Skip to content

Houston Ballet at the The Joyce Theater Oct. 11-16, 2011

October 18, 2011


I have not had the opportunity to witness the Houston Ballet since the departure of Ben Stevenson, one of the world’s preeminent choreographers. I was introduced to the choreography of Ben Stevenson in 1978 at the first USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Ms. So I was aware of the brilliance of Stevenson and hence, the magnitude of talent that was to be expected of the Houston Ballet. Now under the artistic direction of Stanton Welch since 2003, I was not disappointed.

The first offering was Jiri Kylian’s Falling Angels part of the Black and White ballets created in 1989 for eight women dancing to Steve Reich’s Drumming. Jiri Kylian is a genius of a choreographer, and Falling Angels is further evidence of that. The curtain rises to a dark stage and solemn presence. Dancers walk slowly forward, towards squares of light that seem to combat the darkness around them. So begins Steve Reich’s Drumming, the percussive sounds are the driving force behind the piece. The work is reminiscent of Martha Graham’s early works such as Heretic, within the use of only women and the applying of a primitivism of movement that is both powerful and
somewhat disturbing. Hands hide faces as if they do not wish to be seen; hands hide mouths as if they are holding back from crying out aloud. The eight dancers become two sets, one of six and the other of two, moving, expressing, and crying out in a silent language of inner struggle. They rejoin and the then one breaks and begins a solo that is commanding, arresting our attention to the plight of one women’s inner song. They rest fade back to a darkness that is broken only by a single ray of light that occasional a dancer will thrust forward a face or an arm, as if trying unsuccessful to leave a darkness that could be considered all encompassing. It is a brilliant and stirring piece that one must reminds one self to breathe while watching.

Next was the presentation of the inaugural recipient of the Rudolph Nureyev Prize for New Dance, Jorma Elo’s ONE/end/ONE (2011) a ballet in three parts set to Mozart’s Violin Concerto NO. 4 in D (K 218). This piece is different from the first, Jiri Kylian’s Falling Angels, in it was with classical tutus, toe shoes and men. There are four couples in black tutus and tights by designer Holly Hynes. I can only call this piece whimsical;
it is a tongue in cheek exploration of classical movement, a sort of Nutcracker that has gone haywire, minus the nutcracker and Christmas motive. The technique of the dancers is crisp and clean, as they would have to be to dance this piece. You have to be a strong dancer to make this piece work, and work it did. The adagio with Karina Gonzalez and Connor Walsh was both dazzling and intense, filled with unexpected lifts and a sense of humor which was very enjoyable. The dance as a whole is so jammed with movement it’s as if Mr. Elo was thinking “now what else can I put in here”, and I mean that in a good way. The third part of the ballet begins in silence, being dark and mysterious, then hastening into movement with the Mozart’s score. There were plenty of pas de bourees, pat de chats and arabesque to please the most harden of balletophiles.It is filled with unusual lifts and unexpected turns and neo-classical in
make-up. My only negative critic is that though I was fascinated by the ballet I found the ending somewhat anti-climatic, almost as if Mr. Elo just ran out of movement.

As for Christopher Bruce’s Hush (20006), the placement of this ballet within the repertory seen this evening was somewhat confusing. Is it a good ballet, absolutely! But there is playfulness to the work that after the risky fun elements of Jorma Elo’s ONE/end/ONE just does not fight into the program. If I had seen Hush not following One/end/One it would have been a much more enjoyable experience. Hush is the ‘a Commedia Dell Arte peek inside the life of a traveling circus family, featuring a cast of six and set to the eclectic music of Bobby McFerrin and YoYo Ma’. It is well danced, well choreographed, a work that grows on you and is contempary in its approach and appearance. The third movement of the ballet Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee as interpreted by Mr. McFerrin and Mr. Ma was engaging and entertaining. The ballet as a whole is a lot like children playing, fun and interesting.

See further information and dates for performances please visit the websites of both the Joyce Theater and the Houston Ballet.

The Joyce Theater

Houston Ballet    


From → Ballet

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: