BWW Review: Houston Ballet's FALL MIXED REPERTORY Offers A Fresh Premiere From An Exciting Choreographer
We don't necessarily have seasons here in Houston, and when the rest of the country is donning their sweaters and scarves, our air conditioners continue to hum. But there is always Houston Ballet's Fall Mixed Repertory Program to look forward to, and this year's selections are broadly contrasting and varied, not unlike autumn leaves we can only dream of.
We begin with Tapestry, an aptly-named ballet, with its tonal variances and styles. The first segment of the piece is sprightly and playful, with dancers clad in warm, happy colors, rolling up into unexpected lifts. Created by Stanton Welch in 2012, this modern ballet demonstrates the depth and talent of Houston Ballet artists. The set suggests a steely loom, with dancers entering and exiting between lines. Costumes by Holly Hynes are lovely and eye-catching, especially the deep, aqua gowns with white insets. Charles-Louis Yoshiyama is a standout in this piece, whirling across the stage like a lit candle. Soo Youn Cho captures the magic of ballet with her lightening-quick pirouettes and illusory alignment. Tapestry is set to Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5, a piece that serves the choreography well with all its varied tempos and contrast between measured and felicitous moments. The best aspect of Tapestry is the creation of lines and designs; it is almost as if the dancers are sculpting shapes together, creating interesting compositions and provocative silhouettes with their bodies.
The second ballet in the line up is Ghost Dances, a program that left me puzzled. I felt as if I had wandered into an international folk dance festival, not an evening with the Houston Ballet. There were precious few balletic elements in the choreography; Ghost Dances is comprised of a decidedly modern dance style with not a toe shoe in sight. Set to repetitive South American folk songs, the choreography by Christopher Bruce is confusing, with mood swings that don't make sense. The back drop suggests a cave, or maybe a beach or maybe a location on Mars...it's rather vague. Demonic-looking dancers seem to attack or possess other dancers dressed in civilian clothes. The ambiguity lies in both the music and the steps; I would say that the "villagers" are mainly happy, dancing jigs to the upbeat music. When the "devils" interact with them, it's unclear as to whether they're upset about it or not. Christopher Bruce created Ghost Dances for the people of South America who have been devastated by relentless political oppression - unquestionably a noble, yet heartbreaking focus. Knowing this before the performance is helpful, but it's not a piece that ballet purists will embrace, regardless of whether or not they know the backstory.
The third and final ballet is the glorious, inspired Reveal, choreographed by former Houston Ballet dancer Garrett Smith. Smith was inspired by the ideas of self-reflection and identity, themes that are implemented into this piece with vulnerability and stirring choreography. Philip Glass's Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra, and Concerto for Cello and Orchestra serve as introspective foundations for Smith's fresh and illuminating ballet. It is a pleasing juxtaposition of modern and classical ballet, with mirrored choreography and lighting effects that honor self-discovery and human interaction. Costumes by Monica Guerra are innovative and exciting, especially the black coats with cape-like skirts worn by male dancers. The palette is black and white, clean and pleasing, and very appropriate for the honest, revelatory concepts. This is the world premiere of a truly exciting work from a young and intuitive choreographer. Surely audiences will have the chance to fall in love with Reveal over and over again.
The Fall Mixed Repertory's performance dates are as follows:
7:30 pm on September 24, 26 October 2, 3, 2015 and 2:00 pm on September 27 and October 4, 2015
For tickets: https://www.houstonballet.org/
Photo Credits: Amitava Sarkar