Review: Dance Houston City Wide Festival

NobleMotion Dance Company

Photography by Dionne Noble

Wortham Theatre

August 30, 2009

Houston is becoming a dance festival city, with The Power of Movement last spring and the the upcoming Weekend of Contemporary Dance, Dance Houston’s City Wide Dance Festival did its part in keeping the momentum going. Andrea Cody, executive director of Dance Houston, moved here to start festivals and that she did. The 7th annual City-Wide festival lived up to its name delivering an all over the map tour of Houston’s dance scene including contemporary, hip-hop, ballet, ballroom and world dance. The people on the stage represented a diverse group as well, from students to internationally known professionals. As with most festivals, the fun was abundant, the audience enthusiastic, and the quality mixed.

On the contemporary front NobleMotion Dance made a strong statement in an excerpt from Barrier. Set to Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla’s sultry music, the piece drops us directly down into the world of a steamy romance. Choreographer Andy Noble cleverly enlists the help of a steel gray wall as a container and foil for their passion. The couple, danced by Jesus Acosta and Melissa Needler, shove, push, walk and smash up against the wall in some all out thrilling partnering. Acosta and Needler’s fierce abandon bolstered Barrier’s strength, leaving even more curiosity about the rest of the piece. Noble, currently an assistant professor of Dance at Sam Houston State University, is relatively new to the Houston scene. After this show, and his recent showing at Big Range, NobleMotion is the new troupe to watch.

Dominic Walsh Dance Theater offered an excerpt of Amadeus for Anita, part of Walsh’s Mozart Trilogy to be danced later this month at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Walsh’s weighty work, precisely danced by his sleek troupe, anchored the evening with its solid and captivating performance. Houston Ballet II upstart choreographer Garrett Smith got to show off what he’s been up to during his time in the company in Den III, a sexy dance set to music by Tielman Susato. Harper Waters’ clean attack fit Smith’s oddly angled shapes well. Smith is currently an apprentice with Houston Ballet. Harrison Guy’s Truth be Told, still in the incubator stage, showed some promising ideas on feminist history and was confidently danced by Urban Souls Dance Company. Although Revolve Dance Company demonstrated their usual flare, yet there wasn’t much that challenged them in Wes Veldink’s too-mellow piece, Now. Beth Gulledge-Brown’s Dancing Days, set to Led Zeppelin’s iconic tunes had trouble sustaining the intensity of the music, yet was capably danced by Uptown Dance Company. Ray Dones’ robust dancing stood out.

Compania Folklorica Alegria Mexicana brought a festive and thoroughly entertaining energy to the stage in Sones Y Gustos de Guerro. Although under rehearsed, Prem-dance of love of the Sreepadam School of Arts mixed Bollywood flash and Classical Indian vocabulary. Sparkling clear formations characterized Dance of Asian America’s polished performance in Peacocks in Flight.

Luckily, the Barbara King Dance Company kept the theatrics to a minimum and allowed their capable dancers to take center stage in The Mystery of Dance. Luna Tango Productions offered a mild mannered tango in Mala Junta. There was no shortage of inventive moves coming from the two hip-hop troupes Wyld Styl and 8th Edition. Both could benefit from tighter unison and more rehearsal.

A few quibbles: Festivals are all about introducing groups to the city. The show would have benefited from more thorough program notes like music credits, websites, and a calendar of their upcoming shows. You have a captive audience, why not clue them in on the context of each of these works?

reprinted from Dance Source Houston.

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