Sunday, November 06, 2005

Houston Ballet: Mentors & Prodigy Looks Back and Ahead

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Peter Franc and Bridgett Zehr in Dark and Lovely, Mmmm
Photo by Jim Caldwell

Houston Ballet’s Mentors and Prodigy highlighted the work of three contemporary choreographers in a substantial evening of dance. The program combined work from Brian Enos, a rising upstart, Jiří Kylián, a seasoned pro, and Stanton Welch, a choreographer moving into mastery. The evening yielded a rare opportunity to consider a larger concept of mentorship in the dancer/choreographer relationship. Choreographers mentor dancers in the act of dancing itself. Seeing all three works together provided a potent lens into the full spectrum of contemporary ballet today.

Ben Stevenson recognized a prodigy in Brian Enos when he was a student at the Academy. Enos traveled the ranks of the Academy to the company in record time. At the tender age of 18, he created Landing for the company. At 23, Enos is still developing his craft as evident in his world, Dark and Lovely, Mmmm…. Nicholas Phillips, a prodigy himself, has been making his mark in the ballet world for some time now. Phillips’ linear and high-tech set and lighting lent a futuristic feel and accentuated the geometry of Enos’ classical on the bottom, post-modern on the top choreography. Light beams constructed of Neo-Neon Flex gave a more fluid than neon effect. Moving lines of light neatly contained Enos’ somewhat dense designs, creating a potent tension between form and chaos. Surprising moments of vibrant unison punctuated this sometimes cluttered dance. A thin narrative involving a lonely outsider added mystery to this otherwise abstract dance. Corps member Jessica Collado was riveting as the black-skirted outsider. The piece, although ripe with fresh energy, felt a little undercooked. Still, Enos is one to keep watching.

Stanton Welch knew he wanted to be a choreographer when he danced Kylián’s Forgotten Land. The company delivered an elegant performance of Kylián’s somber, yet poetic work. Inspired by Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem and a painting by Edvard Munch, the work draws its theme from the loss of land from an encroaching sea. In light of recent events, the work touched an emotional chord.

Welch was in his mid-twenties when he created Divergence for The Australian Ballet, young enough to be considered a prodigy himself. This bold and daring work has “signature” power for Houston Ballet. The company looked positively explosive in Welch’s daring-the-convention off- kilter choreography as they tackled Welch’s harder-than-hard ballet with industrial-strength spunk.