Vital Signs

April 27, 2009

Europe Goes South

Skip going to Europe this spring and go to Houston instead to see some of the most interesting companies from the Continent. The boldly enterprising Dance Salad Festival brings a dazzling array of work to Wortham Center’s Cullen Theater April 9–11. You’ll have the rare opportunity to see Mats Ek’s poignant duet Memory, Hans van Manen’s beguiling pas de deux Trois Gnossiennes, the Norwegian group Carte Blanche in Hofesh Schechter’s raucous and bracing Uprising, Jorma Elo’s kinetically exciting Lost on Slow for the Royal Danish Ballet, and David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to My Skin for English National Ballet. As if this were not enough, William Forsythe is creating a new solo for U.S.-born dancer Noah Gelber. See


Just Rite for Whelan

A rash of new Rite of Spring productions is breaking out this season in tribute to the Ballets Russes centennial. Stravinsky’s cataclysmic music poses a major challenge for any dancemaker. Adam Hougland, principal choreographer of Louisville Ballet, is approaching it by listening to the score for many hours and “letting it seep in.” He has chosen as his Chosen One Wendy Whelan (right with Hougland), star of New York City Ballet who grew up with the Louisville Ballet. “She has such strength and vulnera­bility, and that’s what the role needs,” he says. He can hardly believe his good luck: “I’ve always dreamed of making a dance for her.” April 3–4. See


North of the Border

There’s still time to catch some of the Vancouver International Dance Festival, which runs through April 4. At the 10th edition of the festival (it started as a celebration of Butoh in ’98), companies and dancers from all over will perform alongside Vancouver’s own talent. Performances include the hilarious interview/dance Pichet Klunchun and myself with the Thai dancer and French dancer/choreographer Jérôme Bel; Vancouver-based Dancers Dancing in Voices in Motion, Bodies that Sing with a live choral ensemble; and Marta Marta HoP’s Twisted, a new creation by artistic director Martha Carter about her personal journey with scoliosis and dance. See



The contemporary CORE Performance Company tackles three new works by international women choreographers this month. In “Three,” the company will perform world premieres by Amsterdam’s Beppie Blankert, Mexico’s Alicia Sánchez, and the U.S.’s Polly Motley (from Vermont). Blankert’s piece Cumulus blends music and text; Sánchez brings her expressive physicality from the Latin American contemporary dance scene in Tus Pasos Encontrados (Your Found Steps); and Motley’s Quintet takes advantage of the dancers’ athleticism. Atlanta, April 24–26. Houston, April 30 and May 1–2. See


Sinful Scots

Scottish Ballet is celebrating its 40th anniversary in its new home at Glasgow’s Tramway International Arts complex. When they first moved in earlier this year, they showed their classical side with The Sleeping Beauty. But this month they’ll premiere British choreographer Richard Alston’s new version of Carmen, as well as artistic director Ashley Page’s Cheating, Lying, Stealing. In an evening of passionate pieces, the themes of control through sexuality and fear of loss infuse the choreography. April 15–May 9. See


Hootie in a Tutu?

Columbia City Ballet is getting ready to rock out! The dance troupe is paying homage to their own South Carolina-grown Hootie & the Blowfish in a ballet about the band. They’ll incorporate a multiscreen video set-up to simulate the concert experience, and the band will play live onstage for every show. The ballet, which premieres at the Koger Center April 3, will relive the events that led to the band’s formation and success. See 


Houston’s Fresh Choreography

This year, the annual Spring Showcase for the Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy will show off more than just the talents of its students. Also on the bill will be the work of Houston Ballet II’s own budding choreographer, 20-year-old Garrett Smith. His piece Den III made its international debut with HBII in Budapest last November, eliciting an encore at the request of the elated crowd. Smith’s new piece for the April 24–25 showcase will feature eight dancers and include music by Vivaldi and Beethoven. See    


Virtual Merce

Now you can get inside the Merce Cunningham Studio from anywhere in the world. Mondays with Merce is a series of free web casts in which viewers can see the legendary choreographer teach advanced technique class and conduct rehearsals. Each episode also includes interviews with Cunningham and his associates. The first episode, “Cunningham on Technique” aired in January. In addition to the free web casts, subscriptions to a series of 90-minute master classes are available for purchase. See  


Performing as Protest

On New Year’s Eve, Miguel Gutierrez and 31 other artists from 31 states and the District of Columbia improvised for 24 hours straight as an act of protest and remembrance for those displaced by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. All of the artists performed in their own spaces with earplugs and blindfolds as a contemplative act of long-distance solidarity. The project, called freedom of information 2008, lasted from midnight to midnight and ended with the ringing in of the new year. Spectators were welcome to view events in person or via live video streams. See    



Photo: Patrick Baldwin, Courtesy Dance Salad.