National Dance Week Kicks Off Tonight

Houston explodes with motion: If you're weak for dance, this is your week

Houston explodes with motion: If you're weak for dance, this is your week

Dance is one happening art form right now.  So You Think You Can Dance?, Dancing With the Stars, and Glee rule the airwaves. Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post just snagged a Pulitzer Prize for dance criticism, only the second in history. Here at home, Houston Ballet erects  its new temple, Center for Dance.

For National Dance Week (today through May 2), the city is literally exploding with motion.

Launching the week in Houston tonight is the upstart troupe Aszure Barton & Artists, presented by Society for the Performing Arts at the Wortham Theater Center's Cullen Theater. Barton, a Canadian, is a perfect match for the Lone Star state.

"I'm a cowgirl allright," says Barton. "I have always wanted to perform in Texas."

Her liquid moves, sensuous and athletic, come to life when danced by her top-notch company. Barton's busy year has included major commissions from American Ballet Theatre, The National Ballet of Canada, Juilliard and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Check out her Dance Magazine cover story and my Dance Source Houston interview.

Homegrown concerts are plentiful as well. Core Performance Company, dually based in Atlanta and Houston, opens its hearts to local choreographers Teresa Chapman, Leslie Scates and Becky Valls, in Let's Dance on April 30 at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Chapman is reprising Shift, a work originally made for three University of Houston dancers. This time Erin Reck, Lindsey McGill and Brit Wallis will do the honors.

"This is the dream team," says Chapman. "I love watching them spin, spiral, leap and catch each other."

Next weekend will be a busy time for Reck, Valls and Chapman because all three of them also have works in Propulsion, the University of Houston faculty dance concert on the same night. "We haven't quite figured out how we are going to do this,"  Chapman says.

Also on April 30 (It must be Dance Day):

  • Core member Blake Dalton shows off a freestyle poling piece with Rice Dance Theatre. He explains the new hybrid dance style this way:  "Think aerial dance meets pole vaulting."
  • Students from the Houston Community College Dance Ensemble present their spring show, Eye of the Beholder at Heinen Theater, featuring Cacophony, a new work by director Cynthia Capuch.
  • At the Cullen, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company  presents Mixing it Up Again featuring shiny new works by Pattie Obey, Kiki Lucas, Joe Celej, Kate Skarpetowska and Keisha Lalama-White. Just named one of 25 to watch by Dance Magazine, Lalama-White mixes memory, personal experience and photography. A photograph of  the eyes of a soldier in Afghanistan slowly develops like a Polaroid during the piece Lalama-White calls Unsung Moment. "I am exploring the soldier's thoughts in that one moment," she says. "The dancers represent fear, denial and panic."
  • With Ascending at Barnevelder, Second Generation Dance features dances about women escaping slavery via the underground railroad from Texas to Mexico.

May is just as busy. East Meets West VIII brings world dance into the fun as Dance of Asian America performs ancient and contemporary dances from China at Miller Outdoor Theatre on May 1. For the west part, artistic director Janie Yao has invited Revolve Dance Company, Ad Deum Dance Company and WyldStyL.

"Last year, 4,500 people showed up to see us at the Miller," boasts Yao. "People enjoy being exposed to different kinds of dance, and all for free. Miller is one great place to educate an audience."

Also in May: The young dancers at Houston Ballet II take their talents on tour to Germany while the main company polishes up Mark Morris' Sandpaper Ballet and Stanton Welch's Pecos Bill.

The month continues its dance blitz with Urban Souls Dance Company, FrenitiCore, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, Psophonia Dance Company, 6 Degrees, Vault, The Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble, JCC, Hope Stone, Entre Flamenco and India Jazz Suites Katha Master Chitres Das with super star tapper Jason Samuels Smith. The month concludes appropriately with Dance Houston's City Wide Dance Festival.

Whoa! My dance card is full. Even Angelina Ballerina, the spokesmouse for National Dance Week, is on top of the world with a new show.

All things in motion are moving up.

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Marlana Walsh-Doyle and Joe Celej of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company. Walsh-Doyle is managing director of Houston Met, and Celej is also the choreographer. Photo by D. Garson
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Aszure Barton & Artists performing "Busk" Photo by Donald Lee 
courtesy of The Banff Centre
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Mary Jane Pennington with Core Performance Company Photo by Ben Tecumseh DeSoto
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Houston Ballet artists Michael Wagley, from left, Simone Polychronis and Steven Bain in "Long and Winding Road" choreographed by Stanton Welch Photo by Bruce Bennett