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HomeNewsArchivesDance Group Takes Steps Toward Building V.I. Ties

Dance Group Takes Steps Toward Building V.I. Ties

Ballet Hispanico dancer Eric Rivera leads a master class.With every performance, the Ballet Hispanico dance company tries to build a relationship with its audience, drawing them into the heart of Latin culture and the art of dance with ballet, modern and Spanish-inspired routines that tell stories about relationships, breaking down boundaries and crossing racial divides.

And over the past few days, dancers from the company have worked on building their relationship with the V.I. community, holding master classes for local students early Friday morning and a large group of dance enthusiasts Friday night. At both events, the stage at the Reichhold Center for the Arts was filled with bodies young and old, moving rhythmically along the wooden floor, their heels tapping out the beat of the pulsating salsa tunes that filtered in over the loudspeakers.

"What we try to do is really look for pieces that help express the multi-dimensional quality of the culture," said Eduardo Vilaro, the company’s new artistic director. While the group’s first set generally evokes the feel of what Vilaro called the "iconographic Latin ballroom," the rest of their performance tries to fuse parts of different cultures in a big metaphorical melting pot that reflects not only the diversity of the dancers, but of the world around them.

"We’re constantly mixing," Vilaro said Friday. "And that’s something that’s very important to me, because in order to find out about other cultures, you’ve got to start the dialogue, and dance is a great way to do that."

Exposing people to the world of dance also helps to build creative thinking, which is what Vilaro — who started off as a dancer at the New York-based company — said he hoped was passed along Friday to students from the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School and Charlotte Amalie High School.

"The students were amazing," he said. "It was one of the best groups I’ve seen in a long time."

Many of the students were English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, said Reichhold Marketing Manager Karen Gutloff.

"They were just so inspired to be around the group, and be around elements of their culture that were familiar to them," she said. "It was really wonderful to see — everyone was so excited."

Some local students also came out for the evening class, in which Ballet Hispanico dancers Eric Rivera and Angelica Burgos taught basic salsa moves to an eager group of beginning and advanced local dancers.

"Tonight was the first time I’ve ever done this, but it was so much fun," said 14-year-old Aslin Nelson, a student at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School. "I can’t wait to go out and try it again."

Vilaro said he hopes Ballet Hispanico will return to the territory after its performance at the Reichhold Saturday night. And the next time around, he added, the group will try to reach out to students at the university.

"It’s so wonderful here — we love it," he said. "We hope this is the start of a really nice relationship."

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