Dance Salad Festival Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary With Dance (of Course)

Categories: Dance

Photo by David Kelly
Queensland Ballet: Nils Christie's Short Dialogues
Li Cunxin suspects it may feel a little strange for him to sit in the audience of the Cullen Theatre and not be the person dancing on-stage.

"[This] city holds so many wonderful memories for me when I danced with Houston Ballet for nearly 16 years...the Wortham stages are where my dancing career was shaped and advanced," recalls Cunxin.

Returning to Houston as the current Artistic Director of Australia's Queensland Ballet, Cunxin's company will be showcased in this year's Dance Salad Festival, along with seven other local and international acts.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Dancing With the Machine, Texas Abstract Group Signing and More

Photo by Anthony Rathbun Photography
Members of FrenetiCore Dance in Dancing with the Machine
There are two great shows opening this week so it's going to be tough deciding which performance to attend on Friday. Thankfully, both continue through next week so you'll have time to catch them both before either ends their run.

First up on Friday is FrenetiCore Dance's first full-length narrative production in two years Dancing with the Machine. The conflict between 21st-century technology and 19th-century morality is at the center of the narrative.

"[Our current] humanity is in an era of high technological advancement, but socially and morally, many people are stuck in the 1800s. There are those who still believe the world would be a better place if women were second-class citizens and gays would simply vanish," says FrenetiCore member and sometime Houston Press contributor Adam Castañeda.

The stylized Steampunk production follows Aida, a young, free-spirited heroine living in a postapocalyptic world who's on a quest to challenge the society's troublesome political climate. Throughout Aida's journey, she unearths personal family secrets, discovers a mystical machine and falls in love with a fellow revolutionary.

Based on a story by Castañeda, Dancing features choreography by company Artistic Director Rebecca French and costumes by dancer/filmmaker/designer Ashley Horn. Horn was asked to design wardrobes for "sketchy barmaids, dispossessed wanderers, rebel fighters [and] minions of the crooked government," Castañeda explains. "The movement [in the show] reflects each character's temperaments and inclinations." In order to exhibit such personality in the dancing, French called upon her knowledge of modern and contemporary vocabulary while mixing in hip-hop, jazz, ballet and Broadway-musical dance.

Dance with the Machine runs 8 p.m. March 27, 28, 29 and April 2, 3, 4; 2 p.m. March 29. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation. For information, visit $5 to $30.

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Houston Ballet Shines in 2015 Modern Masters Program

Categories: Dance

Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Allison Miller, Oliver Halkowich, and Artists of Houston Ballet

The Setup:
Houston Ballet's spring mixed rep, Modern Masters, is an annual program that sees the company perform seminal works by the best choreographers of the 20th Century and today. This year saw Houston Ballet shine in works by George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, and Harald Lander.

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Houston Ballet's Modern Masters Presents 3 Distinct Dance Performances

Categories: Dance

Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Dancers get earthy and down in Jardi Tancat
Ballet lovers of all types as well as people not too sure what part of the art form appeals to them will have a chance to look at it in some variety as the Houston Ballet presents Modern Masters, a program featuring three distinctive dance performances.

Oliver Halkowich, a soloist with the Houston Ballet will be dancing two roles; he's in George Balanchine's Ballo della Regina and Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato's Jardi Tancat.

Halkowich did the same roles five years ago and thinks he's doing them both better now since, he says, he understands them more clearly.

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Stanton Welch Creates Memorable If Uneven Romeo and Juliet

Categories: Dance

Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Connor Walsh and Karina Gonzalez.

The Execution:

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most well-known love story in the West, not because the play is his best work but because its themes of young passion and ill fortune are as universal as it is adaptable to just about any form of dramatic artistic expression. The tale of star-crossed lovers has been in the ballet repertory since 1940, when it first premiered in the Soviet Union alongside Sergei Prokofiev's now iconic score. Houstonians have cherished Ben Stevenson's take of the ballet since 1987, but now Houston Ballet's artistic director Stanton Welch has created an all-new version with only Prokofiev's music as the unifying thread.

