SALAD 2002 Preview
A world of dance on city's doorstep
By Molly Glentzer, Houston Chronicle
No way was choreographer Jiri Kylian, director of Holland's
Nederlands Dans Theater, going to let one of his masterworks be
broken up so a piece of it could be imported to Houston.
He had a policy against that practice - at least until he received
Nancy Henderek's letter.
Henderek is the Houston-based producer of Dance
an annual smorgasbord of works by leading choreographers and dancers.
It will return to the Wortham Theater Center tonight, newly expanded
into a minifestival that will continue through Saturday.
Henderek can't remember exactly how she convinced Kylian to allow
her to present just part of his Heart's Labyrinth, a lyrical ballet
to music by Antonin Dvorak. But she's obviously as persuasive
as she is persistent.
"I sure worked hard at it," she said. "I felt people needed to
see this piece."
Kylian eventually agreed, on one condition: that it be performed
by the Norwegian National Ballet duo for whom he created the chosen
pas de deux. That was hardly bad news. Henderek is also importing
the original set - a lighted door - to further ensure the dance
will be viewed as Kylian intended.
"Every choreographer has a vision for what they want a dance
to be (as a whole)," Henderek said. "But that
pas de deux says something meaningful on its own."
That, essentially, is Dance Salad's
guiding philosophy. Henderek is a world traveler who watches dance
everywhere she goes.
Although her budget has increased steadily during the 10 years
she's been creating the show, it's modest. So she compiles each
year's program almost like she's presenting vacation slides. She
presents brief dances in their entirety, but she's more apt to
show glimpses of longer dances she considers must-sees.
"How do people know what to strive
for if they don't see the masterworks? Dance Salad is about refining
vision and reaching deep. It's about exposing people - both artists
and audiences," she said.
Henderek likes to play with the flow of her programs. "I try
to do things the way they were originally presented, but also
present some things in ways they've never been done before," she
said. "I look at pieces that in another setting, people might
go, `ho hum.' Sometimes if you take something out, it reads more
Great dancing sends an audience on a kind of journey - one that's
mentally, spiritually and kinetically stimulating. Henderek also
likes to take people around the world in a more literal sense.
Eight of the nine companies represented in this year's Dance
have not danced in Houston. The international roster includes
England's Rambert Dance
Company, Sweden's Goteborg Ballet, the Norwegian National Ballet
and China's Guangdong Modern Dance
Alonzo King's LINES Ballet is coming from San Francisco. Battleworks
and PerksMusicDanceTheater are from New York. Tap dancer Roxane
Butterfly is from New York and France. Houston Ballet dancers
also will perform.
Henderson concentrates on small-scale dances like solos, duets
and trios. The largest works, in terms of cast, will be from Guangdong
and LINES, which are bringing 12 and 10 dancers, respectively.
The programs will vary slightly each night, mixing contemporary
ballet and modern dance.
The music, too, runs the gamut, from live jazz to classical compositions,
electronic scores to ethnic instrumentation.
"It's a real mix of feelings, sentiments and types of dance
," Henderek said. "People can come just one night
and see a complete evening, but to see all the pieces, you'll
need to come two of the three nights."
Such gatherings - even on this small a scale - are rare outside
major monthlong events like the Jacob's Pillow and American Dance
One Dance Salad
had an Asian theme - primarily because Henderek
lived in Hong Kong the previous year. This time she had the Passover
and Easter holidays in mind.
"The piece that shaped (the lineup) was Chinese choreographer
Yunna Long's Linglei (translated as Unusual)," Henderek said.
"It has a birdlike gesture that they use in wonderful ways."
She plans to end each night's program with Linglei. "I want to
leave people with a feeling of quiet. It has a spiritual mode
that's haunting and mysterious, and I found it difficult to imagine
any other piece following it."
In addition to the Heart's Labyrinth pas de deux, dancers from
the Norwegian National Ballet will perform a pas de deux from
Canadian choreographer Jean Grand-Maitre's contemporary ballet
Exilium. "They're beautiful dancers - tall, long-legged Norwegians,"
Henderek has reshaped a piece of Butterfly's BeauteeZ'n the Beat
to squeeze it in. ("Squeeze" can be the operative word with Dance
Henderek tends to pack a lot into a few hours.)
BeauteeZ'n the Beat was originally an evening-length show of
tap, hip-hop and Afro-Cuban movement and music by several artists.
Butterfly will perform solo here, to live drumming by a percussionist
she met through Henderek.
There wasn't an editing problem with an eight-minute solo created
last fall by Christopher Bruce. Dance
will present the U.S. premiere of Hurricane, to the Bob Dylan
song of the same name. Dance
audiences here know Bruce's work through Houston Ballet, which
performs his Ghost Dances, Sergeant Early's Dream, Cruel Garden
and other works. Soloist Paul Liburd of Rambert Dance
Company - the troupe Bruce directs in England
- is scheduled to perform.
Members of the Goteborg Ballet will dance
a pas de deux from William Forsythe's well-known
(at least in Europe) Herman Schmerman, with costumes by the late
Gianni Versace. They'll also do a pas de quatre from Jacopo Godaru's
Digital Secrets and the balcony scene pas de deux from Martino
Muller's Romeo and Juliet. The latter is a 2001 production with
a stunning, abstract set by Brazil-based artist Eduard Hermans;
and the balcony portion made the trip.
"I have a wonderful sponsor who ships things," Henderek said.
Another eye-opener will be 180 Degrees, a piece for four dancers
with large Chinese fans. It's by Guangdong choreographer Xing
Liang, who has wowed audiences as a dancer. Guangdong, China's
first modern dance company,
bypassed Houston last year on its first U.S. tour. Henderek provides
some consolation, presenting five of the ensemble's dances - the
most of any company.
Its musical choices hint at Guangdong's adventurous spirit -
including works by American avant-garde composers John Adams and
Meredith Monk, synthesized sounds by Hugang Guanglin and Igor
Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
The American contingent is led by King, a ballet master whose
works are in the repertoires of more than 50 companies worldwide.
His 20-year-old touring company will perform The Heart's Natural
Inclination, created last year to a score by Leslie Stuck, and
Tarab, set to music by Egyptian oud master Hamza El Din.
PerksDanceMusicTheater will dance Iguana.
It's by company founder Rebecca Stenn, a former dancer with Pilobolus
and Momix. Robert Battle, formerly of Parsons Dance Company, is
another of the nation's most promising young dance -makers. Some
members of his new company, Battleworks, will perform his Strange
Humors to original music by John Mackey.
Henderek also has scheduled a trio from Houston Ballet principal
Timothy O'Keefe's Uncommon Valor. "It has a mood, and struck me
after 9/11 as being appropriate. He's saying something about war
and peace," she said.
performances will be presented at 7:30 p.m. today,
Friday and Saturday at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas.
Tickets are $15-$35. Call 713-227-2787. Patrons who buy tickets
to more than one performance will receive a 15 percent discount.
Programs are subject to change. For a list of each night's dances,