Robin Gilbert and Carlos Fittante in "Tigerlily and the Dragonfly". Photo: Julie Lemberger

La-Tina Gets a Makeover

Robin Gilbert as "La-Tina"        By Carlos Fittante

New works often require revisions to integrate fully the material. The evolution of La-Tina, a humorous masked solo that confronts the stereotype of the sexy Latin female, exemplifies BALAM’s organic choreographic process.

Originally. I created the piece in 2007 for the company’s principal dancer and ballerina, Robin Gilbert. This first interpretation of La-Tina presented a masked woman performing a cha-cha-cha on point that debuted in the Staten Island Second Annual International Dance Festival.

A year later, this piece underwent significant changes, when Robin danced the solo in high-heeled shoes, rather than point shoes. The high-heel shoe version allowed the character to move in a more cha-cha-cha/ballroom manner, and let Robin concentrate on the presentation of the Balinese mask.

In September 2008, I decided to explore the theme of gender inherent in the solo by stepping into the role in the DUMBO DANCE FESTIVAL. Before I could present this new version, several changes were made.  The piece’s first costume, a lace bell-bottom pants and halter-top outfit created by Edward Sylvia, did not fit me. I consulted Sylvia, an experienced designer of drag costumes, about how to transform myself into the character of La-Tina.       
Using the same comedic Balinese mask, three inch red heels and Sylvia’s new, fabulous costume--an asymmetrical skirt and a padded halter-top decorated with ruffles--La-Tina in drag was born!

To help define this new character’s mannerisms, I consulted with theatre director Laura Drake. She encouraged me to perform the solo without the padded halter-top, as she experienced the juxtaposition of a man in drag and bare-chested as being more transgressive.   
In November 2008, I performed the solo, complete with the padded halter- top in Coney Island Cabaret presented at the Puffin Room in SoHo, New York. The piece was an audience favorite!

The verdict is still out: Should the drag version of the solo be performed with the padded halter-top or bare-chested?