Dance Salad Festival

March 24, 2005

Dance Salad Festival
Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, Houston, TX

March 24–25, 2005

Reviewed by Nancy Galeota-Wozny


Dance Salad sailed into its 10th year as Houston’s only international dance festival with its most ambitious lineup thus far. Producer and director Nancy Henderek presented dancers from 10 companies representing 26 countries, in works by 11 choreographers. In addition to those mentioned below, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, and the Kylián Foundation filled out the roster.

Mexico’s Ballet de Monterrey, directed by former ABT principal Robert Hill, made its U.S. premiere with Huapango. Hill’s fiery blend of folk and ballet matched the frontier spirit of Pablo Moncayo’s score. The company showed strength in surprising bursts of intricate folkloric footwork but faltered during the partnering sections.

Karole Armitage’s company, Armitage Gone! Dance, gave an excerpt of Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within the Woods. Armitage evoked a retro-futuristic feel in this pas de deux with Megumi Eda and William Issac. Against a backdrop of shimmering silver vertical stripes, Eda’s icy, catlike qualities neatly fit Armitage’s twisted take on classic moves.

Henderek gave a nod to the festival’s hometown with two inspired choices: Dominic Walsh Dance Theater and guest artists from Houston Ballet. Houston Ballet’s Leticia Oliveira and Zdenek Konvalina charmed the audience in Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Dominic Walsh seamlessly merged drama, fluid dancing, and technical bravado as he danced his work Once de Septiembre with Paola Georgudis.

Yanni Yin of Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève mesmerized in Michel Kelemenis’ Kiki la Rose. Enlisting the postures of mute cinema, Yin conjured a contemplative mood in her clean, spare gestures.

The most daring entry came from Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet. Mats Ek’s Sleeping Beauty pas de deux juxtaposed Tchaikovsky’s music with an amusing duet between two depressed lovers. Rafi Sadi entered dragging a hunched-over Charlotte Broom on a grey cloth sleigh. They limped, stumbled, and threw fits with pathos and humor during the great peaks in the music. At one point, Sadi took an onstage sponge bath using Broom’s dress. In the end, Sadi raised his tired angel in the air; she hovered above him looking melancholic. Ek points to the hidden elegance of awkwardness, the sad side of beauty, and the potency of mixing ultra-familiar music with an unexpectedly sober mood.

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