Ballet Hispánico’s Explosive Work ‘Doña Perón’ at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theatre
‘Doña Perón’ Is Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s First Evening-Length Work
Ballet Hispánico returns to The Granada Theatre on Saturday, March 11, with Doña Perón — an explosive portrait of Eva “Evita” Perón, one of the most recognizable and controversial women in Argentinian history. Doña Perón is internationally renowned choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s first evening-length work for the company. The work centers around Evita’s diverging legacies: her secret past as a dance-hall performer and as a political and social figure as Argentina’s First Lady.
Ochoa’s choreography for Doña Perón demonstrates her skill in crafting abstract, detailed episodes. Her attention to detail for Doña Perón is illustrated in her collaboration with a dramaturg for the creation process. Ballet Hispánico Artistic Associate and Rehearsal Director Johan Rivera notes that a biographically inspired work like Doña Perón requires an intentional approach. In making a work about someone’s life, especially someone as infamous as Evita, a choreographer — and the institution that stages the work — must ask themselves what they genuinely wish to say and consider how it may differ from previous narratives.
“What we put on stage represents who we are as an organization,” says Rivera. “It also represents the excellence and quality we bring to this field.”
The creation process for Doña Perón began before the COVID-19 pandemic and required not only the work of a choreographer, dramaturg, and dancers, but also a dedicated production team. There are more than 80 costumes, and Rivera notes that “each costume is very detailed in what they represent and what they bring to the story.”
The intricate details of the costumes complement Ochoa’s detailed choreography, which engages a more emotional approach to narrative abstraction. Ochoa also uses what has been coined as her signature “constructed chaos,” which includes many small pieces moving individually at once as part of an organized whole. Rivera explains that Ochoa worked with the dancers of Ballet Hispánico in a way that highlights each dancer’s capacity to bring something personal to the production, and that contributes to the larger vision for the piece. This process also embodies Ballet Hispánico’s pride in breaking stereotypes and forging new futures by reclaiming the narrative of an iconic Latina figure through the work of a Latina choreographer.
For almost 50 years, New York–based Ballet Hispánico has brought communities together to celebrate and explore Latinx cultures through dance. Doña Perón, as one part of this long legacy, shows Ballet Hispánico’s commitment to bringing multifaceted Hispanic experiences to the stage.
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of Ballet Hispánico, we have to ask ourselves, what does the future look like?” says Rivera. “[At Ballet Hispánico], we share something unique: our community, this family, and how we celebrate diversity and inclusion. Doña Perón is an example of this work and our culture onstage.”
UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Ballet Hispánico in Doña Perón, Saturday, March 11, 8 p.m., at The Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). See artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.
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