The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
©2005 by George Jackson
Smoke hangs in the air and cigarette butts, though swept up repeatedly
by a handyman, seem to breed on the floor. Dark corners and bright spots
give the clientele places to hide or be seen. The women slink. The men
strut. Sex is patent. It's what the denizens dance about. Shoulders, hips
and heels proclaim that this nightclub is Hispanic, no matter its era
"Nightclub" took us from a Buenos Aires dancehall brothel in
the 1920s to a social club in New York's Spanish Harlem of the 1950s and
on to a contemporary disco in an unspecified part of New York. The trip
lasted 90 minutes and there was not one intermission. Actually, it all
seemed very much the same place and the dancers showed off approximately
identical stunts no matter when or where they were supposed to exist.
For the women (and the one man cast as a gay boy), exhibitionism consisted
of high extensions; for the machos it was turns. Seldom were the turns
neat and trim but they oozed feeling. Much time was taken up by doing
a step here and another there and acting out ones attitude, but of sustained
dancing there were just wisps. Each scene had nothing as elaborate as
a plot but rather a situation.
The best moments of "Nightclub" happened in the Buenos Aires
section. Graciela Daniele's tango-based trio for a woman and two men probed
their longings and inhibitions just a bit. There wasn't much bite to Alexandre
Magno's Spanish Harlem triangle for a male dreamer, a sophisticated city
gal and his vision of the simple girl back home on the island. The New
Look gowns worn by some of the women in this second scene of "Nightclub"
made more of an impact than the romantic quandary (credit for the costume
designs goes to Paul Tazewell). In the third and final scene, choreographer
Sergio Trujillo transformed a timid "stranger" into a macho
man without giving a clue as to why the character could be interesting.
Trujillo had one woman at this disco stalk about in black toe shoes rather
than high heels; she turned out to be a scene stealer for she deployed
her pointes like a predatory bird's claws.
"Nightclub" was the conception of Ballet Hispanico's artistic
director, Tina Ramirez, and it opened the company's 2-day Washington visit.
Had a non-Hispanic company performed the work, likely there would have
been accusations of stereotyping and pandering to a non-dance public.
Today, a large proportion of the world's top dancers come from Hispanic
cultures, but that wasn't what "Nightclub" was about.
April 11, 2005
Alan M. Kriegsman
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Kathrine Sorley Walker