlova in Bogotá. Early in her dance career, she won an honorary mention on the V Encuentro para Estudiantes de Ballet, in Havana, Cuba, obtained a scholarship for the ballet program at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and later moved to New York where she completed her dance education at The Ailey School.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Línea Recta andTiburones
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa has been choreographing since 2003 following a 12-year dance career in various contemporary dance companies throughout Europe. She has created works for 60 dance companies worldwide including Ballet Hispánico, Atlanta Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Compañía Nacíonal de Danza, Dutch National Ballet, Finnish National Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Göteborg Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, BJM-Danse Montréal, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, English National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, to name a few. In 2012, her first full length work, A Streetcar Named Desire, originally created for the Scottish Ballet, received the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for “Best Classical Choreography” and was nominated for the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production the following year. Lopez Ochoa is the recipient of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award 2019.
Choreographer and Director, School of Dance
Con Brazos Abiertos
Michelle Manzanales is a choreographer and dance educator originally from Houston, TX. Before being named director of the School of Dance in December of 2016, Manzanales was in the midst of her seventh season as the Ballet Hispánico Company rehearsal director and artistic associate. Her choreography, Con Brazos Abiertos, premiered during Ballet Hispánico’s 2017 spring season at The Joyce Theater. This “savvy but deeply sincere meditation on her Mexican-American background” (-Marina Harss, The New York Times) has since toured extensively to critical acclaim, including its inclusion in New York City Center’s 2018 Fall for Dance Festival. “This dance isn’t just about one girl’s experience; it applies to everyone, of any gender, and of any culture,” said CriticalDance. Other acclaimed works by Manzanales include her 2010 homage to Frida Kahlo, Paloma Querida, which was hailed a "visual masterpiece" by Lucia Mauro of the Chicago Tribune and was described by the Chicago Sun-Times as a “gorgeously designed, richly hallucinatory, multi-faceted vision of the artist.” Her 2007 choreography for Luna Negra Dance Theater, entitled Sugar in the Raw (Azucar Cruda), was applauded by the Chicago Sun-Times as "a staggering, beautiful, accomplished new work."
Pedro Ruiz is a renowned choreographer and dancer who was born and trained in Cuba and Venezuela. He and his family arrived in the United States in 1984, and he became a U.S. citizen 10 years later. In a 21-year career as the principal dancer at Ballet Hispánico, Ruiz also choreographed three critically acclaimed ballets for the company. Ruiz has choreographed works for The Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Chicago’s Luna Negra Dance Theater.
Ruiz has performed at the White House for two presidents and, in 1998, he received the New York dance world’s highest honor, the Bessie Award. His dances have been called “a silky, sexy joy” by the New York Times, “especially fine work of form and structure” by the New York Post, and “timeless” by Time Out magazine. His collaboration with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba is the first time a work by a Cuban American choreographer has been performed by a Cuban dance troupe.
Melissa Verdecia is from Miami, FL and received her early training from Caridad Espinosa, Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance, and New World School of the Arts, where she graduated summa cum laude in 2008. In 2012, Verdecia went on to earn her BFA in dance from The Juilliard School, where she performed works by Sidra Bell, Alex Ekman, Nacho Duato and Jerome Robbins, among others. Verdecia was selected as a modern dance finalist in The National YoungArts Foundation competition in 2008, and was featured in the HBO series Master Class. In 2016, Verdecia had the joy of being presented beside her Ballet Hispánico colleagues in Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance Series, where she performed lead roles in works by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano and Pedro Ruiz. This is Verdecia's 9th season with Ballet Hispánico.