Magazine article Dance Magazine

Houston Ballet and Boston Ballet

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Houston Ballet and Boston Ballet

Article excerpt


Cynically speaking, the dance world always subliminally demands and then apparently anoints a current "hottest young choreographer." Sometimes this title seems to be bestowed by a consensus of lemmings; at the moment its two chief contenders are Stanton Welch of The Australian Ballet and Christopher Wheeldon of New York City Ballet (via Britain's Royal Ballet). They probably deserve the anointing more than most.

At the Brown Theater on March 4, Ben Stevenson's Houston Ballet offered the world premiere of Welch's Indigo, while at the Shubert Theatre on March 9 AnnaMarie Holmes's Boston Ballet mounted the world premiere of Wheeldon's Corybantic Ecstasies. Both were well received, and both marked another stage in these two promising choreographic careers.

Welch's reputation is, at present, as much a measure of his burgeoning international workload as of his undoubted abilities. Immediately following Houston, after a break in Copenhagen to put the final touches on his premiere of Ander for the Royal Danish Ballet, he moved straight to San Francisco for the premiere of his Taiko. Before the end of September he has another ballet, as yet unnamed, due his home team, The Australian Ballet.

Indigo is an elegant yet fervent piece set to two Vivaldi cello concertos that uses just eight brilliantly gifted dancers. Actually the Houston troupe--nowadays one of the strongest in the country, and indeed the world--has provided Welch with two separate casts, but I only saw the premiere performance.

It opens with four women standing stock-still and foursquare-classical on a bare stage against a backcloth. It ends, some twenty minutes later, with four men in the same position. In between lies a kaleidoscope of classic movement, dance mannerism, emotion, and fleeting suggestions of relationships. Welch's strength--and why he deserves to be taken very seriously as a coming choreographer--is his unerring command of a ballet's structure, the area in which most of his contemporaries are weak.

From beginning to end--with its dancers either materializing mysteriously from the black void upstage, or dashing in from the wings for some sudden intervention--the shifting patterns add up to a fascinating and complex picture. Less impressive is Welch's apparent need to tie his dances too rigidly to the rhythms of the score, usually matching Vivaldi note for note. He also needs to watch out for movement mannerisms that try to catch the music's sonorities but, like the head wagging used here, end up looking like tics or gimmicks.

But there is enormous talent here, just as there is in Wheeldon, who NYCB presumably hopes will be one of its trump cards for its second half-century. Here he is niftily turned over by the always excellent, always alert Boston Ballet. Twenty-five years old and English-born, Wheeldon is an NYCB soloist--he first joined the company in 1993--but he has been making ballets almost as long as he has been in them. …

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