March 19, 2008
International Blend of Salad
Fest features performances
like no other
By Molly Glentzer, Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Sitting in the upstairs office of her River Oaks
home, surrounded by piles of immigration paperwork, production
notes, DVDs, videos and brochures, Nancy Henderek leaned forward
one recent morning with an evangelist's zeal and fixed her eyes
like rocket launchers on a guest.
"I never have to give my `What is Dance Salad'
speech anymore," she
said, her voice measured but intense.
At least in Europe.
Henderek's not convinced that,
even after 13 years, Houston understands what it has in her three-day
feast of world-class performances.
"This is really a festival.
The performances are the culmination of a week's activities that
include master classes around town and a forum and film screening
at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. People all over the world
tell me this is unique," she says.
Henderek imports companies
that aren't on the touring circuit, and it's a point of pride that
many of them are making their American debuts. Spread over three
nights, the shows are "curated" -
juxtaposed in a way she hopes will help audiences see something
fresh, often with the original choreography altered or excerpted
to Henderek's specifications.
Asking her to pick highlights is like
asking a mother of 10 to choose a favorite child.
"I go after
groups that aren't known in the U.S.," she
New this year is Národní divadlo, the
National Theater Ballet, Prague, which is making its North American
debut. Contemporary ballet and modern dance companies from the
Netherlands, Germany, Poland, China and Japan are represented,
as are the National Ballet of Canada and the independent duo Drew
Jacoby and Rubi Pronk.
But Henderek really lights up when she talks
about the thread of works she's presenting by the master choreographer
She's brought in his original Netherlands Dance Theater III dancers
- whose company is now called Paradox On - to perform a pair of
works she calls his "life-death" cycle: "BIRTH-DAY," a
signature dance from 2001, and his award-winning 2006 film "CAR-MEN." Additionally,
Národní divadlo will perform one of Kylián's
very early works, Stamping Ground.
Kylián is one of the most
influential choreographers working today.
"When he first came
to the U.S. 25 years ago, critics panned him because his work didn't
look like (George) Balanchine's," Henderek
But it's hard to watch a contemporary ballet company
now - including, locally, Houston Ballet and Dominic Walsh Dance
Theater - without seeing traces of his style.
enormous spinoffs," Henderek says.
Put an actual Kylián
work on the program, and dance fans - and dancers - salivate. (Earlier
this season, Houston Ballet had a hit with his popular Petit Mort.)
is excited that Dance Salad's offerings show both Kylián's
prowess with both live and filmed dance.
A few years ago, she showed
a five-minute film clip from BIRTH-DAY that Dance Salad regulars
will remember. Set to Mozart, it's a hoot - as dancers in full
baroque finery leap to the speedy beats of the music on a giant
bed. But this is only a fraction of the actual 35-minute live dance.
original BIRTH-DAY cast will perform. The live dance and film play
off each other, Henderek explains, "so the characters
react in front of you with things that are `happening' in other
CAR-MEN, shot in black and white, is pure film. Set
in a Czech coal mine and directed by Dutch filmmaker Boris Paval
Conen, it features four dancers in a surreal, tragicomic telling
of the Georges Bizet opera about a wayward seductress. In her press
materials, Henderek describes the film as "a metaphor for
time, speed, stillness, movement, youth and age."
two films really do fit together," Henderek says.
And yet, while she wants you to see the them as a whole, to see
them both you'll have to attend more than one event.
tonight during a free sneak preview at the MFAH and will also be
shown Friday at the Wortham Theater Center; BIRTH-DAY will be performed
at the Wortham Thursday and Saturday.
to Season 2007/2008