Five Questions

Houston's a stage: Dance Salad brings Drew Jacoby to troupe

Houston's a stage: Dance Salad brings Drew Jacoby to troupe

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Drew Jacoby of Jacoby & Pronk, New York/Amsterdam, performing "Softly as I Leave You" with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. Choreography by Paul Lightfoot/Sol Leon Photo by Bill Cooper

Houston will take a prominent place on the world dance map when Dance Salad Festival brings an impressive lineup of  national and international choreographers and artists to town for performances Thursday through Saturday at the Wortham Center. Salad audiences also look forward to return engagements of their favorite troupes from past seasons. This year, Jacoby & Pronk are the returning "it" company.

For Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk, it's a particularly meaningful occasion, because the two-person troupe made its debut right here in Houston at the 2008 Dance Salad Festival. The Salad's curator, Nancy Henderek, is famous for spotting new talent and being ahead of the dance curve. Steely strength, uncompromising athleticism and a fiery chemistry characterize the Jacoby & Pronk signature.

The duo will be dancing Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon's enigmatic ballet, Softly as I leave You. Jacoby danced with Alonzo King's Lines Ballet while Pronk performed with the Dutch National Ballet. Since leaving their home companies they have taking the dance world by storm as a duet company, landing a cover story in Dance Magazine in the process. Jacoby gives us a glimpse of her big plans.

Q: You christened your company during Dance Salad. What do you recall about that event? Did it seal the deal?

A: It was our first show independent from a company, but we were also premiering One by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, so two exciting milestones. I remember being well received and feeling like we really accomplished something with that performance. It gave us a boost of confidence that we were headed in the right direction.

Q: How does Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon's work match your considerable collective talents?

A: Working with Lightfoot Leon was like a dream come true. To get the opportunity to work with them is rare outside of Netherlands Dance Theatre, so I appreciated our time working together so much. It's a new style for us and  different feeling than some of our more technical, athletic works. It has a softer, more vulnerable quality, and uses more drama than our usual work.

Q: What makes the chemistry between you and Pronk work so well?

A: We are good friends off stage, which probably adds some dimension to our on stage relationship. We have similar approaches to movement, so I think that really works when we dance together. It was a pretty natural chemistry from day one. It's a strength and a force that we share. We are quite physically commanding on our own and both have a strong presence. We feed into each other's energy, and that can be quite powerful.

Q: What choreographers are ready to take the Jacoby and Pronk plunge?

A: We have our own evening this summer at Jacob's Pillow and we will be having some other dancers join us as well. Choreographers include Juri Kylian, Alonzo King, Leo Mujic, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Hans Van Manen. Our wish list is large too. We also hope to do some work from an emerging choreographer.

Q: Doing the traditional gig of being a company member in a dance company proved a limited choice for you and Pronk. You have taken a more entrepreneurial path in dance, as curators and completely in charge of your own destiny. How's that independent streak working for you?

A: I am amazed at the success we've had as a partnership.The natural progression of Jacoby & Pronk seems to be heading toward creating a pick-up company. We started off just wanting to be our own bosses, but more and more doors are opening and it's exciting to think were we'll be in a few years. We do feel more in charge and in control of our careers. I hope to gain a little bit more structure as we build our brand, but it's extremely rewarding to take our careers into our own hands, quite challenging, but definitely worth it. Right now, we are enjoying the freedom.