Photo Credit: Phil Wayes

Friday, June 5, 2009

Watching Dance: 'Of An Era' at Houston Ballet

(Reprinted from Houston Artsweek.)

The Houston Ballet is currently performing its spring mixed-repertory program, Of An Era, at the Wortham Center's Brown Theater. The program opens with Stanton Welch's Nosotros. Created for the Houston Ballet in 2005, this is a lively romp of a ballet set to Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. This is an ensemble ballet performed collectively by the artists of the Houston Ballet, who all performed with dazzling energy and crisp, clean technique.

Houston Ballet is premiering two works in Of An Era, the first being Nacho Duato's Jardí Tancat. Created for Netherlands Dance Theater 2 in 1983 and set to a series of Catalonian folk songs, Jardí Tancat ("closed garden") portrays the prayers, trials, and tribulations of workers in a barren land. Duato's movement in this ballet is very heavy and earthy, quite the opposite of the other ballets on the bill, but the dancers are performing it extraordinarily well (Jardí Tancat was performed on Saturday evening by Kelly Myernick, Ian Casady, Jaquel Andrews, Oliver Halkowich, Jessica Collado, and Connor Walsh).

The evening closes with another Houston Ballet premiere, Christopher Wheeldon's Carousel (A Dance). The work centers around a pas de deux; danced beautifully by Sara Webb and Simon Ball in Saturday evening's performance. Webb performed with a delightful combination of spirit and bashfulness that was offset beautifully by Ball's strong stage presence.

The corps de ballet work here is stunning-the artists of Houston Ballet in beautiful synchronization. The highlight of the corps work came near the end of the ballet, when the female dancers entered carrying long golden poles and were lifted onto their partners' shoulders in a grand circle- a carousel of colorful dancers. Factor in Mark Stanley's lighting design and Holly Hynes' colorful, flowing costumes and you've got a colorful, magical spectacle that will leave audiences in high spirits.

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