The Arthropologist

Dance vacations: Forget Mad Men, Houston's best movers have better steps to see

Dance vacations: Forget Mad Men, Houston's best movers have better steps to see

Last summer, I holed up at Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, where I spent hours watching dance on stage and in the archives. In mid-August, I will be heading back, this time as a scholar-in-residence, a big step up from pest-in-residence.

I prefer to goof off at home and have already clocked in some serious Mad Men marathon-ing. Vacations are better put to use as immersion excursions. Apparently, I am not the only dance nerd in town. Others are spending their precious down time doing just what they love, dancing. For this crop, summer seems to be more about changing the where than the what. 

Over the course of the summer, Dominic Walsh and his dancers have traipsed through Italy and England, aerial dancer Amy Ell swung from silks over castle country in Bratislava, Slovakia, and Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh played the prince in Giselle in Japan. 

Wait there's more.

Houston Met dancer and company manager Marlana Walsh-Doyle shared her summer plans with me while we were hanging out at a sleek bar during the Dance/USA conference. Walsh-Doyle and Presidential Scholar Robert Moore head to New York City later this month to perform Joe Celej's sensuous duet,

What More, originally created for her and Celej. Moore, Celej's former student and HSPVA grad, will be attending Juilliard in the fall. What More is a gorgeous duet that examines the push and pull of a love relationship.

"This piece fits me like a glove because I was part of the creative process with Joe; it was choreographed and molded on my body," Walsh-Doyle says. "Every time I perform or rehearse it, there are new things to discover. This particular performance is different because I have performed it only with Joe for the last five years. Robbie Moore is so mature in the way that he approaches movement."

Facebook photos of Houston Ballet principal Melody Herrera rehearsing a new work by the renown  Annabelle Lopez Ochao  tipped me off to her summer fling with Seattle's bold new ballet company Whim W'him directed by Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) principal Olivier Wevers. The show isn't until January, but summer is ideal time to find top dancers off duty.

Victoria Farr Brown's musings on e Whims gives us a flavor of Herrera's time with the company. Wevers is also creating a new duet for Herrera and PNB principal Lucien Postelwaite.

Herrera and Postelwaite grew up together in Santa Cruz, California. He performed the prince to her Clara in The Nutcracker when they were kids.

"We danced our little hearts out during our teens," Herrera says. "This is so special because not only because both the pieces are innovative and exciting, but because I am dancing with ballet brother Lucien. Although we have returned to guest together in Santa Cruz, this is the first time a piece has been created for the two of us."

Wevers and Herrera hit it off too.

"I had such a great time with Melody. She is so genuine and dedicated, and it shows in her dancing. It has been wonderful to witness her and Lucien dancing with so much generosity towards each other," Wevers says. "We also got to know each other a more, and share a few memorable moments outside of the studio. Her laugh is contagious, but so is her passion for what she does."

Erin Reck traveled back to the big apple to dance with post-modern wonder Molly Rabinowitz/Liquid Grip at the Joyce SoHo. Drawn to Rabinowitz's sheer athleticism, Reck excels in full-bodied idiosyncratic choreography.

"Molly and I have a similar way of moving. I get her work somehow. On a deeper level, there is a profound amount of trust between us that was instant but has also developed over the years," Reck writes via email form New York. "I can just get on her train and ride with her."

Currently, Reck divides her time between Houston and New York, but dance audiences can look forward to her sassy duet on the Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance bill in September at Miller Outdoor Theatre.

University of Houston faculty and Travesty Dance Group members Karen Stokes and Teresa Chapman escaped to Sweden to perform in Abundance 2010, a dance and choreography festival in Karlstad. Stokes choreographed 2 for 1, a duet fusing song, text and dance. When not dancing they enjoyed the hoopla over Princess Victoria's royal wedding and a special tour of the Alma Lov Museum.

Chapman and Stokes went to town on their Swedish travels, so much I had to keep bringing the conversation around to the dance stuff. Clearly, this pair has the dance vacay concept down.

"We actually did work," Stokes insists. "We performed a 30-minute duet, I taught a workshop and participated  of a panel on aesthetics and the body politic. There was time to soak up the magic of Sweden too."

Chapman found Stokes' work both intimate and challenging.

"The piece is a poignant reminder to cherish the everyday moments in life," says Chapman, who is full of travel tips, "Stay at the Berns Hotel, great rooms and rock stars galore. Every meal was good but take your Visa because they don't take American Express and it ain't cheap.

Head to Old Town Gamla Stan for for jazz at Stampen Pub, but beware of the Swedish business men."

Chapman already has plans in motion for next summer to teach in Costa Rica and Italy. Let's give this girl a dance travel show.


Karen Stokes and Teresa Chapman look like they are having way too much fun in their Sweden travel journal:


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Teresa Chapman and Karen Stokes rehearse in Karlstad for "Abundance 2010" Photo by Yves Delepine
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Karen Stokes and Teresa Chapman at Orebro Castle, Sweden, 2010 Photo by Yves Delepine
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A member of Molly Rabinowitz/LiquidGrip Photo by Lois Greenfield
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Houston Ballet principal Melody Herrera and Lucien Postelwaite rehearsing a new work by Annabelle Lopez Ochao with Whim W'Him, a new Seattle dance company directed by Olivier Wevers Courtesy of La Vie Photography
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Herrera and Postelwaite rehearsing with Whim W'Him Courtesy of La Vie Photography
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Marlana Walsh-Doyle and Joe Celej in "What More" by Celej and performed by The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company Photo by D. Garson