Performing with great purity, energy, elegance and sensuality, the 12 dancers of Ballet Hispanico of New York created a strong first impression at Fullerton's Plummer Auditorium on Saturday. The program showed off their versatility with a vivid, mural-like depiction of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, a sultry whorehouse dance-drama and virtuosic solos evoking the exuberance of Rio de Janeiro carnival revelers.
Talley Beatty's "Tres Cantos" (1975)--to the music of Carlos Chavez, Lorenzo Fernandez and Silvestre Revueltas--evoked the dignity and pride of an Indian society via tautly upright postures, thrusting arms, pliant torsos and a sober weightedness reminiscent of the style of Martha Graham. The use of lengths of fabric to convey the stifling control of the Spanish conquerors also suggested a homage to the metaphorical use of cloth by Graham.
Among the more striking images was the covey of women in billowing cloaks who paused, looking skyward with palms up, like a chorus of clairvoyants. As the Indians' Leader, Pedro Ruiz created a dramatic aura with the keen attack and sustained intensity of his movements. Swathed in a long cloak in the middle conquest section, he seemed fatefully under the sway of the unseen conquistadors, ever-so-slightly cantilevering his upper body while the music shrilled tensely.
If "Cada Noche . . . Tango" (1988) was a disappointment to those who expected to see couples doing the tango--newly popular in the United States. in the wake of "Tango Argentino"--the piece did offer an unusually plausible bordello scene, full of seemingly casual gestures that suddenly erupt into violence. In Graciela Daniele's choreography, these men and women of the Buenos Aires underclass are a microcosm of a society with strongly defined sexual roles and touchy pride.
Amid the cigarette smoke, slouching figures and roaming hands, Ruiz and Jose Costas pick an elaborately stylized fight. Eventually, as the raspy, sighing taped accordion music of Astor Piazzola plays on, they form an aggressive three-way relationship with proud and mysterious Nancy Turano. The pure dance passages occurred in brief moments--someone's walk, two women who suddenly dip their knees twice--that flashed out of the moody darkness.
"Batucada Fantastica," choreographed by Vincente Nebrada in 1982 to the percussive music-with-chants of Luciano Perrone, concluded the program by showcasing eight dancers in ultra-flexible, sometimes appealingly goofy parades of movements that changed direction and shape with dizzying speed.