Paula Nuñez, the artistic director of the Tampa City Ballet, which is based at her Tampa City Dance Center in Tampa Palms, says she was “thrilled” with the two performances (May 4-5) of her contemporary ballet “If I Cry” at the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa. 

Nuñez originally co-created (with Elsa Valbuena) and had her then-new professional Tampa City Ballet dance troupe perform “If I Cry” back in 2019, but she says the performances at the 312-seat Jaeb Theater the weekend of Cinco de Mayo added many new elements to her original “floor work” dance piece about the life of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

“The show keeps evolving,” Nuñez says. “For example, Frida was of course a famous painter, so we added scenes where the dancer playing adult Frida is actually painting and I think the audiences really enjoyed seeing that. Plus, all of the dancers are professionals who each brought their own ideas about how to make the show better. It all came together and I’m so happy with the results!”

I will say that Jannah and I thoroughly enjoyed everything about “If I Cry,” which began with a recorded video introduction by Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO (and New Tampa resident) Santiago Corrada congratulating Paula and everyone involved with “If I Cry,” which he called “spectacular.” 

That video was followed by Tampa City Ballet chief curator Sharmila Seth reading information about Kahlo’s tragic life, from her contracting polio at the age of six, to the bus crash twelve years later that left her with more than a dozen fractures and her abdomen and uterus being impaled on a large rail, to her on-again, off-again marriage to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (which ended in divorce the first time because she had an affair with fellow female artist Georgia O’Keeffe), to her three miscarriages to her affair with Russian communist leader Leon Trotsky to her tragic passing in 1954, at the age of 47.

All of these events and more are depicted in “If I Cry,” with four different outstanding dancers portraying Kahlo at different ages, including one portraying Frida’s soul. All of the music — hand-curated by Nuñez, included everything from heavy classical pieces (some with violinist Nick Ewing on stage) to jazz pieces by Benny Goodman and Jelly Roll Morton — fit perfectly with what the audience experienced in the intimate Jaeb Theater. Also part of the musical experience was a live mariachi performance by Mariachi Guadalupe, which performed basically in the audience, along with the Wattaka Choir. 

“Frida is such an important figure,” Nuñez, who is originally from Venezuela. “So we wanted to re-tell the tragic story of her life from beginning to end in a unique way.” Mission accomplished, Paula!

The cast was made up not only of amazing dancers, they also were incredible actors who actually made you feel Frida’s pain with their facial expressions and perfectly executed floor work. I intentionally didn’t name any of the dancers who “stood out,” because it honestly wouldn’t be fair of me to leave any of them out, so below is the full cast list (in alphabetical order) of the Tampa City Ballet’s “If I Cry.” 

If you missed it, you truly missed a special event that should not be missed the next time Nuñez decides to share this masterwork with the Tampa Bay community. Bravo!

Nicole Assad (Young Frida)

Humberto Rivera Blanco (guest artist, Leon Trotsky)

Jayron Perez Cabrera (artist in residence, The Death)

John Delgado

Nicholas Garlo

Bailey Lord (Salvador Dali)

Maria Fernanda Papa (Adult Frida)

Aynsleigh Morehouse (Frida Dressed as a Man)

Shelby Russ (Frida’s Soul)

Amber Rose (Georgia O’Keeffe)

Wilson de los Santos (Diego Rivera)

Carissa Smith

Vashti Walters (Natalia Sedova)

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment