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Houston Ballet -- Stanton Welch's 'Bruiser,' Nacho Duato's 'Without Words' and Ben Stevenson's 'The Miraculous Mandarin'
Wortham Center, Houston, September 17, 2000

by Michelle Weinfeld

In the sprit of the 27th Olympic games, Houston Ballet’s debut of Stanton Welch’s “Bruiser” could not have come at a better time. Drawing from the athletic prowess of the men down under, the Australian choreographer creates his second work for the Houston Ballet.

Bruiser has a stage that could be set in a lofty gym or a studio. The dancers are dressed in Lycra workout wear. All wear hand wraps and the men don shiners on both eyes. The male dancers with their muscular physiques could just as well stepped out of a boxing gym. The svelte female dancers, on the other hand, look a bit awkward, especially in their pointe shoes. But whatever the women lack in physical bruteness, they make up for with their “tough girl” expressions.

If the set and the dancers won’t make one head to the nearest Kardio Kickbox Class or rent Tae Bo, the music will definitely give you the sudden urge to give your neighbor a friendly jab. Three pieces from Graeme Koehne’s Powerhouse -- Capriccio for Piano and Strings, Powerhouse (subtitled Perpetuum Mobile for Orchestra or Rumba for Orchestra), and Unchained Melody -- generate the energy to which the eighteen dancers kick, punch, and piroutte.

Like “Indigo,” Welch’s first ballet for the Houston company, “Bruiser” is a metaphor for human relationships. Welch believes the rolls and punches of life’s relationships whether they be romantic, platonic, professional or familiar can be equated to the challenges of sports, in particular boxing.

Even if one misses the parallel Welch intended to demonstrate, he or she will not leave the performance unsatisfied. The work is entertaining, original and exciting and is clearly in tune with today’s focus on physical fitness and sexual equality.

Also on the ticket were Nuato Duato’s “Without Words” and “The Miraculous Mandarin” choreographed by Houston Ballet’s Artistic Director Ben Stevenson.

In “Without Words,” four men and four women are outfitted in flesh colored leotards that make the dancers look almost skeletal in dark lighting. The stage is set in low light and projected images of the dancers in various poses from the work are displayed upstage. Duato displays these larger than life projected images in order to highlight the “small movements,” or the details that often go unnoticed. “Without Words,” set to six songs by Franz Schubert, has that simple, classical elegance which will take your breath away and leave you in utter awe.

The second work of the afternoon’s performance, “The Miraculous Mandarin,” might as well have been choreographed for principal dancer Lauren Anderson. She brought power, seduction and beauty to the tale of a prostitute and the Mandarin who falls head over heels for her.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Azlan Ezaddin.


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