Houston Symphony Honors the Dead With La Triste Historia

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Animation stills by Tick Tock Robot

Similar to many other holidays, El Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of The Dead) has been commercialized and adopted by retailers hungry to sell masks and flowers. We see the image of la calavera (the skull) so frequently these days that its true value is lost, as if we forget that it represents the ultimate conclusion to this thing called life: Death.

Yet in the Mexican tradition, although it induces tears and mourning, Death is not something to be afraid of or vilified. El Dia de Los Muertos is a beautiful celebration of our loved ones and friends who have passed onto the next life, and we take the time to remember and honor them.

On Friday night in Downtown Houston (with showings on Saturday and Sunday as well), the Houston Symphony presented the classiest and perhaps most monumental honoring of the dead since the ancient pyramids were built. The world premiere of La Triste Historia tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers set during the backdrop of The Mexican Revolution. A classic scenario with not-so-classic characters.

The night began with the return of conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto, who previously was an associate conductor at the Houston Symphony several years ago. It was easy to see why this man is/was a crowd favorite; his smile and energy and heart makes your best friend in an instant, with enough flair and command to move even the stodgiest of works into symphonic masterpieces.

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As he raised his baton, the whole room seemingly came to attention, ready for the ride through the emotional musical journey that was set before us. Watching Prieto maneuver up and down and sideways made it clear that being a conductor is one of the most satisfying jobs in the whole world. Sitting in the audience that night became a festival of enjoyment and wonder, with the senses of sound and sight creeping towards overload.

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Os Gêmeos and Hennessy Present Limited Edition Collaboration in Houston

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Photos by Marco Torres

In the world of contemporary art, few people have risen to the level attained by Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo. Known as Os Gêmeos, these identical twin brothers from São Paulo, Brazil have captured the imagination of the art world with colorful scenes inhabited by the jaundiced caricatures of self expression and whimsy.

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The duo visited Houston on Monday to celebrate their most recent collaboration with Hennessy, a limited edition bottle with Os Gêmeos artwork designed and printed on the label. Previous manifestations of this type of art collaboration have seen Kaws and Futura2000 as the featured artists.

The Houston Press was one of three media outlets invited to a media roundtable and luncheon held at Diverseworks Gallery in Midtown, which included local artists Gonzo247, Dual, Skeez181, 2:12, and Dandee Warhol.

Highlights of the interview are provided below:


Origins:

We started with drawing at an early age. Drawing for us was the best way to play. We later discovered drawing was our tool to express ourselves and communicate with family and friends. Later in the '80s we discovered other mediums, specifically spray paint. So we started to discover our city through graffiti. That was our key to the city, a city full of surprises. That later led to paintings and sculptures and gallery work, inside work. We do not call ourselves graffiti artists, or street artists. Yes, we do that, but that [graffiti] is outside. We work also inside and do it all. We use many different way to express ourselves. Graffiti is just one way. We respect too much this outside, graffiti world, and try hard not to mix.

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CORE Performance Company Fits in with the Dan Flavin Installation Just Fine

Categories: Dance, Last Night

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Abby Koenig
CORE Performance Company at The Dan Flavin Installation
Dan Flavin, the minimalist artist best known for his work with fluorescent light, is quoted with saying that "light" is "as plain and open and direct an art as you will ever find." In many ways dance is also as plain and direct an art as you can find. Whatever meaning the choreographer may have intended, in the end it is purely visceral. The viewer is watching bodies move, just like watching a light glow.

Last night, CORE Performance Company performed a piece inspired by Flavin's work inside the Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall. The piece, titled above and below, was choreographed by CORE's Artistic Director, Sue Schrodeder, and featured nine dancers who became a living component of the Flavin installation.

The dancers entered the room from either side of the space, moving slowly. Both men and women were dressed in varying pastels with seemingly random white thick elastic bands tied around their legs and mid-sections. If you can picture a dystopian insane asylum, you can get a mental image.

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CORE getting all up in people's grill.


