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Mixing It Up
In Brussels, dance performances are as common as chocolate shops. Movement is the city's prime cultural product, and Brussels supports its dance companies with generous subsidies and large audiences. As a result, plenty of professional dancers and choreographers happily call Brussels home.

Houstonian Nancy Henderek discovered all this a few years back when she was transferred to the European capital with her oil-business husband. After snagging a position teaching dance, Henderek was ushered into the city's dance community. Soon she was sitting in on rehearsals with Mark Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov and running into performers hungry to try new works. Their hunger sparked an idea in Henderek's mind: Why not bring together a group of choreographers' works for an evening of eclectic concert dance?

The Brussels audiences warmed to Henderek's concert, which she dubbed Dance Salad. When Henderek moved back to Houston in 1994, she decided she wouldn't let Dance Salad die; the lack of locally produced professional dance programs outside of those by the Houston Ballet created, Henderek felt, a vacuum that she could fill. So using the same kind of menu she had refined in Brussels, she got a Houston Dance Salad off the ground last year, and this week she'll present her second helping of healthy mixed dance.

The program reflects a wide range of styles, from neoclassical ballet to contemporary, and features performers from the Houston Ballet, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Stomp and Brussels's own David Sonnenbluck Ballet Company. Sonnenbluck's 55-minute work, Kolbuchowa, may be the most interesting; it sprang from the story of his grandparents, who were victims of the Holocaust. To save their daughter, Sonnenbluck's mother, from being shipped with them to a concentration camp, they persuaded a Catholic convent to take her. Sonnenbluck's grandparents died in Auschwitz; his mother survived. His father's story was no less moving -- his parents gave him to a deaf school before they, too, were shipped off to Auschwitz. Since both his parents were deaf, Sonnenbluck grew up signing, and the resulting precision in his hand movement, says Henderek, is evident in his choreography.

The first half of Dance Salad features shorter pieces; the second half is devoted to Kolbuchowa. The idea, says Henderek, is to mix lighter works with a philosophical one, to toss the salad, as it were, but always with the talent of professional dancers.

-- Megan Halverson

Dance Salad will be performed Thursday and Friday, April 3 and 4, at the University of Houston's Cullen Performance Hall, entrance number one off Calhoun, 227-2787.

 
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