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Jubilee of Dance

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The gala opened with the first movement from Welch’s Divergence, the popular ballet from last season. Bridgett Zehr led the troop of dancers here. On a second viewing, you no longer sit on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next, which is what this piece relies on. It’s like watching the internal workings of a clock; interesting to look at, but after you’ve figured out the mechanics, there’s not much to it. All the movements were mechanical- the effect Welch was trying to create- and it really does become listless after awhile. The concept of this ballet was to diverge from classical ballet. Not exactly a new idea. Choreographers before him did it, and in some cases did it better. Up next was the Manon male solo and pdd from Act I danced by Zdenek Konvalina and Sara Webb. These two have great chemistry and even though Zdenek’s dancing was a bit unsteady in the solo, he still has the most gorgeous line out of all the men in the company and beautiful articulation of the feet. Leticia Oliveira phrasing had a light clarity in the Serenade Solo from Lifar’s Suite en Blanc. Timothy O’Keefe’s Fascinating Evening set to Gershwin’s music looked as if it had been created for an amateur competition, but it turned out to be a good star vehicle for Lauren Anderson. Phillip Broomhead was back on stage performing the clog dance from La Fille mal Gardée. The four girls seemed somewhat under-rehearsed, but it doesn’t matter much for this whimsical excerpt. Andrew Murphy’s Apollo was unimpressive, but Mimi Hassenboehler as Terpsichore saved the pdd. Her interpretation was very different from what I remember of Barbara Bears’ from this past spring (and very different from Farrell’s of what I’ve seen on tape). It didn’t feel quite right to see her have a static grin plastered on the entire time, though.

After the first intermission was the first prelude from Stevenson’s Three Preludes. Rachmaninov is considered bad ballet music, but what Stevenson does here is lovely and IMO, one of his more interesting works. Bears and Carl Coomer were featured in this piece. Bears dances with a subtlety that conveys more emotion breadth than someone who tries to do “more.” Coomer is one of the more interesting corps men to watch, and he partnered Bears attentively. Béjart’s Songs of a Wayfarer was a really beautiful piece choreographed for two men (originally, Nureyev and- I’m guessing- Paolo Bortoluzzi), and there isn’t enough I can say of Konvalina to describe him here (sorry! I know there are people reading this who don’t like him, but he’s still an incredible dancer, in my mind). On the other hand, it became quite clear whom viewers would prefer to keep their eyes on. There’s such an uncommon fluidity and, pardon me for saying this but, effeminacy in his dancing. No emotions ever seem to register across Murphy, neither in his face nor his body.

The evening closed with Welch’s enjoyable new piece, a showcase for the entire company, Bolero. I liked the jazziness of it, and I finally got to take a look at all the new faces of Houston Ballet. There was a corps girl who stood out; I think it was Nao Kusuzaki, but I’m not sure. Who says petite dancers can’t make a presence? :lightbulb: I wish I could be in Houston over Xmas break to see her Snow Queen. It’s a shame Simon Ball is injured (he was out for most of the gala and for the entire Nutcracker run), but he did show up in this ballet.

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Mrs. Glentzer's review: Jubilee

Since joining the company three years ago, Konvalina has starred most memorably in Manon and Apollo (if you don't count the horrific moment last year when he crawled off the stage, injured, in The Nutcracker). Songs, however — with a technically tough mix of gut-curling emotion and aerial lightness — is his best vehicle yet. A man with beautiful feet? Yes, and a lithe back, musicality, nobility and compelling intensity.

The world premiere of Welch's Bolero, set to Maurice Ravel's familiar orchestral work, was an ooh-la-la ending. It was a fun twist on a Paris Opéra Ballet défilé, a traditional annual onstage parade in which the legendary French company's dancers and academy students march from the rear wall downstage to greet their public. Thus, Bolero was more focused on space architecture than new steps. Welch wanted to create a piece that used all of his 54 dancers, and this was a good solution.

When the music finally climaxed, the whole company filled the stage with a magnificent geometry, dancing in alternating vertical, unisonal lines.

I agree on many points here. The patterns were definitely the most appealing thing in Bolero.

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