NEXT AT THE KENNEDY CENTER: Ballet Hispánico’s Doña Perón
Premieres Friday, April 14, 2023 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 / PBS App + Encore Sunday, April 16 at 3 p.m. on KPBS 2
NEXT AT THE KENNEDY CENTER will feature Ballet Hispánico’s explosive portrait of Eva “Evita” Perón – one of the most captivating and controversial women in Argentinian history. Anchored by a riveting Ballet Hispánico performance – choreographed by the highly soughtafter and award-winning Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and set to music by composer Peter Salem at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall – the special explores Eva’s rags-to-riches journey from illegitimate daughter to dancehall performer, acclaimed radio personality to Argentina’s First Lady, and her untimely death in her early thirties.
Ballet Hispánico’s Dandara Veiga (Eva “Evita” Perón), Chris Bloom (Juan Perón), and the company’s ensemble bring Doña Perón’s inner conflict and the extremes of power and powerlessness in life to light. Loved by Juan Peron but rejected by the aristocracy, Eva was dedicated to justice yet part of a regime with fascist tendencies. Her work as an activist and advocate for Argentina's women and working class raised skepticism as she indulged in the opulence of a high-class life. Was she a voice for the people, or a deceitful actress?
Through interviews with performers and Ballet Hispanico’s creative team, “Ballet Hispánico’s Doña Perón” explores the significance of Doña Perón and the process behind its conception and creation. A story most widely known to be associated with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical, Ballet Hispánico – led by Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro – forged a partnership with Lopez Ochoa to provide the opportunity for creative leaders with Latin heritage to reclaim the story’s narrative and present its own interpretation of the historical icon.
For over fifty years Ballet Hispánico has provided a place of honor for the omitted, overlooked, and othered. Founded in 1970 by National Medal of Arts recipient Tina Ramirez, Ballet Hispánico is now headed by Vilaro, who was recruited as a dancer by Ramirez in 1985. Vilaro, who emigrated from Cuba when he was five years old, carries on Ramirez’s legacy to create a home that celebrates Hispanic diasporas.
It’s no surprise the themes in Doña Perón mirror the lives lived by the artists who created and performed this powerful piece. Uprooted from their childhood homes, forced to learn a new language and a new culture, members of the company tell their stories of resilience as they come to terms with where they came from and who they are today. Each, like Eva, has to face the duality within us all in our search for achievement and inner peace. Through these lived experiences and with their dedication to the highest levels of dance, the company is able to effectively capture the essence of these ideas ever-present in her story.
The work’s music, composed by Salem, carries an emotional line of storytelling. Traditional Argentine music from the era is felt throughout, with consistent motifs and thematic melodies relating to characters and events throughout the story. The visual setting, including use of shadows and silhouettes are felt as extensions of the choreography – embodying her inner struggle and journey into proverbial sainthood. The dancers, music, and thematic elements come together in stunning fashion as we are taken through this emotional journey and Eva’s everlasting quest for acceptance.
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A production of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Matthew Winer and Steve Holtzman serve as executive producers for the Kennedy Center. Kristin Fosdick directs the series with her team in the Kennedy Center’s multimedia department.