Houston Institutions: Dance Salad, “Sky” Dance & SPA’s New CEO

“People are sending me work all the time now,” says Dance Salad Festival founder and curator Nancy Henderek. Celebrating its 24th anniversary in Houston and the 27th season since its inception in Belgium, Dance Salad Festival returns to the Wortham this Easter weekend (April 18-20) with its customarily diverse mix of classical and contemporary works from all over the world. Drawn to Houston for this year’s performances are artists from Italy, Germany and Finland, as well as stars of the Royal Danish Ballet and New York City Ballet (NYCB) companies.

“They’re interested in the concept of what we’re doing and want to be a part of it,” says Henderek. The Dance Salad “concept” of which Henderek speaks is a curation process that presents dance pieces hand-selected by the festival matriarch herself. These pieces are adaptations of longer works, typically reinvented by their choreographers specifically for Dance Salad performances.

“I guess I could say it’s like partnering…partnering with a very tall, not-so-helpful dancer.”

Amy Ell’s description of aerial dance may not be the most romantic, but it is likely one of the most accurate characterizations. Ell, a specialist in fabric, dance trapeze and vertical dance, would know. She has spent 30 years consumed by the challenge of “flying,” organizing one of the first aerial training programs in Texas and forming her professional aerial dance company VauLt at a Houston studio in the Montrose district. She closed the studio more than a year ago to rediscover creative play in a professional life that had become overwhelmed by managerial duties, and to roam internationally.

“I am lucky to witness the incredible growth in aerial dance taking place around the globe,” says Ell. As Europe and the U.S. have embraced the gravity-defying medium over the last decade, Texas has established a robust and active community of flyers, as well as audiences hungry for the work. Ell has been integral to that expansion.

Meg Booth worked with organizations like North Carolina Dance Theatre, White Oak Dance Project, Twyla Tharp Dance and Dance/USA before spending 11 years directing dance programming at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  Though the new CEO of Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) has used her curation and programming expertise to orchestrate a dazzling and diverse 2019-2020 season of music, drama, storytelling and everything in between, it’s safe to say Booth knows a little something about assembling a season of great dance. Booth walked ACTX dance writer Nichelle Suzanne through SPA’s upcoming dance series, which opens with the Martha Graham Dance Company (Oct. 18), giving insight into her choices, her goals, as well as her enthusiasm for dance.

Published by Nichelle

Nichelle balances careers as a dancer, instructor, writer, and mother. She is a seasoned performer whose strength lies in bringing dramatic

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