Sunday, April 23, 2006

Young Dancers Shine: Houston Repertoire Ballet Presents New Works

A single lithe dancer stands center stage. Slowly she begins to walk forward lifting her graceful arms toward the heavens. Her eyes lift skyward. Gradually, she begins a tender dance of sorrow, longing, and acceptance. Despite her petite frame, Morgan Buchanan, holds the space with her poised presence. These are the opening moments of choreographer Gilbert Rome’s newest work, Lament, for the Houston Repertoire Ballet (HRT).

According to Rome, Lament “is about the lifecycle of a woman,” This is a challenging role for Buchanan but she enjoys being pushed when it comes to dance. “I always enjoy working with Morgan, says Rome. “She has the maturity to handle the work.” It’s a solemn work, but Buchanan, at age 15, has the technique and dramatic flare to pull it off. With her doe-eyed beauty and sleek physique, she conjures a young Gelsey Kirland. Trained by Victoria Vittum, the director of HRB at Ballet Center of Houston and Rome, Buchanan enjoys rising to the challenge. “Emotion has to come from the heart every time I perform,” says Buchanan. “I try to make the audience feel what I'm feeling, and you have to know when you've put too much or too little emotion into the steps.” Rome’s work will be performed in HRB’s spring concert and is one of the premières slated for their annual Spring Concert.

You might say Mr. Rome knows something about drama having survived Katrina in New Orleans after retiring from HRB this fall. Rome performed with such legends as Rudolf Nureyev, Erik Bruhn, Lynn Seymour, and Marcia Haydee and performed with National Ballet of Canada. Rome is pleased take a vacation from retirement and return as a choreographer; he is especially pleased to be working with Buchanan again.

Buchanan is just one of the many talented dancers at HRB under the direction of Vittum. Based in Copperfield, Vittum has been training young dancers at the Houston Ballet Center since 1994. Some of her students have gone on to work in major ballet companies across the U.S. including ABT, NYCB, and the Boston Ballet.

Also on the bill is Vittum’s contemporary dance, Tangled Web, about the struggle between good and evil. And she’s not kidding about the web; the dancers literally weave ropes into intricate webs. “It’s about good triumphing over evil,” says Vittum. In addition to running the Houston Ballet Center and HRB, Vittum is an award-winning choreographer. “Tangled Web has been so much fun to satge on the dancers. The movement is a little different for the dancers, especially working with the ropes,” says Vittum. “The students have been so open to trying all kinds of experimental things and we have all had a great time with this ballet.” Allison Wardwell, who dances the lead role of “Purity,” in Tangled Web, is a graduating senior at Jersey Village High School and will be attending the University of Texas in Austin in the fall.

To get in the Spring romance mood, Vittum is also staging Act III of The Sleeping Beauty known as “Aurora’s Wedding.” Guest artists include Sharon Wehner and John Henry Reid from the Colorado Ballet. Wehner is a principal ballerina and Reid is one of Vittum’s many successful former students. Sasha Milena Filipovich, HRB’s ballet mistress, will also premiere a new work, Le Deux Movements en L'air, with music by Dvorak. “The choreography is inspired and motivated by the elegant music of Antonin Dvorak,” says Filipovitch.

Houston Repertoire Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty, “Act III, Aurora’s Wedding” and three ballet premieres on April 28, 2006, 2pm & 7pm at Tomball High School Auditorium. Visit or call 281-861-0199 or 281-351-2787.