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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Annual Houston dance festival is en pointe

Houston’s highly anticipated annual Dance Salad Festival is known for showcasing the crème de la crème of international contemporary dancers and choreographers, a group that produces a number of groundbreaking works worldwide. This year’s salad was equipped with nothing less than the finest ingredients.

Produced and directed by Nancy Henderek, the show’s two-night lineup headlined the premiering works of companies that were new to the US. These performers, hailing from everywhere around the world, put on a memorable show within the walls of Houston’s own Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

The highlight came early before the chime of curtain call. At the opening of the house, as the audience members were taking their seats, the Beijing Dance/ LDTX company from China had already taken the stage with a performance titled “Standing before Darkness,” a seemingly improvised duet that was choreographed by Sang Jijia.

With a backdrop featuring an array of randomly positioned chairs, female dancer Ma Bo moved amongst the field of furniture at the whim of partner Zuo Yan and his subtle manipulations.

A 14-member ensemble of dancertook the stage following the duet. They exploded into chair formations that optimized their movements, and they displayed the company’s tremendous control and ability as they wove between the chairs. It was a fantastic choice for the program that only left audience members time to catch their breathcatching their breath only after the curtain dropped.

Next on the menu was a US premiere entitled “Bonet,” a comedic duet from Zagreb, Croatia, choreographed by the dancers themselves, Zoran Marovic and Masa Kolar. Centered around a large wooden office table, the duo’s quirky movements combined with humorous pantomime, conceptualizing the bickering between couples in the middle of a business negotiation. It was a big success to the knee-slapping audience, who roared for an encore upon the descent of the duet.

The BJM Dance Montreal followed that performance with the US premiere of “Locked Up Laura,” a piece choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and inspired by the inner conflicts of a performer minutes before a performance. With extraordinary extension, flexibility and technique, the two dancers formed lines that made one appreciate the potential of the human body and its precision.

Other highlights of the festival included a show by Eastman Company’s Faun, from Antwerp, Belgium. In this performance, the dancers displayed their succulent athleticism and an ethereal movement range, all set to Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun.”

Jasmin Virdimon Company’s submission of “Yesterday,” which served as additional comic relief for both evenings, included choreographically synched video projections and an interactive dialogue that asked audience members to look inside, see their own bodies as a home and travel into one’s memory.

Closing the festival was the French-imported Ballet National de Merseille, featuring a futuristic, Cunningham-styled composition, “Metamorphoses.” In presenting mythical perceptions of nature and the world around us, the show had a subtle, underlying theme discussing the manifestations of desire, which lined the composition with a sense of warning.

With the continual growth of Houston’s Dance scene, this year’s Dance Salad Festival was certain to inspire local choreographers and dancers. Houston’s artistic endeavors must be pushed even further to have any chance of reaching the astonishingly high bar that has been set by the innovation of the international dance companies that performed in this year’s Dance Salad Festival.

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