Dance Salad 2013 Transforms Houston into the Center of the Dance Universe

Persona by Robert Bondara is among the premieres being seen at Dance Salad 2013
Persona by Robert Bondara is among the premieres being seen at Dance Salad 2013

The world of dance comes to Houston with the 18th annual Dance Salad Festival, bringing with it a slew of premieres. Nancy Henderek, the festival's artistic director, travels around the globe in search of new and exciting work to bring to the event every year. Asked to estimate the number of performances she views every year during her search, Henderek laughs, "I can't even begin to guess. When I go to a festival, I see several pieces in the late morning, then go on and see several more in the afternoon. Then I sometimes see as many as three pieces each night."

Henderek programs each Dance Salad Festival with the hope of appealing "to people who love dance and know all about it, to people who don't."

"I'm always looking for someone who's saying something interesting and looking at how they're saying it.Every night is different, but no matter what night you go, you're going to love something."

After booking each of the companies, Henderek sets about creating three separate but equal evenings. It's her most challenging task and requires a lot of patience - and a stack of Post-It ® notes.

"I walk around with a little chart. My team makes fun of me because I use sticky notes for each piece and I literally shuffle them around, trying different combinations.

"I listen the music to make sure the music flows from one piece to another. I look at the mood of each piece, how one work will look next to another. I'm looking at all the angles as to how best present these works."


by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

"Every year is different," says Henderek. "Even when we have a group that's coming back, they're doing completely different work. We are having a choreographer come back this year, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. A couple of years back he did Faun for us. He also did the choreography for the movie Anna Karenina. He coached Jude Law and Kiera Knightly. I'm working with him again for another piece called PUZ/ZLE.

After seeing the piece performed in a rock quarry in France, Henderek worked with the Cherkaoui to bring a section of it to Dance Salad Festival. "This is the first time that PUZ/ZLE has been to the United States in any form and we're getting a [version] that hasn't been seen anywhere else in the world. That's very exciting, to be able to work with this world-renowned choreographer on something special just for us," Henderek says.

Lebanese singer Fadia Tomb El-Hage, Japanese flutist and drummer Kazunari Abe, contemporary violinist Olga Wojciechowska and Japanese koto player Tsubasa Hori will provide live musical accompaniment for PUZ/ZLE. "They're even going to create some new music for Houston." PUZ/ZLE will be on the program each of the festival's three nights.

"We're also doing a film [by Cherkaoui] in between the live pieces. It's a spin-off on his choreography Faun, that people who have came to Dance Salad a few years ago saw. This will be different, they'll get to see how it was done in a movie form after seeing it live."  

The Compañía Nacional de Danza/National Ballet of Spain perform Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's curated version of In Transit (seen below). The piece explores the life of airports and what happens there between groups of people that don't know each other but who have to interact for the time that they're waiting for their flights. Altogether more than a dozen dancers appear in In Transit; breaking off into pairs and trios, then separating and re-forming new groups. The soundtrack includes unintelligible whispered phrases, electronic sounds and various bits of music, including a driving rock tune.

"Annabelle's a wonderful choreographer who goes all over the world creating," says Henderek. "This will be a curation of a larger work. We've seen four or five different pieces in some of our past shows, through different groups that we've had."

Ochoa also contributes L'Effleure, a solo she created for dancer Rubi Pronk, who performs it here. Pronk also appears in Kurt Weill by Krzysztof Pastor, artistic director of the Polish National Ballet. (The group is back in the United States for the first time since 1980.)

In Transit

by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

See the Dance Salad Festival at 7:30 p.m. March 28, 29 and 30. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, visit the Dance Salad website or call 877-772-5425. $20 to $50.

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