The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company’s Spring Concert featured the works of new and more established choreographers from both the commercial and concert worlds. News of a new building with parking, no less, got the full-sized crowd in a good mood from the start. But it was the return of Joe Celej, a former Met dancer, that made for the big news, both in his performance in a reprise of his 2005 knock your socks off duet with Marlana Walsh, What More, and his riveting new group work, ForeverFleeting.
Now dancing with Elisa Monte Dance, the fact that Celej has kept strong ties to this small dance company is admirable. It is also a testament to the Met’s artistic administration that they stay connected to an artist like Celej. Certainly it’s a good thing when people move on, but it’s also heartening when they return.
Celej’s tender duet just gets better with repeated viewings. Enlisting a tangible chemistry, Walsh and Celej come as close as possible to finishing each other’s sentences in movement. It’s tumbling forward pace is punctuated by long moments of resting, lingering, and total surrender. With his new work, ForeverFleeting, Celej pushes this young troupe both technically and theatrically. The piece pierces your attention from the get-go, luring you into its hypnotic spell. Celej is a master of balancing dense movement with stillness, and he shows this talent with a terrifically effective passage towards the end. The dancers pound out a gestural tirade while taking turns standing still. The quiet dancer then repeats the phrase with a looser touch, much like a call and response echo.
Salim Gauwloos gets the cryptic award with his ode to Gothic mysticism, 11:11. Dressed in black futuristic gowns, the four women engage in the rituals of a secretive ceremony with the help of four folding chairs as if under direct orders from a higher power. One quibble: this regal regiment should have a fancier set of chairs. Plain old folding chairs didn’t fit the piece.
Eddy Ocampo’s Vicissitude fits the troupe’s high-octane talents and showed off tight ensemble work, dynamic dancing, and complex and visually compelling group formations. Gray unitards with borders on the arms and legs further amplified the athletic spirit.
Pattie Obey’s Faces of Love, set to Gary Moore’s rock blues, got off to a wobbly start. The piece moved into its own during the solos. Lynzy Lab stood out in her fearless, full-steam-ahead dancing. Peter Kalivas’ large group work, Lose Myself, got lost along the way; it suffered from too much movement going nowhere. Kiki Lucas’ Benevolence felt like more of the same.
Over all, if the Met wants to ramp it up to the next level, they need to think more about the diversity of the program. Outside of Celej’s work, the evening felt like the audience was on the same channel. More thought needs to go into costuming each piece as well. The production values do not match the high quality dancing.
Speaking of these terrific performers, they included guest artist Joe Celej, company director Marlana Walsh, resident choreographer Kiki Lucas, company members Lauren Garson, Lynzy Lab, Jocelyn Thomas, and apprentices Samantha Camarillo, Christopher Cardenas, Katie Heintz, Karen Pfeifer, Liz Osterwisch, Lisa Tschopp, and interns Whitney Alexander and Blair Buras.
Reprinted from Dance Source Houston.