Ballet Hispánico stretches Latino horizons at The Joyce

Ballet Hispanico’s 2019 New York season explores the connections between the Latinx and Asian diasporas at The Joyce Theater in Chelsea, Manhattan, Tuesday-Sunday, March 26-31, 2019. From $20

Ballet Hispánico 2019 New York Season

Ballet Hispánico presents another exciting season with a twist on an Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (Colombian-Belgian) restaging and world premieres by Edwaard Liang (Chinese-American) and Bennyroyce Royon (Filipino-American).

The Company explores Latin identity in the context of migration and assimilation. It’s all part of our greater Hispanic diaspora. Wherever the choreography comes from, the passion of the Ballet Hispánico dancers is hard to beat.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s ‘Sombrerísimo’

Ballet Hispánico dances Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's 'Sombrerísimo.' Courtesy Susan Bestul / Ballet Hispánico.

Ballet Hispánico dances Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s ‘Sombrerísimo.’ Courtesy Susan Bestul / Ballet Hispánico.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is a Colombian-Belgian international choreographer. She is the 2019 winner of the Jacob Pillow Dance Award.

This season Ballet Hispánico restages her ‘Sombrerísimo’ (2013).

When Latins meet, we observe speech patterns to identify where you are from and your social class. How you dress also identifies you. Lopez Ochoa bases this athletic dance on the variety of sombreros (hats) in the Latin world.

Ballet Hispánico dances Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's 'Sombrerísimo.' Courtesy Susan Bestul / Ballet Hispánico.

Ballet Hispánico dances Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s ‘Sombrerísimo.’ Courtesy Susan Bestul / Ballet Hispánico.

Being a Belgian immigrant, she is also inspired by the bowler hats of iconic Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. That’s a natural fit for a Colombian because Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez is the father of magical realism, the literary equivalent of surrealism in art. It also connects us with Mexico, which surrealists claim is one of the most naturally surreal countries in the world.

Magical realism and surrealism may be considered to be artistic constructs, but they represent the real magic Latins experience in our own everyday lives. For us, it’s not magic, it’s life.

The dance was originally staged with men. In a nod to the increasing presence of women on the world stage, Lopez Ochoa restages ‘Sombrerísimo’ with the women of Ballet Hispánico. That’s even more fun.

Edwaard Liang ‘El Viaje’ World Premiere

Ballet Hispánico. Courtesy Paula Lobo.

Ballet Hispánico gets up close and personal. Courtesy Paula Lobo.

‘El Viaje’ is an emotional and thought-provoking journey through the Chinese diaspora. Liang smartly evokes the feelings of remembering, sharing and letting go that we all go through when we leave our homeland for a new life.

In many ways, the ghosts of former lives never completely leave us. They linger around our new identity, especially in Chinese culture which thinks in very long time frames beyond one human lifetime.

Edwaard Liang is a Taiwanese-born American dancer and choreographer from California who is currently the Artistic Director for Ballet Met in Columbus, Ohio.

Liang danced for New York City Ballet from 1993-2001 and 2004-2007 rising to soloist. During his break, he danced on Broadway and for Nederlands Dance Theater 1. In 2006 he won the National Choreographic Competition and ‘Dance Magazine’ named him one of the top 25 choreographers to watch. In 2018, he created a new ballet for Roberto Bolle for the Word Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Bennyroyce Royon ‘Homebound/Alaala’ World Premiere

Royon is a Filipino-American choreographer who combines Broadway and the street.

‘Homebound/Alaala’ explores the intersection of Latino and Asian culture through Filipino ideas of communal unity (bayanihan), the resilience of women, overcoming hardship and the quest for home.

I’m writing this from Puerto Rico, and the same ideas are a perfect fit for this island’s Taíno culture. It seems that no matter where you look, even on the other side of your world, the human experience is fundamentally the same.

Royon is a an adjunct professor at Adelphi University and leads Bennyroyce Dance.

He is Julliard School graduate who has worked for the Metropolitan Opera and for the New York Philharmonic. He did choreography for ‘The King and I’ on Broadway.

Ballet Hispánico Spring 2019 Performances

  • Tuesday, March 26 at 7:30pm
  • Wednesday, March 27 at 7:30pm. Curtain chat.
  • Thursday, March 28 at 8pm
  • Friday, March 29 at 8pm
  • Saturday, March 30 at 2pm
  • Saturday, March 30 at 8pm
  • Sunday, March 31 at 2pm
  • Sunday, March 31 at 7:30pm

Ballet Hispánico Spring 2019 Tickets

Tickets are available at the Joyce Theater Box Office, by phone and online. From $20

Ballet Hispánico and New York Latin Culture Magazine would like to offer you a discount on $45+ tickets. Use discount code BHC19

Joyce Theater Box Office

Daily: 12pm – 6pm

On days when there are performances, the box office is open through curtain time, but advance sales end one hour before curtain time.


JoyceCharge: (212) 242-0800


A $6 per ticket web fee is applied.

Get tickets at

The Joyce Theater

175 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(at 19th St)
Chelsea, Manhattan

Chinese Latinx?

Absolutely. It’s long overdue for us to broaden our concepts of Mi Gente (my people).

Indigenous Americans Have Asian Roots

First of all Indigenous Americans arrived from Asia. Growing up in Los Angeles and Bangkok, Thailand as a child, I noticed how Mexican and Chinese grandmothers look strikingly alike.

Then anthropologists identified the shovel tooth incisors (scooped front teeth) which only Asians and Indigenous Americans have.

