The Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive) welcomed the long-awaited return of Ballet Hispánico, the nation’s renowned Latinx dance organization recognized as one of America’s Cultural Treasures, with a Chicago Premiere of Doña Perón, which was in the Windy City for two performances only, on March 26 & 27, 2022.
The show was choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa with music by Peter Salem. Doña Perón was extremely exciting to watch, as it is the first full evening-length work commissioned by the Company, while reclaiming the narrative of the iconic Latina figure by a Latina choreographer.
The work was an explosive and impressive portrait of Eva “Evita” Perón, one of the most recognizable and controversial women in Argentinian history. The illegitimate daughter of a prosperous farmer, Evita concealed this shameful past as she rose the ranks from dancehall performer to Argentina’s First Lady – all before her untimely death at the age of 33.
Doña Perón brought to light the extremes of power at the forefront of Evita’s life. The production focused on her work as an activist, advocate for Argentina’s women and the working class, which raised skepticism as she indulged in the opulence of a high-class life. Was she a voice for the people, or a deceitful actress?
Being a singer, musical theater and modern dance lover, and a huge fan of Evita the musical, I attended the production with an open mind, not sure what to fully expect. Doña Perón is one of the greatest and most moving dance performances I have ever seen on stage. The production was a very different take and perspective versus the musical. There were some similarities, but the dance interpretation of Perón’s was fascinating.
Everything about Doña Perón was perfect. The choreography, dancers, costumes, lighting and set design were all impressive stunners. The dancers represented a mesmerizing display of talent, skill, athleticism and control. Their amazing chemistry as an ensemble was evident through their emotional telling of her story through expressive and flirtatious body language and expression. Beautiful, colorful costumes captured the various roles the performers took on, while the use of stage lighting highlighted each scene.
Something else to highly praise was the original musical score by Peter Salem, which consisted of a variety of flowing movements, tango, original speech clips of Eva and her husband, Juan.
As the show delved deeper into Peróns story, the dancers exhibited elements of staccato movement, stomping, shouting, militant bravado, and being thrown to the floor. Throughout the show, the audience witnessed her experiencing a terrible pain within (her cancer which eventually ended her young life). These instances were punctuated by more intense musical elements and dissonant melodies, which gave the essence of oppression, sadness and decline from the apex of of her story. This was a reminder of her vulnerable inner and hidden weaknesses, which she was continually trying to conceal from the public eye.
This was one of the most breathtaking, exquisite dance performances to ever grace the stage. It was unfortunate that it was only a two evening performance-this production deserved a longer run in Chicago. I hope this talented dance company returns before another long 15 year period!
Photos: Christopher Ash, Paula Lobo, Rachel Neville
For more information on Ballet Hispánico, please visit the company’s website.
The Auditorium Theatre, located at 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive at Roosevelt University in Chicago, is an Illinois not-for-profit organization committed to presenting the finest in international, cultural, community, and educational programming to all of Chicago and beyond as The Theatre for the People. The organization also is committed to the continued restoration and preservation of this National Historic Landmark that originally opened in 1889. For a complete listing of events at the Auditorium Theatre, please visit the website.
The Auditorium Theatre is fully committed to the health and safety of our patrons and our staff. For this event, patrons 5 and over are REQUIRED to show proof of vaccination at the door. Guests under 5 may gain entry by wearing a mask at all times when not eating and drinking. All guests must wear a mask when not eating or drinking. Click here for the most current safety protocols.