‘Carmen’ meets Picasso: NYC’s Latino troupe Ballet Hispanico heads to Israel

‘Carmen’ meets Picasso: NYC’s Latino troupe Ballet Hispanico heads to Israel

The classic femme fatale story is brought to life by dancers in black and white in a critically acclaimed departure

“Carmen,” the classic tale of a woman of exotic and bewildering beauty who seduces two very different men with her singing and dancing, is coming to Israel later this month as interpreted in a contemporary, critically acclaimed version by a leading Latino dance organization from New York, Ballet Hispanico.

The story of this fatal love triangle was written by 19th century French author and historian Prosper Mérimée, and was later set to music by his compatriot Georges Bizet. The novella and opera both evoke a sun-scorched landscape in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, with its gypsies (like the Carmen character), bands of smugglers, handsome soldiers (Don José), and dashing bullfighting heroes (Escamillo).

The dance company, committed to exploring the Latino experience through movement, has interpreted “Carmen” with a new vision, said artistic director Eduardo Vilaro, speaking from New York.

“Everybody has their own idea about what Spanish is,” said Vilaro, who was born in Cuba and came to the United States as a child. “For us, it is important that we are taking back ‘Carmen’ in our own way.”

New York’s Ballet Hispanico will perform ‘Carmen Maquia,’ in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa in July 2019 (Courtesy Ballet Hispanico)

It’s the company’s second time in Israel, after performing here two years ago.

Hispanico, founded by Tina Ramirez nearly 50 years ago, was taken over by Vilaro ten years ago. It is dedicated to exploring Spanish and Latin American identities.

In “Carmen,” Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano chose to bring together elements from the classical ballet tradition, contemporary dance, the Spanish paso doble based on the Spanish military march, and flamenco. The music will be a mixture of Bizet and de Sarasate.

While Mediterranean settings generally call for bright, sunny colors, in this show the dancers wear costumes in black and white as part of choreographer Ramirez Sansano’s desire to dissociate the story of “Carmen” from the “stereotypical,” said Vilaro.

Vilaro added that the black and white staging can be directly linked to Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, who had a black and white period and was obsessed with the Spanish female, drawing many Carmen-like faces and figures.

While Ballet Hispanico is in residence in Israel, it will also visit different communities and offer dance workshops for all levels.

“Carmen Maquia,” at the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv on July 20-22, at the Jerusalem Theater on July 23, and at the Haifa Auditorium on July 24.

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