This weekend, check out what former Chicagoan Eduardo Vilaro has been doing—choreographically speaking—since 2009, when the award-winning Cuban-born artist left the troupe he founded here, Luna Negra Dance Theater, to direct New York's venerable Ballet Hispanico. Vilaro's company choreographic debut, Asuka (2011), is one of four Chicago premieres being staged here, at a venue more intimate than usual for BH. A love letter to Cuban women, Asuka is set to music by Afro-Cuban singer Celia Cruz, whose trademark cries of "Azucar!" ("Sugar!") give the 25-minute piece its catchy title. But it's no drama-ridden or celebratory jukebox musical. Though Vilaro suggests the hardship and isolation that Cruz faced as an exile, his treatment is abstract. Static-laced radio broadcasts evoke a sense of insurmountable distance and nostalgia.
The program's most recent work—Espiritu Vivo (2012), set to music by Peruvian singer Susana Baca—was commissioned from regular Ailey choreographer Ronald K. Brown. Gallim Dance's Andrea Miller, a former member of Israel's Batsheva Dance, contributes Naci (2009), set to Judeo-Spanish music. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Locked Up Laura (2009) completes the program.