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UPDATED: Mid Main's First Thursday: Rocked Last Night (As Promised)

Categories: Last Night

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Mid Main, you can take the metro there

Updated with the name of artist David A. Feil.

If you haven't been over to the new/old happening area of Main Street, the first Thursday of each month is the time to go. Last night the block of Main between the 3600 and 3700, which calls itself Mid Main, had its monthly first Thursday and it was a rocking time.

Each first Thursday the shops and bars along Mid Main open their doors and their taps and invite people to come out and have a good time. In addition to art, music and various free libations, the proprietors along the block donate 5 percent of the evening's proceeds to a chosen donation. Last night the non-profit being supported was the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

There were a number of bands and DJs hitting up the various venues; DJ Flash Gordon was at Sig's Lagoon, Nick Gaitan and the Umbrellaman were over at the Big Top and Los Guerreros De La Musica took over the Continental Club. But the highlight of the evening was the UH Marching Band, which came in on the metro, brass a blazing as they strutted in an organized fashion down the platform into the crowd.

There was a new addition to the shopping on Main. The Tinderbox, a not-yet opened craft, art and jewelry shop, made its mini-debut last night. The shop, which will actually open some time next month, is the idea of Ren Mitchell and her sister who were looking for a place to showcase Houston artists' wares.

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Punk! Rock! Comedy! Slays at Mangos

Categories: Comedy, Last Night

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JT Haberstaat taking the stage at Mangos
Mixing punk rock and comedy may not seem like a sane idea, but if you were at Mango's last night, then you know that it is. The Montrose club played host to "Bukowski Lives! A Night of Drunken Headliners!" which was an exclusive four show comedy tour that only came through the great state of Texas. The tour is an off-shoot of sorts to the Altercation Punk Comedy Tour, which is the brainchild of JT Haberstaat, who currently hails from Austin. Haberstaat brought some friends along for this tour, including Jay Whitecotton, Ian Stewart and John Tole, who's done quite a bit of national comedy including Howard Stern.

What makes a comedy show punk rock? "It's more of an attitude," says Haberstaat. Haberstaat grew up on punk rock music and the DIY sensibility and has transformed much of that into his approach to comedy. The Altercation Punk Comedy Tour only goes to small punk rock clubs. If the Comedians of Comedy tour started the idea of playing untraditional comedy venues, Altercation is its bad-ass little cousin; they hit up Mango's not the Verizon Theater. "The first year booking was terrible," Haberstaat recalls, "but the next year was awesome." Once clubs got "it," they wanted more.

John Tole, who headlined the show, comes from a similar background as Haberstaat in terms of the music listened to and the scene he hung around. "Punk rock was about tearing down the system when I was a kid," says Tole. And his approach to comedy is about tearing down as well but now with jokes. Tole explains that with comedy the comedian has a different impact on people than say a preacher, but there is a similarity. The comedian can share a message while being entertaining. Fight the man, just do it with a good joke.


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Friday Night: The Chieftains 50th Anniversary Tour At Jones Hall

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Photos by Pete Vonder Haar
The Chieftains with the Houston Symphony
Jones Hall
February 15, 2013

When your band's been around for half a century, you could probably be forgiven for reliving past glory and staying safely within the established confines of whatever envelope you've developed for yourself. Just don't tell that to the Chieftains, who celebrated their 50th anniversary last year by releasing an album (Voice of Ages) and now embarking on a 28-city tour.

That kind of longevity also brings a certain amount of respect from your peers (or so you'd hope), and any Chieftains show is likely to be loaded with special appearances and surprises. That was certainly the case Friday night at Jones Hall, where the Chieftains were joined by the Houston Symphony and several guests, providing a satisfying mix of Irish tradition and classical sensibility.


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I Was A WWE Raw Seat Filler

Categories: Last Night

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With the help of a friend who works in local promotions and film screenings, I was a seat filler recently at the WWE Raw event at Toyota Center. You could say that for a few hours that I (and my ass) worked for World Wrestling Entertainment, and all I had to do was fill a few seats in range of TV cameras while fans got up to pee, buy their merch, or buy a beer.

