BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's MODERN MASTERS is Entrancing
Houston Ballet's current season is wrapping up quickly. Last night they opened a mixed repertory program titled MODERN MASTERS, and in about two weeks they'll be opening SWAN LAKE, this season's closer. As everyone expected, Houston Ballet's current program is filled with beautiful and stunning movement, incredible feats of dance athleticism, and gorgeous emotionality. MODERN MASTERS features four short pieces that highlight the range of the company all while celebrating the best of modern ballet choreographers.
The show opens with George Balanchine's THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS, which is danced to Paul Hindemith's "Theme with Four Variations (according to the Four Temperaments)." This piece had its World Premiere on November 20, 1946 and its Houston Ballet Premiere on September 1, 1988. Of the four performances, it feels the most dated; yet, the dancing is still entrancing. The opening theme fills the stage with grand movement and beautiful images. The moody variations are all enjoyable and lovely as well. However, "Third Variation: Phlegmatic" was my favorite moment of the piece. William Newton, who danced with tangible emotionality and even some sass, expertly led this scenario.
After the first intermission, the audience is treated to two dances set to music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. PETITE MORT is danced to "Piano Concerto in A Major - Adagio" and "Piano Concerto in C Major - Andante," and SECHS TÄNZE (SIX DANCES), which is enjoying its Houston Ballet Premiere, is danced to "Six German Dances, KV 571." Jirí Kylián mesmerizingly choreographs both pieces. PETITE MORT is wondrously sensual, dark, earthy, raw and features many of Houston's favorite dancers. At the opening night performance, Aaron Robison slipped while running across the stage. His fall was met with an audible gasp, as everyone hoped he had not injured himself. Undoubtedly filled with adrenaline, he sprung back up and continued dancing as if the mistake never occurred. With a recovery that made the fall look planned and finishing the performance strong, I can only hope that he is not injured and that he still has a long and fulfilling ballet career ahead of him.
After a short pause, the third piece Houston Ballet presented was SECHS TÄNZE (SIX DANCES). After the wondrously sexy and sensual PETITE MORT, the highly comedic but provocative SECHS TÄNZE (SIX DANCES) was a much appreciated and highly enjoyed portion of the program. Looking around, every member of the audience was beaming as the dances were performed. The gender bending costuming and choreography, the playful sexual overtones, and the precision of every step ensured the audience gleefully laughed throughout the piece. Houston simply couldn't get enough of these intriguing dances, and many eagerly discussed this program during the second intermission and even after MODERN MASTERS' opening night had concluded.
The final dance of the evening was William Forsythe's IN THE MIDDLE, SOMEWHAT ELEVATED, danced to music by Thom Willems. The piece begins with a loud, arresting and percussive bang in the darkness. The lights come up on the dancers, and the frenetic dance begins. The group never lacks in vigor as they bound, leap, and soar across the stage and through movements that mix acrobatics with traditional ballet dance styling. Working with the rhythmic electronic music, William Forsythe taps into the repetitiveness of the sounds the audience hears and has the dancers work through repetitive series of movements. Additionally, he channels the darkness of the music by having the dancers utilize quick movements that seem to come from anger or fear. With breathtaking and indefatigable energy, the dancers in this piece hold the audience truly spellbound.
In my short time reviewing Houston Ballet, I have never been disappointed by the work they produce. The professionals that make up their company always deliver performances that titillate the senses, stimulate the brain, speak to the heart, and satiate the soul. Moreover, Houston Ballet's MODERN MASTERS sublimely satisfies on all levels. If you've never attended a mixed repertory performance at Houston Ballet, this is a perfect introduction to these types of performances. If you've never seen a ballet, this is a wonderful place to start. If you love ballet, are a fan of Houston Ballet, or a just a fan of artistry in action, MODERN MASTERS is just what you are looking for.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes with two intermissions.
MODERN MASTERS, produced by Houston Ballet, plays in the Brown Theater at the Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas Avenue, Houston, 77002 now through June 1, 2014. Performances are Saturday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 25 at 2:00 p.m., Friday, May 30 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 1 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.houstonballet.org or call (800) 828-2787.
Ballet: SECHS TÄNZE. Choreographer: Jirí Kylián. Dancer(s): Nozomi Iijima and Brian Waldrep.