More than a decade after its last Pittsburgh Dance Council appearance, Ballet Hispanico returns with a new artistic director, Eduardo Vilaro.
Vilaro, himself a former principal dancer with the Latin-centric Ballet Hispanico, took the reins in 2009 from his mentor, company founder Tina Ramirez.
Vilaro says he initially joined Ballet Hispanico as a dancer to explore the art form through the prism of his cultural heritage. He later spent a decade with Luna Negra Dance Theatre, a company he founded in Chicago. Returning to Ballet Hispanico, he says, not only reconnected him with the group that made him who he was as an artist, but offered him the ability "to make a wider impact on my community in a shorter time, which was very important to me."
Vilaro feels that in many ways he and Ramirez are on the same page regarding a vision for the company, so he hasn't tried to change much. The award-winning choreographer will, however, soon get his first opportunity to leave his mark on the repertory, creating a new work for the troupe this fall.
Meanwhile, Ballet Hispanico's March 5 program, at the Byham Theater, includes three works with Latin themes but very different stylistic approaches.
The late Talley Beatty's "Tres Cantos" (1975) traces Mexican history from its Aztec roots and Spanish conquest to nationhood. The 30-minute work in three sections, set to music by composers Carlos Chavez, Lorenzo Fernandez and Silvestre Revueltas, "is not a play-by-play narrative," says Vilaro. "Beatty uses images to show the struggle of these people and to show the re-emergence of the pride and strength of them even after a conquest."
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's theatrical dance work "Mad'Moiselle" (2010), says Vilaro, "is an exploration of the Latino icon Maria, who is both sacred and profane."
Set to music by Bart Rijnink (with a nod to Leonard Bernstein), the work abstractly references various symbols of Maria in Latin culture, from the Virgin Mary to Maria from West Side Story.
Rounding out the program is Pedro Ruiz's "Club Havana," a work with a Latin ballroom-esque feel to it. From the rumba and mambo to the conga and cha-cha, the piece, with its infectious rhythms, takes on a party atmosphere and is sure to have audience members dancing in their seats.
Ballet Hispanico 8 p.m. Sat., March 5. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $19.50-45.75. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org