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Several years ago the Michigan Opera Theatre made a core commitment – to celebrate the tremendous cultural contributions made by Latino artists and present them at the Detroit Opera House. Their first major effort was Frida – an opera about the life of the iconic 20th-century Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. The opera was hailed by critics and sold out six performances. In continuation of that commitment, MOT will present Ballet Hispánico, one of the premier Latino dance organizations in the United States.  

Founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez, a Venezuelan-born dancer and choreographer, Ballet Hispánico started as a community-based school and performing arts group that has grown into an internationally recognized dance company whose uniqueness stems from their exploration of Latino culture through dance. 

The performances on October 28th and 29th will showcase the talent of three powerful Latina choreographers as well as a diversity of world-class dancers who explore Latino culture through the lens of social equity and cultural identity —all of which have become defining characteristics of Ballet Hispánico.  

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MOT will present Ballet Hispánico, one of the premier Latino dance organizations in the United States.

“Throughout its history, Michigan Opera Theatre has presented and produced a variety of dance and opera productions that represent and serve the diverse cultures of Detroit,” says MOT CEO, Wayne Brown. “With Ballet Hispánico, we are proud to celebrate our Latino community with exciting works that highlight different aspects of the Hispanic experience.” 

All three works are by Latina choreographers, a rarity in the dance world.

“We definitely have more female dancers than male dancers, but when it comes to positions of leadership like a choreographer or director, it’s male-dominated,” says choreographer Michelle Manzanales. “Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro was intentional about making it a program of all female choreographers. It's special and it’s something that we need to see more of, and he’s contributing to that.”

The program will open with “Linea Recta” by choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and will be performed to an original guitar composition by Eric Vaarzon Morel. The work melds ballet, contemporary dance, and flamenco with passionate communication between the sexes. The intense moves, along with dramatic staging and costumes, add flair to an already show-stopping piece.           

Mexican-American Manzanales choreographed “Con Brazos Abiertos” (“With Open Arms”). The work is an ode to a life caught between two cultures and showcases Manzanales’ experience as a child, exploring the iconic Mexican symbols she grew up and was reluctant to embrace. Intertwined are folkloric details with a distinctly contemporary voice in dance. The piece is set to music such as “Maria Bonita,” a bolero from the ’40s sung by Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias to a cover of the song “Creep” by Radiohead. 

The performance will conclude with “3. Catorce Dieciséis,” choreographed by Tania Pérez-Salas. The work draws inspiration from the number Pi to reflect on the circularity of the movement through life. It features intense theatricality and imagery set to music by Antonio Vivaldi and other Baroque composers.

Ballet Hispánico uses the language of dance to interpret the complexity and challenge the preconceived notions of being a contemporary Latino: One whose family arrived five generations ago or someone who just arrived from Mexico, one who loves hip-hop as much as he loves Mariachi music, and one who doesn’t feel completely American or completely Mexican but daily confronts decades-old stereotypes.  

Set to vibrant music with dramatic costumes and staging is a show that will captivate audiences of all backgrounds.  

“Ballet Hispanico creates conversation,” Manzanales says. “The show allows people to learn about one another. Latinos are more than one thing, we’re more than a stereotype, we’re more than an icon.”

For more information visit MichiganOpera.org

This story provided and presented by our sponsor Michigan Opera Theatre. 

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.

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