Monday's Raw also marked the 20th anniversary of the weekly wrestling event. With the anniversary came special guests like Ric Flair ("WOOOOOOOOOOOOO") and Mick Foley. I hadn't watched wrestling for more than five minutes here, so everyone was new to me. Sadly, Stone Cold Steve Austin did not make an appearance, even though it was widely-rumored this past week.

Easily the most prominent seat filler was Kramer in that episode of Seinfeld when he filled seats for celebs at the Tony Awards. This episode also featured Raquel Welch beating up Elaine.

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The Folk Market Makes Its Debut at AvantGarden

Categories: Craft, Last Night

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Photo by Abby Koenig
The First Folk Market at AvantGarden
This Sunday marked the first Folk Market at AvantGarden, which will be a monthly event held on the third Sunday of each month. The Folk Market is the brain child of Brittany Bly who also created Pop Shop Houston. Each month, Bly will coordinate with 20 or so vendors to bring their goods to the parking lot of the Westheimer bar and art venue.

Bly, who is a crafter herself, wanted to make sure that The Folk Market matched the DIY sensibility of Pop Shop. All vendors must be indies, meaning no chains stores. While the inaugural Folk Market was comprised of sellers specifically from Houston and the surrounding areas, Bly isn't making that a requirement.

"Out of towners are welcome," Bly says, "they just have to be independent sellers."


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An Electrifying Time at 'Bleu Électrique', Menil Collection's 25th Anniversary Party

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Photos by Carla Soriano
At the Menil Collection's 25th anniversary party, DJ Kalkutta's high energy set the tone for the night


And check out our slideshow of the entire weekend's activities.

With all its accolades, it's hard to believe that the Menil Collection is only 25 years old. In its short lifetime, the Renzo Piano designed building has deservedly received high praise, international recognition, and "iconic" status for the building itself and the impressive collection of art it houses: thousands of pieces that span centuries and styles, and include some of the most famous artists' work -- from Picasso to Dali to Warhol to Pollock to Rauschenberg to Magritte.

This past weekend, the Menil Collection celebrated its 25th anniversary with three events: a seated dinner entitled "A Celebration in Blue" on Friday, a French-inspired party called Bleu Électrique on Saturday, and a performance by Phillip Glass on Sunday. I only had the good fortune of attending the Bleu Électrique fête.

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Revolve Dance Company Premieres Work, Solves Staging Challenges in Nexus

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Photo by David Bullanday Photography
The Setup
On November 9 and 10, Revolve Dance Company takes over Barnevelder Theater to present its fall concert Nexus, a collection of new pieces imagined by a variety of choreographers, including its co-directors and founding members.

The Execution
The pieces comprising Nexus were an eclectic bunch, spanning a variety of genres and themes. While they did not deliberately share a narrative, these pieces aligned themselves in order of increasing sophistication in movement quality and staging.

The first piece, "Let's Go for a Ride," was energetic on the surface, as women in brightly colored flapper dresses took turns seducing (man)nequins on roller skates to the tune of a pop song laced with Andrews Sisters riffs. Beyond its novelty, however, it felt somewhat underdeveloped. The movement held extremely tightly to the music, feeling more like a direct translation than an interpretation. Orders of solos and movement phrases became quickly predictable, and the dancers threw a number of smiles at the audience which, while cute at first, came across as needy by the end of the piece.

An issue that arose in "Ride" and also in the third piece, "Sound of Silence," was the sheer number of dancers on stage. It should be noted that managing 12 dancers on stage in an intimate venue is no small feat. If there is no focal point, unison movement can look very blurry, and if spacings are not exaggerated, the density of dancers on stage can appear to remain the same throughout the piece. In both of these works, there were times when the movement and staging may have been crisper on three or four dancers instead of a dozen.

That said, there are also incredibly powerful and sophisticated ways to use 12 dancers on stage, and these are what Revolve spent the last two-thirds of the show exploring to remarkable ends.


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