When as a child I misbehaved, my mother’s ultimate threat was to send me packing to the gypsies. Certainly she couldn’t have had in mind the kind of gypsies who inhabit Ramon Oller’s Bury Me Standing, a world premiere presented by Ballet Hispanico on opening night. Far from the rambunctious outlaw society to which I was to be exiled—frankly, it didn’t sound so bad—Oller’s gypsies are pensive, and the community they form is not so much rebellious as alienated. Roger Morgan’s shadowy lighting suggests the tone, and the dancers’ tendency to look down or toward the back of the stage deepens the feeling of being apart from the world.
Or if not apart, then inside them selves. To get at this state, Oller draws upon the flamenco tradition of his native Spain, with its implosive energy and brooding sensibility. Yet Bury Me Standing is not a flamenco dance. Rather, Oller adheres the style to a generic modern dance idiom, and out of this mix of two familiar genres comes something distinctive and hand some.
He introduces the blend in the opening solo, danced with great dignity by Pedro Ruiz. Here we see the large, muscular thrusts of his torso working alongside his delicately curling arms, which cut rivulets through the space around him. Ruiz’s great gift as a dancer is to make that space not an inanimate, weightless thing but an invisible person with whom he constantly interacts.
Besides blending flamenco with modern dance, Oller does other interesting things with it, like giving it a blunter sexuality. Hand clapping is a signature of flamenco. Well, in one of the piece’s group dances, Oller has the women plunge into deep squats and clap their hands against their inner thighs. Martha Graham’s ladies do this gutsy move all the time, but to see it in a flamenco context is startling.
Also on the opening-night bill were Oller’s Una Mujer Llorando and Ann Reinking’s Ritmo y Ruido, in which everyone glistened despite the tired choreography.