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‘Maria’ full of grace and sass

The grand finale of Ballet Hispanico’s opening night, a new work by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa called “Mad’Moiselle,” claims to be about gender issues and role playing in Latin American cultures.

The grand finale of Ballet Hispanico’s opening night, a new work by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa called “Mad’Moiselle,” claims to be about gender issues and role playing in Latin American cultures. The female dancers wear skimpy black dresses and bright red Buster Brown wigs, acquiring other adornments as events progress; the men begin in simple black trousers and T-shirts and, as do the women, eventually take off their tops. Min-Tzu Li, the sole Asian woman in the troupe, parades in red platform boots and fantastic bustles, headdresses and tails.

But the real exploration of gender, emotion and cultural appropriation happens in Bart Rijnink’s score, which leads off with iconic themes from “West Side Story,” the ’50s musical written in and about New York by a flock of gay white Jewish guys who stole a plot from Shakespeare and made a fortune. We hear the yearning notes of “Maria,” both in the deep tones of a bass fiddle and in the emotional cries of the cast, calling to us across the proscenium. Then we listen to a medley of songs from diverse Latin cultures, all of which feature the name Maria, concluding with the “Ave Maria” prayer; the curtain descends on a chorus of “Amen.”

“Mad’Moiselle” has entertaining moments, but would be a better dance if it took more chances and were tightened up. You can see it on each of the company’s three Joyce programs, along with dances by Maray Ramis Gutierrez (the new “Puntos Suspensivos,” to a live string trio by Gabriela Lena Frank), Talley Beatty (the 1975 “Tres Cantos”), Andrea Miller, Vicente Nebrada and others.

 
 
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