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Houston Ballet.

HOUSTON BALLET

WORTHAM THEATER CENTER HOUSTON, TX MARCH 11-21, 2004

The premiere of Houston Ballet's Tales of Texas, choreographed by the company's new artistic director, Stanton Welch, was a paean to the courage, endurance, and vision of people in America's heartland. Coming at a time when new full-evening ballets are rare, the three-act Tales is a welcome treat. It explores and celebrates three subjects: the Southwest's forgotten pioneers, its country blues pop culture, and one of the region's enduring myths of love and transfiguration.

Brought up in a dance family of The Australian Ballet, Welch has a choreographic style that fuses a ballet base with modern dance, bar-style club dancing, Broadway, and jazz. His dancers portrayed characters with distinct personalities, which were convincing, amusing, and emotive in theatrical as well as dance terms.

In the first act, called "Big Sky," to music by Aaron Copland, ghosts of pioneers emerge from the spacious, tawny earth. They move longingly toward the vast new western world, and are then absorbed back into dust and tears. Welch has endowed his women with particular strength in a series of pas de deux in which they keep their male partners focused on moving westward. The men mar want to settle down; the women yearn for a new life in a new land.

In the second act, called "Cline Time," set to seven wailin'-and-dreamin' songs by Patsy Cline, the choreography incorporates country folk forms, and the results are amusing and decidedly tender. Fringed kitsch costumes are by Pat Padilla; the spotlit, nightclubby, fenced in set is by Thomas Boyd.

In the third act, called "Pecos," dancer Ian Casady portrays the mythological Pecos Bill, performing to an evocative commissioned score by Matthew Pierce. Bill's horse, Widow Maker, is danced by the nearly nude Nicholas Leschke. His lean, long-muscled frame suggests, in tense repose, a stallion, pawing at the earth, anxious to make yet another widow among the men who try to tame his wild nature.

Tales of Texas was commissioned four years ago flora Welch by Houston Ballet's longtime director Ben Stevenson. Today, Welch has taken over as the company's artistic director, and one can sense a boldly renewed spirit among its dancers. To this observer, who attended as a guest of the company, the troupe seems inspired and eager to perform new and adventurous roles.

See www.houstonballet.org
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Title Annotation:Tales of Texas
Author:Philp, Richard
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:392
Previous Article:Susan Rethorst.
Next Article:Spectrum Dance Theater.
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