State of the Arts 2012
Mark Your Calendar

Houston Ballet's Women@Art promises dazzling choreography from Twyla Tharp & Aszure Barton

Houston Ballet's Women@Art promises dazzling choreography from Twyla Tharp & Aszure Barton

WOMEN@ART Houston Ballet, Melody Mennite
Dancer Melody Mennite Photo by Ron McKinney

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As much as I dislike the name for Houston Ballet’s second program of the upcoming season, Women@Art, I can’t wait to see the show.

If you were lucky enough to see Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly With Me at the Hobby Center in April, you’ll be even more dazzled by this brilliant choreographer’s peculiar take on classicism, The Brahms-Haydn Variations. I remember feeling dizzy from the density and details when American Ballet Theatre premiered it 12 years ago.

Wouldn’t their work be better served if it were simply integrated into the general programming over an indefinite period into the future? 

At the time, dance critic Robert Johnson called this wild yet highly-controlled work a “big, fat anniversary diamond” for the company, a “certifiable gem,” and he wasn’t wrong. It is a perfect vehicle for Houston Ballet’s talented artists, and an undisputed masterpiece in the ballet canon.

Canadian-born Julia Adam created Ketubah, which focuses on aspects of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, for Houston Ballet in 2004. Since I know nothing about her, I am really looking forward to watching the piece, which apparently “showcases the natural humor and story-telling style of the affable choreographer,” as described at the company’s website. If she is truly affable, it will be a nice balance with Tharp, who is probably the least affable choreographer I have ever encountered, male or female.

Also from Canada but now based in New York is Aszure Barton, who is likely putting the finishing touches on her world premiere for Houston Ballet as I write. She’s certainly established, having had her choreography performed by major companies such as National Ballet of Canada, The Martha Graham Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Netherlands Dance Theater, and many others. One of her biggest supporters has been none other than Mikhail Baryshnikov. It will be intriguing to see what sorts of artistic matters she is concerned with at present and how the company handles her challenging style.

But really, Women@Art? There is something about it that is worrisome, as if these ballets by female choreographers are best grouped together on a separate-but-equal program. As if they were created by Tweeting, Facebook-friendly femmes.

Wouldn’t their work be better served if it were simply integrated into the general programming over an indefinite period into the future? Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations, for example, could have been included in a Houston Ballet program titled Journey with the Masters, which opens in May. Oh, wait, that features Jiří Kylián, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. Men, only men.