Manon A number of modern choreographers may have thought that stories were passe, and all that mattered were the dance steps and getting them right, but Sir Kenneth MacMillan, thankfully, wasn't one of them. He knew that people go to the ballet today for much the same reason they went to the Bolshoi at the turn of the century -- for a little of that old Sturm und Drang along with some fine pirouettes and the sight of a nicely turned ankle or two. And in Manon, generally considered MacMillan's prima production, he brought it all together: dancing to die for hooked to a tale of a slutty 16-year-old who corrupts her older and innocent lover. Sort of a Marius Petipa meets Danielle Steele kind of thing. The Houston Ballet, known for its dramatic prowess as well as its dancing skills, is probably better suited to reproduce what the late Sir Kenneth was after than any other ballet company in the States. Of course, having that British tie -- Artistic Director Ben Stevenson was a good friend of MacMillan's -- doesn't hurt. The ballet opens 7:30 p.m. tonight and runs for seven performances through Sunday, May 29 at the Wortham Center's Brown Theater, 500 Texas, 227-ARTS. $8-$70.
Luis Alfaro and David Zamora Casas These Latino performance artists draw on pop culture and their Chicano backgrounds. Alfaro is known to readers of Artweek and The Advocate through reviews of his performance pieces, such as the acclaimed Downtown (which has a take on urban canyons that Anthony Kiedis' "Under the Bridge" doesn't even come close to). Downtown has delighted -- sorry, fans of the avant who might have hoped for adjectives more appropriate to drooling over trendoid ostensibly politicized claptrap, but "delighted" is my term and I'm sticking to it -- audiences at the Smithsonian, the Boston Center for the Arts and the Alice B. Theater in Seattle.
The second artist on this bill, Casas, has used his San Antonio home (San Antonio, mind you, not San Francisco) for "performances" such as The Last Temptation of the Little Mermaid and One Hundred Love Letters... The Reformation, Through Education and Communication, of a Chicano Sexist. He combines sculpture, poetry and music in Born Again Mexican, which is said to deal with contemporary issues. The double shot is part of the "Beyond Desire: New Gay and Lesbian Performance and Film" series. Tonight and Saturday, 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, two blocks north of downtown at North Main and Naylor, 223-8346. $12, $8 students.
Shaver Grizzled country singer Billy Joe Shaver is a goober deluxe, like Henry Rollins, treasured by those who would be thought of as rough and tough, not for hulking bravado, but because he's a big ol' dumb guy too stupid to know that you can't go around revealing all your miserable, pathetic needs and longings and mistakes. There are things in Shaver's lyrics that many people wouldn't admit to themselves, much less to the world, and, unlike the younger, greener, less bold non-instrument-playing goober Rollins, Shaver writes completely unselfconscious and rigorously thought-out poetry. The title cut on his new album, Tramp on Your Street, might be taken by Top 40 followers as a country story-song about Billy Joe, in his tadhood, walking ten miles to hear Hank Williams sing at the Wonder Bread bakery in Corsicana. It's not about that at all -- the song explains why a ten-year-old boy would walk ten miles to hear a honky-tonk artist in uninspiring conditions. A profound love of art would be why.
Remember the Country Outlaw hype of the early '70s? Shaver wrote the tunes. Thanks to the vagaries of fate and a few ill-timed fistfights, Billy Joe was left standing in the shadows of fame. Maybe his new album will change that. Maybe it won't. Billy Joe Shaver has been writing and performing for decades (he wrote for Elvis) and has no plans to stop.
Billy Joe and his son Eddy, both sons of Texas, play tonight at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. (I suggest arriving early, early enough to enjoy some of Adam Fisher's fine barbecue. Fisher and his son sell sliced beef and sandwiches at a grill in the parking lot. Most of this once-great nation is just a string of strip centers, but there are opportunities, like this, to step outside the mall.) 3616 Washington, 869-COOL. $10.