Houston Ballet Showcases Three Choreographers in MODERN MASTERS, Now thru 6/1

Houston Ballet Showcases Three Choreographers in MODERN MASTERS, Now thru 6/1

From today, May 22 - June 1, 2014, Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program showcasing works by three of the twentieth century's greatest choreographers entitled Modern Masters. The program features the company premiere of Ji?í Kylián's comic and delightful Sechs Tänze (Six Dances), along with revivals of his playful and sexy work Petite Mort, William Forsythe's explosive In the middle, somewhat elevated and George Balanchine's complex and inventive The Four Temperaments. Houston Ballet will give six performances of the program in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center. Tickets start at $19, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org or by calling Houston Ballet box office at 713-227-2787, or1-800-828-2787.

Houston Ballet will hold a free Dance Talk on Wednesday, May 14 from 6:00-7:00 pm at the Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street focusing on The Four Temperaments and In the middle, somewhat elevated. The event features former principal dancer Mireille Hassenboehler who will moderate a discussion with Judith Fugate, a former New York City Ballet dancer who is staging George Balanchine's The Four Temperaments, and Kathryn Bennetts, who is setting Williams Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated. The event is open to the public, and no ticket is required.

Mr. Kylián created Sechs Tänze (Six Dances) for the Nederlands Dans Theatre where it received its world premiere at the Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam on October 24, 1986. Set to Mozart's Six German Dances, the ballet showcases speedy and slightly madcap partnering, as well as Mr. Kylián's unique sense of humor.

"Two centuries separate us from the time Mozart wrote his German Dances. A historical period shaped considerably by wars, revolutions and all sorts of upheavals. With this mind, I found it impossible to simply create different dance numbers reflecting merely the humor and musical brilliance of the composer. Instead, I have set six seemingly nonsensical acts, which obviously ignore their surroundings. They are dwarfed in the face of the ever present troubled world, which most of us for some unspecified reason carry in our souls," said Mr. Kylián.

Mr. Kylián created Petite Mort especially for the Salzburg Festival in 1991 on the second centenary of Mozart's death. For his work, he chose the slow parts of two of Mozart's most beautiful and popular piano concertos (the adagio section of Piano Concerto in A Major KV 488 and the andante section of the Piano Concerto in C Major KV 467). Petite Mort, which literally means 'small death', serves as a paraphrase for orgasm in French and Arabic.

"This deliberate choice should not be seen as provocation or thoughtlessness - rather as my way to acknowledge the fact that I am living and working as part of a world where nothing is sacred, where brutality and arbitrariness are commonplace. It should convey the idea of two antique torsos, heads and limbs cut off - evidence of intended mutilation - without being able to destroy their beauty reflecting the spiritual power of their creator," commented Mr. Kylián about Petite Morte.

The choreography includes six men, six women and six swords. The swords function at times almost as dance partners, and, on several occasions seem more unruly and obstinate than a partner of flesh and blood. Aggression, sexuality, energy, silence, cultivated senselessness and vulnerability all play a significant part in the work.

Born in Prague, Ji?í Kylián studied at Prague National Theatre, Prague Conservatory and The Royal Ballet School in London before joining Stuttgart Ballet in 1968 under the direction of John Cranko. There Mr. Cranko helped cultivate Mr. Kylián as a student and choreographer which lead to him setting his first work for Stuttgart Ballet in 1970. Mr. Kylián joined Nederlands Dans Theater in 1973 as a guest choreographer, and was appointed artistic director in 1978. After joining Nederlands Dans Theater he created and realized over 60 productions for the company, including such works as: Sinfonietta (1978), Forgotten Land (1981), Bella Figura(1995), and Last Touch (2003). In 1995 Mr. Kylián celebrated 20 years as artistic director with Nederlands Dans Theater with the large-scale production Arcimboldo as well as receiving Holland's highest honor, Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau. In 1999 Mr. Kylián retired as artistic director, but still has an active role as resident choreographer and artistic advisor with the company.

Houston Ballet has seven works by Mr. Kylián in its repertoire, including Symphony in D (created in 1977, performed by Houston Ballet in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1994), Sinfonietta (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2013), Forgotten Land (created in 1981, performed by Houston Ballet in 2005 and 2010), Svadebka (created in 1982, performed by Houston Ballet in 2007), Falling Angels (created in 1989, performed by Houston Ballet in 2009 and 2011),Soldiers' Mass (created in 1980, performed by Houston Ballet in 2009) and Petite Mort (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 2007).

William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated first entered Houston Ballet's repertoire in September 1999. A neoclassical tour-de-force set to electronic techno music by Mr. Forsythe's frequent collaborator, the Dutch composer Thom Willems, the work opens on a bare, black stage with nine dancers (six women and three men) in leotards tearing through a series of fiendishly difficult classical steps with high attitude and haughty disdain. The title of the ballet refers to two golden cherries hanging "in the middle, somewhat elevated" in the Palais Garnier in Paris, where the work premiered in 1987.

"In the middle, somewhat elevated is a theme and variations in the strictest sense. Exploiting the vestiges of academic virtuosity that still signify 'the Classical,' it extends and accelerates these traditional figures of ballet," explains Mr. Forsythe. "By shifting the alignment and emphasis of essentially vertical transitions, the affected enchaînements receive an unexpected force and drive that makes them appear foreign to their origins."

Raised in New York and initially trained in Florida with Nolan Dingman and Christa Long, Mr. Forsythe danced with the Joffrey Ballet and later the Stuttgart Ballet, where he was appointed resident choreographer in 1976. Over the next seven years, he created new works for the Stuttgart ensemble and ballet companies in Munich, The Hague, London, Basel, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, New York, and San Francisco. In 1984, he began a 20-year tenure as director of the Ballet Frankfurt. Under his leadership, the Frankfurt Ballet was transformed from a capable regional troupe into one of Europe's foremost dance ensembles.