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Rite of Spring etc.


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The recent mixed rep at Houston Ballet included two world premieres (Edwaard Liang's Murmuration and Stanton Welch's Rite of Spring) as well as the Houston premiere of Pacific.

Having missed Pacific somehow at both PNB and SFB, I was delighted to see it. This was cast from strength, with most of the company's best dancers in it.

Jessica Collado was excellent in the pas de deux. The interesting Lou Harrison score (two movements of his piano trio) was unfortunately so butchered by the pianist

that it was quite difficult to concentrate on the dancing during the sadly extended piano cadenza in the first movement which was used.

Murmuration suffered from a dreadful and mindless 'minimalist' score (a violin concerto by Ezio Bosso) but had such fascinating and intriguing choreography that it almost did not matter.

The title refers to the synchronized flights of starling flocks--the dancers lived up to the poetic allusion, and Christopher Coomer, one of the company's most brilliant and underused and undervalued dancers,

was magnificent in the central role. It was a great pleasure to see the handsome, sterling Coomer in a large leading role for a change, and to see the flexibility and attack he brought to Liang's work.

This was the best work on the program, which featured bare chests on all the male dancers throughout the evening, lol.

Alas, Welch made Rite of Spring boring--the one thing one might think this score could never be. There were beautiful backdrop/paintings by the Australian aboriginal artist Rosella Namok, there was excellent lighting which was rather fancy--and Welch responded by designing ugly, busy, chaotic costumes which fought with every other element of the mise-en-scene. The presence of the wonderful Nozoki Iijima as one of the 'victims' (it was impossible to discern even how many 'victims' there were intended to be) and the company's golden boy Joseph Walsh as another did not avail the ballet, nor did the casting of four excellent soloists/principal females in dull and undistinguished demi-solo parts. Of course, due to union/technical/logistical concerns (Rite requires an orchestra twice the normal ballet size, not to mention how long the makeup and those costumes must have taken) this was the finale--and what an anticlimax that was.

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