March 22, 2008
Salad, Program 2
By Molly Glentzer, Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Program two of this year's Dance Salad Festival made me think
By repeating Thursday's two longest works,
producer Nancy Henderek made Friday's show a marathon. The
Cold Dagger and Among the Mountains are both composed in sections
with clear endings -- the kind of moments that make you think, "Okay, this is
it" -- that would have made it easy to run shorter excerpts
the second time around.
The audience wore out faster than these world class contemporary
ballet dancers, of course. Athletic stamina fused with virtuosic
artistry in all of Friday's pieces. Of special note:
The independent duo of Rubinald Rofino Pronk, a sleek Black
dancer formerly of the Dutch National Ballet, and Drew Jacoby,
a tall, perfectly-ripped woman formerly of Alonzo King's Lines
Ballet of San Francisco, were sensational -- all sinewy dynamite
and flexy agility -- in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's angular showpiece,
I would have loved to see the National Ballet of Canada in Christopher
Wheeldon's amazing Polyphonia earlier in the program, when I
wasn't so worn out. It featured the festival's only live music:
Pianist Andrew Burashko made the Gyorgi Ligeti score twinkle.
Watch this piece for eight top-of-their-game ballet dancers,
and you understand why people call Wheeldon this generation's
Balanchine. Polyphonia is very-much Mr.B-inspired in its abstraction
and speed, yet full of fresh twists and partnering for the four
The entire cast was elegant. It was fun to
see former Houston Ballet principal Zdenek Konvalina in the
jazzy variation. Now an NBC principal, he danced with such
clarity and lightness that my guest whispered, "He's really special, isn't he?".
And what a treat to see superstar principals Chan Hon Goh, Aleksandar
Antonijevic, Greta Hodgkinson and Xiao Nan Yu in action -- living
up to their reputations -- along with first soloists Patrick
Lavoie, Piotre Stanczyk and Jillian Vanstone.
The audience loved Maria's
Dream, Petr Zuska's comedic man-as-clumsy-swan
ballet for the National Ballet Theater, Prague. The program said
we were seeing a short version; I was thankful for that -- as
the dance was mostly a series of silly pratfalls with a bench.
Viktor Konvalinka, Lubor Kvacek, Jiri Vratil and Radek Vratil
showed their acrobatic skill (along with their rear ends in the
final moment, as they shed their white tutus). The dance's sole
woman, ballerina Nikola Marova, wearing a man's suit, was too
loud in her pointe shoes.
Once again, Polish National Opera Ballet's Marcin Krajewski
brought down the house with the swift solo Les
flew even higher, faster and cleaner Friday than he did Thursday.
The Jiri Kylian-Boris Paval Conen film CAR
MEN is a masterpiece,
although it was an odd choice for this program. Set in an Eastern
European coal mine with mountains of ash, it's a surreal meditation
on death, riffing on Bizet's Carmen through four zany characters
who build a car from junk parts and fantasize about racing, death
and sex. Think Charlie Chaplin-meets Frederico Fellini- meets
Road Warrior, and you might start to get the idea. It deserves
much more explanation than I can do justice to here, in the context
of Dance Salad. Sabine Kupferberg, fabulously provocative, mean
and fragile, is as amazing an actress as she was a dancer in
her Netherlands Dance Theater years.
CAR MEN was recently released on DVD by ArtHaus
Musik. My recommendation:
Order it and see for yourself. It's a keeper.
to Season 2007/2008