18. Variations in Houston: Personal Review of HOUSTON BALLET’s Morris, Welch, & Kylián

To the ballet I went for my first week back in Houston! I also have an assignment to write about The Barnstorm Dance Festival going on for the next three weekends but that’ll come in another post.

So, from now on during my unemployed nonstudent days living in Downtown Houston, I’m back and writing every week as much as I can with the help of my gracious editor providing comped tickets to all the local dance events!

The spring mixed bill opened with the hometown hero, artistic director Stanton Welch’s newest choreographic work. Yet, Welch’s Zodiac was messy, gaudy, and cheap BUT it was also an effort to be surreal and plucky (B- for effort). I’m a sucker for anything zodiac related, but I had to take this less than stunning work with a grain of salt. It needs reworking of many elements. Nothing was really captivating enough to inspire any awe and curiosity about the 12 signs of the Western zodiac. And for me, the opening and closing moments were somehow extremely disorderly in its attempted order.

It was, however, a strong expression of dancer variety because it was just that, another variation ballet for the company. Luckily, it’s the kind of variety that Houston Ballet’s corps and principals are phenomenally capable of. Stanton knows best is an understatement when he sets a new work on his beloved company members, new and old.They are the only professional ballet company in Texas that can withstand the kind of pressure of one mixed bill performed during a short burst of time that houses three different dance languages–despite the small similar ties of musicality and rhythm in each piece–in between two classical full-length works and company tours as well!

Ballet: Zodiac Choreographer: Stanton Welch Dancer(s): Melody Mennite and Connor Walsh Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Ballet: Zodiac
Choreographer: Stanton Welch
Dancer(s): Melody Mennite and Connor Walsh
Photo: Amitava Sarkar

On the other hand, Kylián’s Svadebka was a thrill and gem. I’m always taken back by Kylián’s masterpieces, not just because it’s Kylián–the God of dance atmosphere–but because the movement is still fresh, unique, and so fucking good. Choreographically, it was cohesive on so many masterful levels. It was also honest in it’s approach to plot and characters, never faltering on the cheap thrills and chills that Zodiac was mustering up.

Ballet: Svadebka Choreographer: Jiri Kylian Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Ballet: Svadebka
Choreographer: Jiri Kylian
Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet
Photo: Amitava Sarkar

And to end the night, the anticipated pièce de résistance, Morris’ The Letter V, personally set for this current company. An expected overall first-function showcase of the budding talent of Houston Ballet’s many dancers, but unlike Zodiac it succeeded in classical wit and simplistic sweetness; it was the cooling lime to Zodiac‘s repugnant splenda, leaving Svadebka to be the water which balanced these two pieces in the middle. The costumes, lighting, and score of The Letter V fell right into place with the movement and mood, helping achieve a cheery folk-blend that I’ve come to just simply enjoy from Morris.

The first-function genius of Morris’ is alive and well, with only a few faults in the swooning, scattered repetition of entrances and exits. I did leave wondering, “Is this the best that Morris could do for Houston Ballet?” He’s fresh off of his stellar Acis and Galatea with his own company, and I half-heartedly wanted that kind of commitment from him for this company, granted Houston Ballet is no Mark Morris Dance Group AT ALL.

Ballet: The Letter V Choreographer: Mark Morris Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Ballet: The Letter V
Choreographer: Mark Morris
Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet
Photo: Amitava Sarkar

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