Dance review: Ballet Hispánico, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

For almost 50 years, Ballet Hispánico has been promoting and celebrating Latino culture through the medium of dance. Founded in New York in 1970, the company has grown from a humble dance class into an internationally recognised force.

Ballet Hispanico
Ballet Hispanico

Ballet Hispánico, Edinburgh Festival Theatre ***

Making its long-awaited UK debut at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre last week, it’s easy to see why Ballet Hispánico’s reputation precedes it. Thirteen dancers, trained to perfection and embodying a powerful mix of Latino spirit and classical acumen, act as superb ambassadors for the company’s ethos. They are, however, driving a vehicle that belongs to somebody else – the choreographer – and the journey wasn’t always as rewarding as it might be.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is best known in Scotland for her remarkable efforts at Scottish Ballet, where she co-created A Streetcar Named Desire. Her work for Ballet Hispánico, although shorter, demonstrates the same emotional intelligence and capacity to carve up the stage with captivating movement. Blending flamenco with contemporary dance, Línea Recta generates the kind of heat you’d expect from this company, with passionate lifts, flexed muscles, aerodynamic arms and just the right amount of quirk.

Carmen.maquia, on the other hand, is more a triumph for designer Luis Crespo than choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano. Crespo’s Picasso-inspired set cleverly re-framed each scene with concertinaed paper walls – while Sansano relies too heavily on our pre-existing knowledge of Prosper Mérimée’s narrative. Despite brief moments of intense choreography, the lack of clarity in the storytelling and almost cartoon-like humour make it hard to invest emotionally.