Houston Ballet launched its 37th season with ‘Simple Elegance,’ a trio of works that included two contemporary masters along with Stanton Welch’s world premiere, Brigade. The title speaks to the clarity of thought of each choreographer’s mission: one idea, elegantly explored in a satisfying dance.
Hans van Manen’s bold-for-1971 work, Grosse Fuge, contrasted men with women, black with white, and space with light. A quartet of black skirt-clad men, consisting of Sergio Torrado, Carl Coomer, Randy Herrera, and Connor Walsh, delivered a powerful and approaching erotic performance. Amy Fote, Kelly Myernick, Mireille Hassenboehler, and Jaquel Andews balanced the tension set forth by the men.
Neo-classical giant, Glen Tetley, was on hand with his masterful tribute to John Cranko, Voluntaries. The Houston Ballet is the only American company to take part in a world wide celebration of Tetley’s 80th birthday. Tetley carved an outstanding path in the dance field that cut through boundaries between the modern and ballet worlds. His work fuses elements of both, and was powerfully danced by the ensemble. Poulenc’s Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings, and Timpani, confidently played by the Houston Ballet Orchestra, galvanized attention throughout. Principal Sara Webb soared in ethereal confidence in Tetley’s intricate partnering with Connor Walsh. They captured the essence of the work, which was simultaneously sorrowful and triumphant. Completely surrendering to the reverence embedded in Tetley’s masterful choreography, Webb became the pivotal nucleus of this emotional performance. Up-and-coming soloist, Walsh, ushered her into the airspace with equal resolve. Walsh gains maturity with each new role he attacks.
Welch’s tongue-and-cheek homage to pomp and classical ballet technique, Brigade, thoroughly entertained. Gentle humor, virtuosic dancing, and pleasing group formations made for one delicious -to-watch dance. Melody Herrara enchanted as she magically parted the chandeliers to summon the dance that followed. The always charming Leticia Oliveira whipped off on-target fouettes in a spunky moment of bravura. Military-inspired costumes by Holly Hynes lent a fun formality while Christina Giannelli’s lighting design highlighted the blue and buttery feel of the ballet. Simply stunning.