Choreographer Q&A with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

Hear from choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa on her creative process, as she prepares her new work on BalletX. See her world premiere at Spring Series at the Mann, May 18-19. 

What is the theme of the piece you’ll be debuting for BalletX Spring Series? 

My new ballet is a kaleidoscopic piece about Vaudevillian characters, in which the dancers wear deconstructed garments of white-tie event designed by Mark Eric Rodriguez.

How did the music choice influence choreography in this piece?

The rhythm and mood of the music are important to me. I needed it to have a certain drive. The middle section is a melancholic waltz by Manuel Wandji. This central section was the catalyst for the idea of the piece. At first, I imagined some sad clowns dancing, and slowly during the 9 days of creation I went through a rollercoaster of ideas, and finally landed into the world of Vaudeville with an emcee character inspired by the musical Cabaret.

Your 2019 premiere work, The Little Prince, has been seen by many BalletX audiences across the nation. In what ways did your choreographic process differ when creating this new work, compared to that full-length ballet? 

I have more freedom when creating a short abstract work, although my ballets are always infused with some theatrics. Because the work doesn’t have to be logical, it gives me more opportunities to create surrealistic situations, and it offers more space for audiences to use their own imagination.

You’ve completed over 100 works for more than 70 companies around the world. How has this multinational experience shaped you as a person and as a choreographer?

I enjoy being confronted, and engaging with different cultures, languages, countries, traditions. But somehow dancers all over the world have the same focus, and they love pushing their physical and artistic boundaries.

What was it like serving as a mentor for Choreographic Fellow Tsai Hsi Hung? What advice would you give to other aspiring choreographers? 

I feel that at my age the time is ripe to share my experience with younger generations of choreographers. It is exciting to observe Tsai Hsi discovering her own voice with the pointe shoe technique. I like to figure out how to be there to help and coach her without imposing my own views. Creating is not just the result of a well-made ballet, but most importantly it is about the journey and interaction with the dancers in the studio. Tsai Hsi is an amazing painter with a powerful and vivid signature. I am excited to see how she translates her paintings into movements.

 In what ways does your background as a Colombo-Belgian influence your life and work?

The older I become the more my LatinX background informs me about the life I have had, and how I was treated a long time ago being the child of an immigrant. As a child you accept the world as a given, but only now I am aware that my family and I have faced systemic racism. Luckily, the times are changing, and I am realizing that my voice as a LatinX artist is being heard and honored for the stories I can share about my culture. 

How have you enjoyed getting to know Philly? Have you found any favorite spots? 

I love the Rittenhouse Square where I’m being lodged. I love the vibe of Philadelphia, especially when the trees bloom and turn pink. I could see myself living here.