BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE MERRY WIDOW is Opulently Romantic
Ronald Hynd's choreography for THE MERRY WIDOW is brilliantly captivating and opulently romantic. Many of the movements and gestures are delivered in the high range, giving the impression of weightless and floating. This is only made more apparent by the innumerable lifts and extensive pointe work present throughout the performance. Similarly, a majority of the movements are fluid and rounded, giving everything soft edges and a vivacity that invokes joyous splendor. He captures the lofty and weightless feeling of love and skillfully evokes these ideas for the audience. When Roland Hynd breaks from these sumptuously passionate and soaring choices, he delivers angular and earthy performances reminiscent of folk dancing. These moments are not entirely free from the lifts and movements in the high range, but for the sequence in the garden of Hanna's villa, a majority of the work cleverly utilizes the middle and lower ranges to differentiate it from the other dances in the piece. In all honesty, the Houston Ballet has spoiled me with programs that feature three or four different ballets across three or four acts and also with spectacular presentations of modern ballet. Needless to say, I was quite surprised at how truly riveted I was by this performance. Ronald Hynd's graceful and alluring choreography paired with the mesmerizing score made this the best long narrative ballet I have ever seen the Houston Ballet perform.
Dancing Hanna, Mireille Hassenboehler couldn't be more spectacular. While I've only had the pleasure of seeing a few of her performances, I count myself lucky to have seen her dance this role in this production of THE MERRY WIDOW. Last night's audience felt the same way, giving her first entrance ardent and thunderous applause. Her entrance in Act III was also greeted with enthusiastic applause and cheers. Throughout the evening, Mireille Hassenboehler danced with impeccable grace, poise, and charm, drawing the audience into her performance and allowing us to get swept away by the lush narrative. Every movement was precise and alive with sentimentality and appropriate emotion. Seemingly spending the evening on pointe or soaring through the air, we couldn't help but float on mirthful clouds of merriment beside her.
Danilo, danced by Linnar Looris, gave this Houston favorite an opportunity to illustrate a range of skills I'm not used to see him perform. In my experiences at the Houston Ballet, Linnar Looris has typically been cast in a character role, often making audiences giggle and laugh with absurd and outlandish actions. He showcases his ability for this aspect of performance during his intoxicated first appearance; however, he shines brightly as the romantic male lead too. He intoxicates the audience with striking fluidity and regal charisma.
Melody Mennite and Connor Walsh masterfully danced the romantic subplot between Valencienne and Camille. Both dancers made their fervent passion for one another palpable and believable. Likewise, they thrilled the audience with smooth and limber movements, stunning lifts, and an ideally picturesque sensuality that simply melted our hearts. This is especially true of their resplendent and breathtaking Pas de Deux towards the end of Act II.