28, 2002 DANCE SALAD Review
Salad' tosses together birds,
an iguana and swiveling torsos
By Molly Glentzer, Houston Chronicle
Watching Thursday's 'Dance Salad' program
at the Wortham Theater Center was like channel-surfing for three
hours on one of those rare nights when just about everything on
TV is good. Although the 11 dances were sensationally performed
and much of the choreography was brilliant, the excerpted works
were too brief to be satisfying.
Still, the program was a scintillating mix
of modern dance and
contemporary ballet whose divide was nearly invisible. The occasional
pointe shoe marked some of the ballet pieces, but there wasn't
a classical port de bras in the bunch. We're talking lots of steely
feet, swiveling torsos and spring-loaded bodies with tilting necks
and angular arms.
Fierce pyro-technique from the William Forsythe
school bumped up against Jiri Kylian's emotive lyricism and floor-hugging
modern movement with funny tics.
In spite of the movement contrasts
and the diversity of the artists - they were from China, Sweden,
Norway, England and the United States - a zeitgeist-laden aesthetic
hovered like a storm cloud over it all. 'Dance Salad' director
Nancy Henderek wanted you to sit down, pay attention and think
The evening's most magical moments came in
Yunna Long's Linglei (Unusual) - as delicately tranquil as a Chinese
nature print, but painted with a metaphorical, modern edge. It
transformed Guangdong's 11 fluid dancers into a flock of shimmering
Their funky silver skirts - worn over white
unitards with tight hoods - were distractingly ill-fitted on the
back side, but otherwise fascinating.
Yunna's terrific choreography, set to synthesized
music by Huang Guanglin, contrasted still moments with jittery
ones as the flock made its way, in groups, across the stage. These
birds didn't leap, as one might expect, when they flew. They hung
low and froze, like runners stretching, scanning the sky.
Their arms made bird images, too - with elbows
and wrists bent, and hands in finger-puppet shapes that pecked
curiously at the air.
In another section, a regal couple (Yunna
and Wang) wore big, white skirts with colored netting underneath
(his pink, hers blue). In a slow-motion pas de deux, she was bound
to him by some magnetic force in his arms - yet they only touched
during a lift or two. When their bodies finally came together,
a few young creatures emerged from behind their skirts.
The parents were then disposed of, but life
continued via a nearly nude, raven-haired human - Zhao Liang -
who crept across the stage hunched forward, on his toes. It was
the most hopeful image of the night.
What Yunna did with birds, Rebecca Stenn did
with lizards. Stenn is a former Pilobolus dancer who now has her
own New York-based company, PerksDanceMusicTheater. Her solo Iguana
was compelling for its articulated movements - sometimes on all
fours, sometimes just head and arms that captured the cautious
dartings of a creature at night. Bassist Jay Weissman and drummer
Bernice Brooks, performing live, helped create a sophisticated
Three pas de deux were emotional swooners
that left me hungry for more. They were from Kylian's Heart's
Labyrinth, Martino Muller's Romeo & Juliet and Jean Grand-Maitre's
Exilium. Kylian's masterwork, smoothly danced by the Norwegian
National Ballet's Line Alsaker and Richard Suttie, did wonders
with seemingly simple gestures and big lifts that created arcs
of feeling. Alsaker's pink silk dress, with a skirt that twisted
around her body, added to the sense of entrapment.
Ingrid Lorentzen and Ole Willy Falkhaugen,
also of the Norwegian National, were gorgeous as survivors of
some cataclysmic event in Exilium. Rei Watanabe and Mattias Suneson
were passionately innocent in Muller's modern balcony scene for
Sweden's Goteborg Ballet.
Of the hard-core abstract ballets, Forsythe's
Herman Schmerman pas de deux was notable for the wit and spit
of dancers Christophe Dozzi and Heidi Vierthaler. Stylistically,
the dance was a sibling
to the other Forsythe piece Houston audiences have seen recently,
In the middle, somewhat elevated.
Alonzo King's LINES Ballet was smart and thrillingly
swift in Tarab, which mixed Egyptian-inspired torsos and hands
with thrilling bits of flight. The U.S. premiere of Christopher
Bruce's Hurricane was marred by ear-splittingly loud music. Rambert
Dance Company's Paul
Liburd was marvelous, but Bob Dylan's ballad about a boxer accused
of a murder, even at lower decibels, would not have lent itself
well to dance.
Parts of the program will be repeated tonight,
with other works, at 7:30 p.m. at Wortham Theater Center, 501
Texas. Tickets are $15-$35. Call 713-227-2787.