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Lucky Nancy Henderek: The River Oaks resident and dance enthusiast gets to handpick her favorite choreographers and dancers from all over the world for an evening-length concert at the Wortham Center. Lucky us: She's got good taste.

Henderek started Dance Salad seven years ago when she was living in Belgium for her husband's job. She dealt with the culture shock of the move by spending lots of time at the ballet barre, where she befriended dancers from some of the most esteemed companies in Europe.

Henderek has no trouble getting them to come to Houston. "It's kind of a Wild West idea for Europeans," she says. They like the warm weather, modern buildings and wide-open spaces.

In its first ever Houston appearance, Nederlands Dans Theater II, the younger and edgier division of the world-famous ballet company, will perform a pas de deux of human relations by Hans van Manen. David Sonnenbluck will present his wildly costumed (we're talking Elton John sunglasses and haute couture hats) pointe pieces set to Beatles songs. Ballet de Geneve dancers will perform American Ballet Theatre choreographer Nacho Duato's Houston premiere, and Euregio Tanz Forum director Jochen Ulrich is setting a new piece on the amazing Prix de Lausanne-winning dancer Ayako Nakano.

Henderek knows her way around the American contemporary dance scene, too. Pilobolus Too is the new two-person touring company designed to bring the strong, sculptural partnering of New York's Pilobolus to a broader audience. Harold George is a New York-based Sierra Leone native whose fascinating compositions combine African jazz, Martha Graham modern and classical ballet. And Shari Williams, of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, is a Bessie Award-winning performer with the grace of a ballerina and the physique of a bodybuilder.

Not to be accused of ignoring local talent, Henderek points out that two dancers, Adam Battelstein of Pilobolus and Mario Zambrano of Nederlands Dans Theater II, are graduates of local high schools (HSPVA and Kinkaid, respectively). Plus, Dance Salad will introduce the work of new University of Houston dance department chair Karen Stokes and will present three short pieces by the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, one choreographed by Henderek herself.

-- Lauren Kern

Dance Salad is Thursday and Friday, May 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Wortham Center's Cullen Theater, 500 Texas, (713)227-

 
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