April 12, 2004
SALAD IS ENTREE, DESSERT, TOO
By Molly Glentzer, Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Some festivals don't pack as much into
a week as producer Nancy Henderek squeezes into Dance Salad, her
annual three-night showcase of contemporary choreography at the
Wortham Theater Center. This year, she divvied up 21 dances, 18
choreographers and nine companies from eight countries into overlapping
programs. Talk about crunch time for a critic. Herewith, the first
(and totally subjective) Holy Crouton Awards.
Best Program Toss: Friday's
show had the best mix of high-adrenaline dance, introspective moods
and comedy. It also offered two excellent works not seen Thursday
or Saturday: Jo Kanamori's gripping Under the Marron Tree
and Gustavo Ramirez Sansanos' edgy Chapter 9 -- not to
be confused with Helen Lai's fierce and ritualistic 9 Songs.
Best Entrance: In Under
the Marron Tree, a poignant, powerful solo about a person missing
someone she loves (perhaps her dinner date didn't show?), dancer
Rei Watanabe dropped into view from underneath the top of a large
Best Love Scene: Lily
Tsai and Xing Liang of Hong Kong's City Contemporary Dance Company
battled for each other's souls in the terrific bed scene of 356
Ways of Doing and Undoing Orientalism. He represented China's
traditional heart; she was modernism and communism in one terrifyingly
compact bundle. The sheets were flame-red, and the action was serious
Best Twist on Tradition:
The dynamic 365 Ways began with an exquisite slow-motion
black-and-white video that made bodies seem one with lotus blossoms.
But the best theatrics of the festival came when the City Contemporary
Dance ensemble used the spears, swords, mile-long sleeves and ribbons
of traditional Chinese dance in ways their ancestors never dreamed
of. And what about those Chairman Mao-inspired tutu-skirts?
Best Shake-a-Leg: Jirí
Kylián's Blackbird is a meditative duet full of
idiosyncratic tendus, sinuous torsos and arms that practically enable
the body to levitate. But I loved the little leg quivers when emotion
escaped in the tiniest waves down Megumi Nakamura's legs, until
she reached a hand down to stop it. (Be still, my beating leg!)
Nakamura and Netherlands Dance Theater's Ken Ossola, Blackbird's
original cast, danced eloquently both Friday and Saturday.
Best Crashes: There
was much to love in the way Henderek juxtaposed even small elements
from one piece to the next. On Friday, the gunshot sounds that sent
Jacqulyn Buglisi and Donlin Foreman reeling into despair in the
turn-of-the-century-influenced Sospiri had a modern echo
in the music for the next dance, Kylián's sharp-angled 27'52"
-- only its Dirk Haubrich score sounded like bullets breaking through
Best Feathers: A tie.
The huge feathered horns of the red goddesses in 365 Ways
were fascinating. But so were the frumpy half-tutus of the Finnish
National Ballet's Trickle Green Oak -- especially when
one preening "swan" ever-so-delicately pulled up the sides
of her costume to reveal its beehive-like structure.
Best Bounce: NDT III's
Giocanda Barbuto, whose panniered skirt added another layer of action
to the hilarious excerpt from Kylian's film Birth-Day.
Best Music to Hum on the Way
Home: Nacho Duato's marvelously fluid Cor Perdut
got much of its passion from Maria del Mar Bonet's Catalonian songs.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Cheryl Mann and Tobin Del Cuore really
brought the music to life on Friday.
Best Movement Language:
A tie. Henrique Rodahlvo's Choreography for Listening and
Paul Lightfoot and Soul León's Shutter Shut were
both inspired takes on talk. Without literally "translating"
words into movement, they imitated the sounds with odd, funny, isolated
tics of the head, hands, legs and torso.
Best Body Slams: James
Nunes and Gleidson Vigne of Brazil's Quasar Companhia de Danca flew
through Choreography for Listening like a couple of Slinkys
on speed. Gravity, what gravity?
Best Spring Thaw: The
title Trickle Green Oak doesn't translate well to English,
but in Finnish it's a complete sentence about trees that run with
sap in the spring. Choreographer Susanna Leinonen's four primordial
creatures got the idea across through an amazingly complex blend
of stiff butoh moves and thrashing ballet.
Best Running Leap: In
Scene for a Man and a Woman, the Finnish National Ballet's
Minna Tervamäki ran full-steam at Sami Saikkonen with her legs
in a V, as if she were going to land around his waist. But their
timing was a thrill; he fell backward just before impact, so that
she ended up standing over him in a threatening straddle.
review | next
review | Back
to Concert 2004