Dominic Walsh Says Good-Bye to Houston...for Now

Categories: Dance

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Courtesy of DWDT
Dominic Walsh
Houston's arts community was stunned on Friday when CultureMap announced choreographer Dominic Walsh was suspending the 2014-2015 season for his company, the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. Walsh later released a statement confirming that he would be taking a sabbatical, saying, ""This sabbatical will give me the chance to explore other opportunities and interests that I simply have not been free to spend time on with the many obligations I've been committed to for these 12 years.I look forward to accepting opportunities to create and stage my works, teaching classes as a guest and coaching ballets."

Walsh also has personal reasons for the change. Denver's Colorado Ballet recently promoted Walsh's longtime partner, Domenico Luciano, to Principal Dancer with the company. "I'm very much looking forward to having a bit of personal time, and to having the availability to stay in Denver cheering on Domenico as he starts his second season with Colorado Ballet," Walsh continues.

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The Intrepid Side of Psophonia Dance Company

Categories: Dance

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Photo Courtesy of Psophonia Dance Company
Dancers in Intrepid.
The Setup:
Intrepid, Psophonia Dance Company's spring show performed this past weekend on June 6 and 7 at City Dance Studio, is an appropriate title for this endeavor. The company usually performs feature-length entirely choreographed by artistic director Sophia Torres, but for their latest concert, the dancers took on the challenge of presenting three works, by three different dance artists. In addition to new work by Torres, the program included guest choreographers Leslie Scates and Estela Tejeda.


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Houston's SPA Unveils First Ever Jessica Lang Dance Residency for Middle and High Schoolers

Categories: Dance

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Lang Dance
Jessica Lang

In the world of dance, Jessica Lang, who once danced with Twyla Tharp's company, is known for her choreography. Her resume includes work done with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet San Jose, Richmond Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Ailey II, ABT II, Hubbard Street 2,New York City Ballet's Choreographic Institute, and more.

In 2011, she founded Jessica Lang Dance in New York City and now, assisted by Houston's Society for the Performing Arts, two of its company members are on their way to Houston to conduct a weeklong dance seminar for middle schoolers and high schoolers.


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Suchu Dance Presents Steel Puffs Have Left the Building

Categories: Dance

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Photo Courtesy of Suchu Dance
Prudence Sun, Shanon Adams, Tina Shariffskul, and Sarah Leung are the Steel Puffs.
The Setup:
In Steel Puffs Have Left the Building, Suchu Dance's second full-length work in its new Garden Oaks space, choreographer Jennifer Wood explores the multifaceted nature of the feminine. The all-female quartet of longtime company members Shanon Adams, Sarah Leung, Tina Shariffskul and Prudence Sun investigate the tension-filled space between what is inherently female and culture's narrow prescriptions for how the fairer sex should look, behave and, more important, move.


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Dance Salad Festival 2014: Three Nights of Back-to-Back Highlights

Categories: Dance

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Photo by Diego Franssens
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's m¡longa produced by Sadler's Wells, London, UK.
Dance Salad Festival 2014 is a heady mix of brilliant works, in both classical and contemporary styles, by choreographers and dance companies from around the world. Nancy Henderek, the festival's artistic director, says in a three-night program made up of back-to-back highlights Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's tango-influenced m¡longa stands out. London's Sadler's Wells invited [Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui] to work with a group of tango dancers and musicians from Argentina. The resulting m¡longa, is a full-length work too long to bring to Dance Salad in its entirety. Instead audiences will see curated segments featuring five tango musicians, ten tango dancers plus a contemporary couple. "He's made a contemporary piece out of it," Henderek tells us. "It combines all the tango verve and music along with these beautiful steps. There's lots of couple work in tango and what Larbi's done is taken these couples and made them into a group. They break apart, they exchange partners, they change places and use their arms in a new and different way but it's all still with a tango impulse and [sensibility]."

Cherkaoui's m¡longa will be performed all three nights of the festival (each performance has a different line-up and if you want to see all of the groups, Henderek suggests attending two nights in a row). The choreographer is no stranger to Dance Salad, having had several of his works performed at the festival over the years; Paris Opera Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet are among the groups he's worked with. "We've had other works of his with other companies in previous years. He's very much in demand and while this is a familiar choreographer, the piece we're going to see is unlike anything else he's ever done."

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Aisha Tyler Says, "Don't Worry, I've Got Jokes"

Categories: Dance

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Courtesy Kahn Media Strategies Inc
Actor/comedian Aisha Tyler doesn't take requests when she's on stage. "I know people have their favorite jokes so I understand when they ask for something but I'm not a rock band, I don't do the same thing over and over. I don't get up and do "Freebird" as an encore. I have a foggy plan in my head of what I want to do when I go onstage, but really I want every show to be fresh. I want to surprise the audience and surprise myself every time I walk out there."

