FEBRUARY 2015: Hugo Chávez, the Ballet: Production Charts Life of Late Venezuelan LeaderFEBRUARY 2015: Hugo Chávez, the Ballet: Production Charts Life of Late Venezuelan Leader
State-sponsored ballet recounts charismatic leader’s humble origins to his transformation into the ‘guide of the fight of the Venezuelan people’s struggles’
By VIRGINIA LOPEZ
In the 14 years that President Hugo Chávez ruled over Venezuela he would often appear onstage or on television dressed in military fatigues, baseball uniform, his trademark red guayabera shirt and even in traditional Aymara indigenous costume.
Not once did he wear tights.
This Saturday, however, a state-sponsored ballet recounting the charismatic leader’s life – from humble infancy to global fame – will be staged in Caracas to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the 1992 failed coup attempt that launched Chávez’s political career.
The piece, From Spider-Seller to Liberator, is roughly based on a series of personal reminiscences culled from the late president’s speeches and his weekly TV show Aló Presidente. A team of Cuban journalists combed through thousands of hours, selecting the folksy childhood anecdotes which he would drop in among state decrees and political announcements.
The piece is roughly based on a series of personal reminiscences culled from the late president’s speeches and his weekly TV show. According to the advance publicity, the show takes the viewer from President Chávez’s humble origins in the state of Barinas to his transformation into “the guide of the fights of the Venezuelan people’s struggles”. The work’s name is drawn from the spider-web sweets which Chávez sold on the streets as a boy.
A previous staging of the state-sponsored piece earlier this year saw more than 40 artists on stage, combining live music with video art and circus-like antics.
The work begins with a recording of Chávez’s voice saying: “I was like a seed which fell on hard ground,” before a female character representing the mother country takes to the stage; she later dances a pas de deux with the male dancer portraying Chávez.
Throughout the work, Chávez’s voice can be heard overhead while footage of key moments from Venezuelan history and the president’s life are projected behind the dancer.
“People won’t go to see a ballet performance. They want to see their leader’s life set on stage,” said the critic Marcy Alejandra Rangel, who reviewed the piece’s debut performance.
“It was both weird and emotional. On one hand you were watching Chávez as a military or a baseball player pirouetting on stage, and on the other hand you were seeing an audience rally around the memory of their late leader,” Marcy said.
At one point, a male voice narrates how Chávez, a baseball aficionado, takes to the field and hits a home run. “The left-handed Chávez runs and cartwheels across the stage as his perfectly defined body touches home in his white, flexible pants and perfectly pointed bare feet,” wrote Rangel in her review.
Critics have decried the show as another propaganda work designed to sustain the myth of Chávez, who died of cancer last year. The late president still looms large in Venezuelan daily life: his signature adorns the facade of hundreds of public housing projects, and an image of his eyes is graffitied on walls and buildings across the country.
Tickets for Saturday’s one-off show will cost $16-$44 at the official currency rate, or $0.80-$2.30 on the black market for dollars.
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