Now DNA studies prove it. You can also see it with your own eyes (although looks can be deceiving).

The Philippines were Spanish for almost 400 Years

Spain controlled the Philippines from 1521 to 1898. Acapulco-Manila was the main Spanish galleon route across the Pacific, so Filipinos came to the Americas during the Spanish colonial period.

The Spanish-American War of 1899 ended the Spanish Empire and started the American one. The Hispanic influence in the Philippines was diminished by American control, but many Filipinos still have Hispanic last names.

‘1898, Our Last Men in the Philippines’ is a good movie based on the true story about the last Spanish garrison in the Philippines. It was cut off from Spain because the Spanish government collapsed. The soldiers refused to leave their posts without orders even though the Tagalog people invited them to stop fighting. When the end finally came after almost a year of skirmishes, the Spaniards were allowed to depart with honor — even though they had been terribly cruel. You can watch the movie on Netflix.

Chinese Workers Replaced African Slaves

Slavery was abolished across the Spanish Empire, including in Cuba, by royal decree on October 7, 1886.  After that, Chinese were imported to be the workforce.

My friend Elio Villafranca, who is a Grammy-nominated Cuban composer about the African diaspora, explained to me that the Chinese were the first outsiders to really understand how badly Africans had been treated. They understood because they were next in line and received similar harsh treatment.

The Spanish-Chinese Diner

One of the outcomes of Chinese in Cuba was the Spanish-Chinese restaurant in New York City. They are disappearing now, but New York used to have simple Spanish-Chinese diners.

They were actually Cuban. Remember, what we now call Cuba was once called New Spain. The food was great (especially for a Chinese who lives and works in the Latin world), but I always wondered how that combination came about.

My old favorites are gone now, but our readers know. GJ Medina tells us there is Sabrosura in The Bronx (Castle Hill and Parkchester). Di Gutierrez says there is a Jardin de China in Queens. Chris Vázquez says there is La Caridad on 78th and Broadway.

Chinese-Cuban Surrealism

Another outcome of this mix was Cuban surrealist painter Wifredo Lam (1902-1982). He is one of the famous surrealists and one of the most famous Cuban artists. His full name is Wifredo Óscar de la Concepción Lam y Castilla.

Wifredo worked to revive Afro-Cuban themes which at the time were not celebrated. His grandmother was a Congolese former slave. His grandfather was a Cuban mulatto (white-black mix according to the Spanish casta system), and his father was a Chinese immigrant.

You can see Wifredo’s work at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. His work also shows up regularly in New York City art fairs and art auctions.

There is also Latinx in Asia

Many things operate both ways and there is also a Hispanic/Luso presence in Asia.

Ternate in Indonesia has some Mexican heritage from the Acapulco-Manila Spanish colonial trade. Some Colombians and Peruvians also made it to the Philippines.

There are also coastal cities that have a Spanish or Portuguese heritage from the colonial trade. The Portuguese opened the rade routes. Goa in western India was a Portuguese colony until 1961. Macao, the Chinese gambling resort island, was Portuguese until 1999. The coast of Africa is dotted with cities and countries that speak Portuguese.

There is a more recent Brazilian migration or return migration to Japan.

If you have a broader concept of Latin, you get Italians like Marco Polo on the Silk Road and the French in Indochina.

The traditional concepts of national identity are starting to fall apart through human nature. Today we are not just Latinx. We are becoming Humanx.

The Migration Experience is Similar for Everyone

Regardless of where we come from and where we ended up, the migration experience is similar for everyone. The shared experience of leaving and arriving and becoming unites us all. It usually goes something like this:

  • Something really bad forces you to leave your home. Usually if you don’t leave, you or a family member will die. You might also be kidnapped or tricked into some form of slavery.
  • You’re an optimist, so you believe that you can make it. That optimism gets you through every hardship.
  • You are a clever and hard worker, so eventually you do make it. (Migrants are too busy surviving to get into trouble the way some people say.)
  • Along the way, you really miss the culture and the people you left behind. As you begin to succeed you try to reclaim some of who you are.
  • You teach your kids about your heritage. They get some of it.
  • Your grandchildren have no idea where they came from.

You can take a human baby from any race, religion or culture; put them in a different culture; and they will grow up just like a local. There is only one human race living on earth today.

The Contemporary Asian Diaspora in Latin America

The Americas have long been the land of opportunity, enslavement or escape. For better or worse, we still are (on all three points). So migration continues. Jewish-Uruguayan Academy Award and Latin Grammy winner Jorge Drexler says we’ve been migrating ever since we got two feet.

Brazil has both Chinese and Japanese diasporas. Peru has a large Chinese diaspora.

The Chinese are also buying up raw material resources, building infrastructure and migrating everywhere in the world today.

Ballet Hispánico is a True Latinx Thought Leader

In the best tradition of dance, Ballet Hispánico is not just a dance company. They are dead center on point at the intersection of Anglo and Latinx that is our country today.

It is kind of cool how well Ballet Hispánico understands that we are from all over. This is unusual because humans tend to be completely blind to the experience of “other” cultural groups.

You don’t even have to be prejudiced. We just seem to be naturally blind to what other people are going through, even if our parents or grandparents suffered through many of the same things.

In order to understand the “other,” you have to get outside of yourself. That takes serious self-awareness. The paradox you find when you get there, is that there is no “them.” There is only us.

Bienvenido (Welcome). It’s a little embarrassing once you realize how you’ve been fooled into seeing ghosts by your own fear and insecurity.

Now is the time to be fearless. ¡Palante! (Go forward!)

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