Cultural Awareness at Houston’s JCC and SMU Alumni Making Dance in Texas

Badge of Honor: SMU Dance Grads Impact Texas Dance
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Cultural Awareness Threads Through Dance Month 2017 at the Kaplan
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Dancer Profile: Nick Phillips

Featured on Ground Report, this profile on Australian dancer Nick Phillips was fun to write.

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This one for Tinsel Town News covered Nick’s role in Legends, for which he toured with Oscar-winning actress Hayley Mills and her sister Juliet.

Nick Phillips in Legends

10 Of My Favorite Dance Articles From 2015

  1. 12 Traits of Terrific Dance Teachers 
  2. Help! I Needed Those Dance Costumes Yesterday (What to do when customer service is failing you) 

    The Dance Majors Freshman Fifteen
    The infographic I created for the related article.
  3. Pointe Shoes Receive Tough Love From Houston Ballet Dancers (How HB Ballerinas Prepare Their Pointe Shoes) 
  4. Dance Auditions For Non-Dancers 
  5. Dance Class Etiquette Essentials
  6. Do I Have To Be In Shape To Start Taking Dance Class?
  7. 15 Ways To Prepare For Your First Year As A College Dance Major
  8. Things I Never Thought About Before Becoming A Dance Teacher
  9. How To Clean Practically Anything Dance Related 
  10. What The Nutcracker Is A Mirliton, Anyway? (A Little History On The Inhabitants Of The Kingdom Of Sweets)

Catching Up With Blasts From The Past

Happy New Year!

My dance education blog, Dance Advantage, has kept me on my toes. And did I mention I’ve been doing some freelance work for the Rockettes website, too? It’s about time I get some of my more recent dance writing work on this blog.

So, I’m kicking off January with some links to the past to catch up to the present.

Photo by Jae Man Joo
Photo by Jae Man Joo

Complexions Contemporary Ballet Ready To Rock Houston

What does a dance company have in common with U2, one of rock music’s biggest acts?

With a big smile on his face, Dwight Rhoden quips, “I think dancers are rockstars”.

Rhoden’s New York City company, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, is about to rock… and roll through Houston on October 14 with a program that includes musical accompaniment big and bold enough to blow off the Wortham’s roof: The Rolling Stones, Roy Buchanan, “The Hallelujah Chorus,” and, of course, U2. The evening will close with Rise, a work set entirely to tunes from the Irish rock band’s catalog.

Rhoden gets no argument here about the exceptional qualities of dancers. However, as I see it, the troupe he founded with dancer Desmond Richardson in 1994 is like U2 in other ways, too. Both have accessibility and wide appeal, traits which some in their respective fields dismiss as if it were harder to be obscure. Both groups resist being bound by or excluded from the circles of commercial and “high” art. Both even have a frontman (in Complexions’ case, Richardson) who can command a stage like few others.

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World premiere of inventive Tapestry highlights Houston Ballet’s “Rock, Roll & Tutus”

Photo by Amtiava Sarkar || A scene from "Rooster," choreographed by Christopher Bruce, with Christopher Coomer and Katelyn May
Photo by Amtiava Sarkar || A scene from “Rooster,” choreographed by Christopher Bruce, with Christopher Coomer and Katelyn May

If any company can rock a goofy strut and some tutus made of air conditioning filters it’s Houston Ballet. They proved it at the opening of “Rock, Roll & Tutus” last week.

The program, which includes the world premiere of artistic director Stanton Welch‘s Tapestry plus two ballets previously performed (Rooster and Divergence), continues with three performances Friday through Sunday.

Marquee aside, Welch planned for Tapestry to be the antithesis of rock and roll as he set it to Mozart‘s Violin Concerto No. 5. While it showcases the rock star qualities of violinist, Denise Tarrant, the only thing “in your face” about this ballet is the talent of the company.

Daring, inventive and occasionally just plain jaw-dropping partnering punctuates the entire first section during which dancers appear in a muted tangerine and blue. To the delight of the audience, Karina Gonzalez is tossed between Connor Walsh and Ian Cassidy like a wisp of smoke — particularly sweet-scented smoke.

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Houston Contemporary Dancesquared

Photo by Simon Gentry
Photo by Simon Gentry

No, The Stoners and The Metronics are not emerging indie-rock bands.

These handles are how Hope Stone and Houston Metropolitan Dance Company members have been referring to themselves as they merge for their joint performance, squared dancer, November 9 and 10 in the Wortham’s Cullen Theatre.
An alliance built on mutual admiration and like-mindedness, Hope Stone helmswoman, Jane Weiner and Houston Met’s freshman artistic director, Marlana Walsh Doyle agree the pairing is one that has been simmering for some time.
Earlier this year, as the weather was heating up, so were the possibilities for partnership. Fresh off her August who’s-who of Houston artists, WRECK-WE-UMM, Weiner says her band of “permanent pick-up dancers,” was on a collaborative high.
“It didn’t feel competitive but it felt edgy,” Weiner recalls of that summer experience. “Everybody was pushing each other but everybody was on the same page and very ensemble-like.”

Rockettes Features:

More coming this way in 2013!

Writing Highlights

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Reporting/Previews

Criticism

Interviews

How-To/Instructional

Shuffling Off To Buffalo

I recently penned a preview of Romeo and Juliet for Neglia Ballet Artists, a Buffalo dance company. The article is now live at ArtVoice. Below is an excerpt:

Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in Romeo and Juliet. (photo by Gene Witkowski)
Sergio Neglia and Silvina Vaccarelli in Romeo and Juliet. (photo by Gene Witkowski)

Collaborators blend dance, music, and story to present Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet

Though Neglia Ballet premiered their Romeo and Juliet in 2008, this marks the first time it will be performed with live music. “There is no comparing a performance with live music to a performance with CD,” says Halt. “The actual sound of the music is so much richer.”

Indeed, the audience and the dancers are more keenly aware of the details of Prokofiev’s score, one of ballet’s most lush and lyrical orchestrations, in a performance with live musicians. “My favorite music is when Juliet has a moment of clarity before her tragic end and at that moment she resolves to do what she has to do. The melody of the bedroom pas de deux, the lovers’ farewell, is repeated but much stronger and somewhat desperate. For me it is the climax of the score,” observes choreographer Sergio Neglia, who is also the production’s Romeo.

Unlike other ballet narratives, which can have sketchy storylines and a variety of musical interpretations, Prokofiev provides a “roadmap” through Shakespeare’s very familiar plot. “The music tells me exactly what needs to happen in Romeo and Juliet,” says Neglia, who like Prokofiev, sticks closely to the original character-driven tragedy. Adds Halt, “Sergio is a great storyteller and is quite remarkable in conveying what he wants. When he demonstrates the character, he is the character.”

Neglia often takes on several of these roles almost simultaneously during his choreographic process, admitting that this can sometimes drive his cast crazy.