Tyler's attitude doesn't stop audience members from shouting out requests or even lines when she's performing. "People do yell things out when I'm on stage and I ignore them wholeheartedly. I always tell them - 'Relax. I've got jokes. Sit back and have a drink. I'm prepared to entertain you for an hour, hour and a half so you don't have to worry about the show. I've got it well in hand.' If they really want to hear a joke from five years ago, they should go buy the DVD. That way they can sit on their couch in their underwear and rewind to their heart's content."

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Society for the Performing Arts 2014-15 Season: Music, Dance & Chinese Acrobats

Categories: Dance, Stage

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Photo courtesy of SPA
Expect magical surprises with The Illusionists
In planning its upcoming season, the Society for the Performing Arts made sure "ecletic" remains its invisible middle name, lining up everything from magic escape artists to dancers, a concert violinist and Chinese acrobats.

"Our 2014-2015 season opens the door to performing artists for all ages and tastes," said SPA CEO June Christensen. "From the debut of America's Test Kitchen with Christopher Kimball to cabaret-style performances on the Jones Hall stage with the burlesque troupe known as The Hot Box Girls to Mexican-American singer Lila Downs to the National Acrobats of China, our lineup offers a mix of traditional and not-so-traditional events. One company I am most excited about sharing with Houston for the first time is the Scottish Ballet performing its beautiful rendition of A Streetcar Named Desire." Magic also takes center stage when The Illusionists, seven incredible performers showcasing mind-bending acts, make their Houston debut.

The scheduled performances:


American's Test Kitchen LIVE*
with Christopher Kimball
8 p.m., Thursday, August 21, 2014
Jones Hall

Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of Cook's Illustrated, hosts an insider's look at PBS Television's "America's Test Kitchen." Audiences are promised"an insider's view of the show, including the process of how the equipment testing, food tastings and science experiments take place."

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FrenetiCore's WIRED Is a Happy Mix of Performance, Humor, Strength and Technology

Categories: Dance

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Photo by Les Campbell
WIRED
We've got a couple of disclosures about FrenetiCore and WIRED. First, since Houston Press contributor Adam Castanada, who writes about dance for us, is a member of the FrenetiCore dance company, a usually non-reviewing member of the HP editorial staff (that would be me) steps into the role of reviewer here. We're pretty sure Castanada wouldn't mind performing then dancing then dashing off-stage to write up a few review notes before running back on-stage to dance again, but we thought it best not to ask him.

Second, we're discussing Saturday night's performance here. We attended Friday night's performance for the purpose of reviewing the show. Unfortunately there were several major technical failures (lights, curtains, music, video and computer feeds all went bonkers at various times though the show). FrenetiCore was forced to take an impromptu intermission mid-show in order to address those issues. The result was a significant break in the show's flow. We felt we were unable to fairly judge the dancers' performances under those conditions. We're happy to say Saturday's show was 99 percent glitch-free.

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The Joffrey Ballet's American Legends Program Includes Stanton Welch's Son of Chamber Symphony

Categories: Dance

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Photo by Jim Luning Photography
Ashley C. Wheater, Artistic Director for the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet
In the early 1980s, Ashley Wheater was a young dancer for the Australian Ballet; at the time the company was led by Garth Welch. Stanton Welch, Garth's son, was 14 years old and at the beginning of his dance training. The young men met and remained friends over the years. Fast forward to today and the pair now lead two of the most prestigious dance companies in America. Ashley Wheater is artistic director for the famed Joffrey Ballet and Stanton Welch is the artistic director for the Houston Ballet. Joffrey Ballet is in town, courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts, to perform its American Legends program, an evening of works by celebrated American choreographers, including Stanton Welch's Son of Chamber Symphony.

At Wheater's invitation, Welch set his complex and athletic three-movement work Son of Chamber Symphony on the Joffrey Ballet company in 2010. Welch has been said to give the corps de ballet choreography more often set on principal dancers and soloists. That tendency is evident in Son of Chamber Symphony.

"Technically, it's very difficult," Wheater tells us. "It's really demanding for everybody. And the thing about it is that the company's completely exposed; you can really hone in and see what the company can do, what each dancer is capable of. What I love in Stanton's work is that he believes in the language of classical ballet. He wants to keep people having to work at it and to be on their game. In the piece you can see everything that's required of us as a classical dancer. and it's in a very contemporary way."


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Marcus Jarrell Willis and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: A Story of Grace

Categories: Dance

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Photo by Andrew Eccles
Marcus Jarrell Willis
Marcus Jarrell Willis, a former Houstonian and HSPVA alum, has been a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for six years now. (Before that he was a member of Ailey II.) He's a different dancer now, says Willis.

"For me, things have changed in that I used to be focused on getting everything perfectly right," he tells us. "Dancers are perfectionist and we always want to be standing at the right angle, to have the lines of our bodies perfect with that turned out, this turned in. I was so focused on getting it right that I actually wasn't living in the work at the moment.

"Now, I've performed [the works] so many times, it's in my body. I know the steps. I still strive to make sure everything is psychically correct but now I'm able to live in the work as well. Like with I Want to Be Ready (a meditative solo in Revelations), I can move past just performing the right moves and begin to experience it while I'm performing."

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