“Broadway meets film noir, meets Moulin Rouge, meets vaudeville with a tad of Fellini.” That’s choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s description of her evening-length ballet “Vendetta: A Mafia Story,” which hits Tulsa in March after a 2018 premiere in Montreal.
Fans of Ochoa’s “Shibuya Blues” — which Tulsa Ballet commissioned for its all-female “Creations in Studio K” new work series in 2017, earning strong reviews on the company’s recent New York and European tours — will recognize her signature smolder and swing in this cross-genre ballet.
In a striking color palette of neutrals, reds and blacks, Ochoa evokes “the family” of Italian myth and 1950s Chicago legend with a painter’s eye and a woman’s point of view. A Belgian-Colombian, Ochoa has made her name internationally with works that dive into the dark and run into the light — in other words, with passion, ardor, humor and strong brushstrokes of movement.
“The work is interesting, funny, engaging, and the story is well told and well developed with enough drama to keep the audience at the edge of their seats and enough humor to lighten up the experience,” says Tulsa Ballet Artistic Director Marcello Angelini.
Ochoa often takes on subjects that are unconventional for ballet, for instance in her award-winning “Broken Wings,” based on the life of Frida Kahlo, made for the English National Ballet in 2016. Her 12-year career as a dancer in companies throughout Europe, as ballet transitioned into the 21st century, gave her both classical and contemporary tools with which to build her visions of the world.
Today, she’s one of the most sought-after dancemakers in the world and one of the women (growing in number, thanks to opportunities from companies like ENB and TB) whose talent bursts from the choreographer’s chair rather than solely from the ranks of tutus on stage.
Fans of gangster stories and operatic family feuds will want to give Ochoa’s take a try. (As Ma Cong’s “Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music” showed last year, dramatic story ballets about the struggles and triumphs of real human beings can be just as powerful as traditional works about swan queens and fairy tale princesses, and far more relatable.) It’s a surprising twist on typical mob narratives, upending expectations about masculine and feminine roles and challenging the entire company with sharp and sultry movement.
And is it so surprising TB’s Italian director, in his 25th anniversary year, would want to snag an Italian-adjacent ballet for us? “I went to see it in Montreal, as I love Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s works, and fell in love with it,” Angelini says. “And I love the fact that, for once, the padrino (the godfather) ends up being a woman. So refreshing!”