Serving up the menu of a mixed program can be tricky. I’ve seen what goes on in the background on the reality show Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a science to arranging dishes and getting them out on time. Open the oven too early and the soufflé drops. Houston Metropolitan Dance Company cooked up a flavorful bill of fare on Saturday night when they tried Mixing It Up, Again.
As usual in my case, the dessert course was the highlight. Delivering the strongest male performance of the evening, Kerry Jackson is trapped in a box of light. His passionate tirade in Consumed, an introduction to Kate Skarpetowska’s slightly scary world of driven conformists. Leaping from the stage he escapes an army of “suits” that urge surrender to their worker bee mentality. A Julliard alumni, Skarpetowska has danced for David Parsons, Lar Lubovitch, and newly named Alvin Ailey Artistic Director, Robert Battle. These influences are clear in athletic choreography, rich with human peculiarities. The work captivated through to a humorously disturbing finish. An odd sort of dessert I suppose, this was Houston Met at its most gritty and menacing, in no small part aided by Meredith Monk’s eccentric vocals and a pulsating score by Richie Hawthine. Dramatic and robust, the supercharged work accentuated the company’s prime attributes. Not a bad way to send the audience out the door… appetite satiated.
A patchwork of lyrically stirring appetizers, Braham Logan Crane’s History introduced the full company. The piece though, did not come into its own until the majority dispersed and sheer curtains of fabric rained down on female soloists, Kiki Lucas, Lisa Wolff, and Jocelyn Thomas. The choreography twines and twirls around a pristine vocal/piano by Angela Ai, a singer-songwriter with inflections akin to Tori Amos and Kate Bush. The dancers’ performances tightened during the latter half of this collection of excerpts as the songs build to a joyous finish. Joe’l Ludovich and Will Matthews’ well-coordinated visuals of ancient rock, architecture, and surging water filled the expanse of the Cullen stage.
In Kiesha Lalama White’s Unsung Moment, Marlana Walsh-Doyle, Terrill Mitchell, and Lucas depicted fear, denial, and confrontation (respectively) with clarity in this study of the underlying emotional conflicts provoked by war. Unfortunately, odd choices in projection and musical transition were occasionally disruptive.
The optimist in me lost the internal bet I’d waged that a work titled Bound would not include a tether. Convention aside, Houston Met veterans Walsh-Doyle and Lucas are engaging performers and this duet by Joe Celej did not overstay its welcome.
In her turn as choreographer, Lucas infused Semi Detached with powerhouse moves and grooves. There is meticulous structure reinforcing this clever battle for control over a chair. A short, sweet sorbet, Pattie Obey’s Passada provided a tinge of romance, its sensual rhythms kindling a triangle of longing and flirtation.
These four world premieres were diverse enough in scope and theme to keep Houston Metropolitan Dance Company’s full-course meal interesting and the program zipping along.
Reprinted from Dance Source Houston