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Houston Ballet Unveils Stanton Welch's Take on Romeo and Juliet

Categories: Dance

Courtesy of the Houston Ballet
Connor Walsh and Karina Gonzalez will dance the leads opening night.
Imagine that you've been doing the same choreography by a revered figure in the dance world for a classic ballet with beautiful music for more than two decades. Audiences like it, so why not leave well alone? That makes sense, right?

Except that Houston Ballet's Artistic Director, Stanton Welch, decided he couldn't leave it alone. For the past three and a half years, he's been developing his own new choreography for Romeo and Juliet, and when the ballet is unveiled this week, it will be the first new production telling the tale of the two star-crossed lovers here in 28 years.

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Modern Dance BARE Sprinkles Dancers Among the Audience at Nicole Longnecker Gallery

Categories: Dance

Photo by Lynn Lane
Laura Gutierrez and Connor Walsh in BARE.

The Setup:
On February 14 and 15, the Nicole Longnecker Gallery was home to new dance work by Houston dancer/choreographer Laura Gutierrez. BARE proved to be an appropriate title for the evening, as the conventions of dance were pared down to their most essential. With no music and no traditional facings (the dancers moved through the audience rather than in front of it), Gutierrez attempted to create movement unvarnished and unadorned; the resulting dances, a female quartet, and a duet between Gutierrez and Houston Ballet Principal Connor Walsh, were a fascinating examination of space, intimacy, and the relationship between bodies.

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Complexions Contemporary Ballet Is Moving to the Unexpected

Sharon Bradford

People don't usually associate ballet with the music of Prince and Stevie Wonder, but Complexions Contemporary Ballet isn't interested in replication. "We are not afraid to entertain," says Co-Artistic Director/Co-Founder Desmond Richardson.

Hailing from New York City, Complexions Contemporary Ballet was founded in 1994 by Richardson and Dwight Rhoden--two directors who both value multiculturalism as well as breaking artistic barriers. Their focus is to be continuously evolving, a group that changes with the culture and time. Their success in doing this has brought them such honors as the New York Times' Critics Choice Award.

Rhoden, the company's resident choreographer, has worked with The Joffery Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and The Dance Theater of Harlem.

"Dwight often begins his creative process with the music, which informs what he has to say...the current social climate also affects the work at times," says Richardson, former principal dancer with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, and Ballet Frankfurt. "I assist in the studio by workshopping movement before we teach it to the dancers," says Richardson, who also choreographs on occasion.

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Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet Brings Authentic Italian Design to Houston

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Courtesy of Roberta Guidi di Bagno
Sketch of Juliet
For the past year and a half, world-renowned Italian costume and scenic designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno has worked to design the sets and costumes for the first new production for Houston Ballet in 28 years -- Artistic Director Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet.

Guidi di Bagno and Welch met in 1998 while working on his commission of Ønsket for the Royal Danish Ballet. When it came time to look for a designer, that's who Welch reached out to in his search for authenticity in the classic tale of young lovers doomed by a family feud, a story set in Renaissance-era Verona, Italy,

"After speaking with Stanton, I looked at paintings from the Old Italian Masters of the 1400s," Guidi di Bagno says. "I took inspiration from those real representations of the time period and then I washed a surface away in my mind and added my own interpretation."

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Jérôme Bel and Cédric Andrieux Change the Choreographer-Dancer Relationship

Categories: Dance

Photo by Herman Sorgellos
Most dancers never have the opportunity to truly portray themselves onstage. Even the strikingly honest and vulnerable performers we know and adore are most often executing someone else's vision--the choreographer. In Cedric Andrieux, Jerome Bel sets out to shake up the customary relationship between dancer and dance-maker through this solo work, performed by former Merce Cunningham Dance Company member Cedric Andrieux for Contemporary Arts Museum Houston audiences on Friday and Saturday.

In conjunction with CAMH's current exhibit "Double Life," Andrieux's performance exposes a role frequently left unseen: the role of a real working dancer. Choreographer Jerome Bel's first solo in this series, 2004's Veronique Doisneau, tells the stripped-down biographic story of French ballerina Veronique Doisneau, who, in her own words, "never became a star."

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