A Latin-infused dance production with a touch of classical ballet? A local ballet company offering 1,000 tickets to a worthy cause? Talk about raising the barre.
Orlando Ballet is set to hit the stage and bring the sizzle for its upcoming production of “Bailamos!” from Friday, Feb. 15, to Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The show features a mix of tango, salsa and ballet that celebrates the diversity within Orlando Ballet and the Orlando area. It will feature music ranging from the contemporary to the classical — from the Latin Grammy Award nominee “I Love Salsa!” to excerpts from the classical ballet “Don Quijote.”
“It’s a little bit of a challenge, but it makes it fun for us,” Orlando Ballet dancer Daniel Benavides said. “It’s funny to see the girls doing salsa — instead of being in heels they have pointe shoes. They play it off though; they do (well).”
The performance is a testament to the talent of the Orlando Ballet dancers, who are well-versed in numerous styles, Orlando Ballet Artistic Director Robert Hill said. Audience members can also expect orchestral music by Mexican composers like Tomás Méndez and excepts from the ballet “Ojala,” which consists of music by singer Chavela Vargas.
“I really wanted to show a sort of cross section of the types of styles and genres that we can execute well,” Hill said.
Many Orlando Ballet dancers hail from countries like Columbia, Cuba, Brazil and Mexico as well, setting the stage for a beautiful celebration of the diversity within the company and the community, Orlando Ballet Executive Director Shane Jewell said.
“It is such a fun evening of passionate music and dance,” he said.
Hill selected “Bailamos!” to bring a vibrant performance to his 10th anniversary season — he created several of the works when he was artistic director of Ballet de Monterrey in Mexico.
“I think there’s a lot of contemporary dance that is done by classically trained ballet dancers,” Hill said. “I directed a company in Monterrey, Mexico for five years before I came here, so I have a whole list of these choreographies that I did while I was there. The Hispanic community here in Orlando is very prominent and it just made sense after I did “Bailamos!” the first time in 2010.”
On top of the extravagant production, the Orlando Ballet is welcoming some very special guests to its Saturday matinee show. The dance company is partnering with the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to offer 1,000 free tickets to individuals and families that were displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria.
“I think it’s amazing,” Hill said. “That wasn’t the purpose of doing this program, but it just happened to be that we decided as part of my 10th anniversary to add this into the mix. As a result of the tragedy, it made sense for us to do this for humanitarian purposes and to give people an opportunity to do something that they may not be able to do otherwise.”
“We’re not just a professional ballet company, we are Orlando Ballet,” Jewell said. “We belong to this community. Whenever we see a need or something we can help with … art has always been kind of an escape for people.”
Hill added that another part of the production that makes it special is how accessible it is.
“This can be your first time going to the ballet — you don’t need to know anything about ballet or dance or anything,” Hill said. “You will come, you will see very high-energy, strong dancing, strong choreography and you will go away happy that you came to see this performance.”