April 9, 2004
'DANCE SALAD' HAD DRESSING,
IT WOULD BE ARMOR
By Molly Glentzer, Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
What happened to happiness? About three
of the 15 pieces presented on the first night of this year's Dance
Salad festival showed traces of it.
Producer Nancy Henderek's annual international
showcase has never been Nutcracker-esque holiday entertainment.
But for provocative, sensual, dramatic intensity -- and yes, those
welcome speckles of comic relief -- this is an egg-cellent basketful
of dance excerpts from Scandinavia, China, Brazil and the United
States. And what fab dancers this year!
Thursday's treats were colored by conquest.
The fiercest battle, choreographically speaking, was in Jirí
Kylián's edgy and modern 27'52", danced with
shardlike precision by Netherlands Dance Theatre II's Valentina
Scaglia and Alejandro Martinez.
Every crash of the Dirk Haubrich score
brought another fierce trajectory -- an arm or a leg, usually aimed
at a partner.
Hard to believe the film clip from Kylián's
Birth-Day was by the same choreographer. In this go-for-baroque
funny bit, a 17th-century couple (Netherlands Dance Theatre III's
Giocanda Barbuto and David Krügel) bounced with mad relish
on a bed and each other, wigs and panniered skirt flopping. Different
again was the cool elegance of Kylián's One of a Kind,
in which dancers Cora Korese and Ken Ossola appeared to be two parts
of a moving sculpture held upright through their opposing forces
Helen Lai's dynamic 9 Songs
pitted women against men in a fierce ritual. The evening's largest-scaled
work, it featured 10 strong dancers from Hong Kong's City Contemporary
Dance Company and a percussive score by Tan Dun. A river of red
silk rained from the ceiling as the big warlord landed atop his
The woman in Nacho Duato's lovely and
sweeping Cor Perdut, (Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Cheryl
Mann) didn't fare much better. She was left in a heap by her man
(Tobin Del Cuore), in spite of the sunny feel of the Catalonian
music by Maria del Mar Bonet.
There was no clear winner in Sami Saikkonen's
sensuous Scene for a Man and a Woman, danced passionately
by the handsome Saikkonen and the Finnish National Ballet's Nordic
goddess Minna Tervamaki). High heels were the issue in Danny Roessel's
over-long Silent Night ... Still We Dream, memorable mostly
for dancer Douglas Gawriljuk's entrance: He slid slowly down a fireman's
pole from the ceiling. But I had to cheer for Marifé Giménez
at the end, when she handed him the shoes as if to say, "Here.
If you like them so much, you wear them."
The lengths a woman will go to for attention
-- and the lengths men will take to impress her -- were more imaginatively
handled in excerpts from Brazilian Henrique Rodovahlo's Choreography
for Listening. Rodolvahlo's Quasar Companhia de Danca does
everything right: choreography, characterization and simple but
smashing sets. (This year's fabric backdrop, a huge but intricate
quilt of red and earth tones, was museum quality.)
Lavínia Bizzotto was super as
a sly tease, ever-so-deviously rolling up bits of her costume to
expose more skin while James Nunes and Gleidson Vigne competed for
her, then was thoroughly defeated when she couldn't grab a look
from a more self-absorbed third man (Marcello de sa Martins). Nunes
and Gleidson were great, too, bouncing on their stomachs like a
couple of shocked caterpillars and throwing themselves at the floor
in capoeira-influenced acrobatic moves.
According to the program, Choreography
for Listening is "a dialogue between the popular music
of Northeastern Brazil and the body language of the urban individual"
-- so Bizzotto's character was a personification, perhaps, of Brazil's
feminine spirit. Whatever. The language business came through in
the last section, a brilliant "conversation" in which
the dancers "spoke" with isolated body parts in synch
with the soundtrack's talking voices.
Paul Lightfoot's Shutter Shut
also played superbly with spoken word. Here, NDT II's Scaglia was
paired with Fernando Hernando Magadan in a delightfully quirky response
to Gertrude Stein's nonsensical poem If I told him: A completed
portrait of Picasso. I could watch this piece over and over
without tiring of it.
Quirkiness can be serious, too. Finnish
choreographer Susanna Leinonen's stunning Trickle Green Oak
conjured up a surreal realm where bodies broke with the sounds of
icebergs crashing into the sea. In this amazing fusion of butoh
and ballet, the Finnish National Ballet's Maria Tamminen, Sara Vuorinen,
Johanna Nuutinen and Salla Suominen were 21st-century swans. They
waivered convincingly between butoh's sickle-footed fragility and
perfectly placed classical technique.
The set was fantastic -- a crumpled column
of shimmery white that might have been a melting iceberg.
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