Legendary dancer/choreographer George Balanchine once said, "All leading dancers want to dance Swan Lake at least once in their careers, and all audiences want to see them dance it." And audiences will want to see leading ballerina Lauren Anderson, native Houstonian and one of Houston Ballet's most popular performers, in her critically acclaimed interpretation of the lead role of Odette/Odile in their production of the 120-year-old Swan Lake. An undisputed classic of the form, Swan Lake has been presented by every major dance company since its 1877 debut at the Bolshoi. The tremendously moving love story, with its immortal Tchaikovsky score, has become a flagship work for Houston Ballet; they've toured it to rave reviews all over the world. Tonight kicks off three days of free performances of Swan Lake at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive in Hermann Park, 284-8350. 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. With Lauren Anderson as Odette/Odile tonight only. Info: 284-8352. (Liz Belile)
The Blaffer Gallery presents "Spirited Journeys: Self-Taught Texas Artists of the 20th Century," the first state-wide traveling exhibition of self-taught Texas artists. Houston, "the locus of many of the most renowned and visible of these 'folk' expressions" is a town friendly with "outsider" art of all kinds; the Art Car Parade, the Beer Can House, the Orange Show, and so on. "Spirited Journeys" features more than 150 works by 30 artists -- including Orange Show creator Jefferson Davis McKissack and Beer Can House pop-topper John Milkovisch -- representing a wide variety of thought, expression, culture and use of materials, from TV sets to the aforementioned recycled beer cans. The common denominator here is that the work is "uninfluenced by other artists, trends or formal art traditions." Opening reception is Friday, from 7-9 p.m. at Blaffer Gallery, located on the main campus of the University of Houston, entrance 16 off Cullen Blvd. Info: 743-9530. Free. (Liz Belile)
Somewhere between Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising (that experimental film standard-bearer), Quentin Tarantino's trendsetting Pulp Fiction and Art Clokey's creepy Christian-themed claymation series, Davey and Goliath, lies a new consciousness in visual expression in film. And part of that consciousness, believe it or not, still bubbles beneath the surface in Southern California, despite the brain drain of Hollywood. Or, perhaps in response to it. Tonight's program of "Four California Filmmakers," curated by LAX gallerist/artist/culture-mogul Mark Allen, showcases "a broad survey of current directions in film/video on the West Coast" at the Aurora Picture Show. Featuring work by Adam Goldman, Bjoern Melhus, Jocelyn Shipley (whose "X-rated claymation" sounds most promising) and Jenny Stark.
And speaking of LAX Gallery, now's your last chance to experience the also-imported SoCal (mostly) visual sensibility of John Williams: "May I Help You?" This multimedia mini-carnival of stuttering interactive objects and art captures a certain grungy, post-Mike Kelley kitsch/shopping mall pathos. (See the review in last week's Press.) Imagine that your intelligent yet evil kid brother has broken into your room, melted toys atop selected discs from your Tavares vinyl collection, set up his sadistic tapping monkey-puppet video to drive you nuts, then split the scene. You'll want to pound his little face into the floor and then ... you'll relax, you'll laugh and you'll remember: It's not a childhood flashback, it's only art. LAX hours are noon to 5 p.m.; 4910 Main. Info: (281) 221-6666. Free. "Four California Filmmakers" starts at 9 p.m. Aurora Picture Show Microcinema, 800 Aurora. Info: 868-2101; www. wt.net/~grover. No admission charged, but donations are accepted. (Liz Belile)
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As our nights are finally cooling down (below three digits, at least), there's no better place to be in Houston than outside and under the stars, except, of course, listening to music, outside and under the stars. And nothing is more haunting than the wistful strains of the rondador -- a sort of pan pipe -- a.k.a. the national instrument of Ecuador, and a trademark sound in Andean music. The Society for the Performing Arts presents the international authentic Andean music group Wayanay Inka at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, as part of the Ninth Annual Festival de la Hispanidad. Covered seating tickets are available free the day of the concert. 8:30 p.m. at the Miller Outdoor Theatre; 227-ARTS, (800) 828-ARTS. (Liz Belile)
The Houston Museum of Natural Science presents "Ansel Adams, a Legacy." Late photographer Adams was unparalleled in the art of the landscape; his luminous silver-gelatin shots of the American West shimmer with timeless inner light. This exhibit draws together more than 100 images from the artist's decorated career; most are "dramatic enlargements" of classic works that Adams made in his own darkroom from the 1960s until his death in '84. Through August 29. Hours: Mon. through Sat. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 1 Hermann Circle Dr., Hermann Park, 639-IMAX. $4; $2 for children ages three to 11; free for those younger. (Clay McNear)
As the "Swing Craze" sweeps the nation, appearing even in Gap ads (a sure sign that a trend has already peaked and is possibly on its way out) even Houston has its own venue catering to the genre: the Orchid Lounge. Many local swing luminaries play here on a regular basis (Merchants of Venus, 8 1/2 Souvenirs, Seth Walker) and chart-topper Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy stopped over mere months ago on its way to big bad radio success. From pointy-eyebrowed devil girls in satin formals to sweaty neo-hipsters in jeans, you'll find all types gathering for DJ Lucky LaRue's "Swingin' Cocktail Party" session, which happens at the Orchid every Tuesday night. Don't know if you'll be seeing any aerials, but there'll be fancy footwork and martinis en masse, that's for sure. Be sure to bring your saddle shoes. Music starts 8:30 p.m. The Orchid Lounge, 2415 Dunstan, 524-0228. No cover. $2 martinis. (Liz Belile)
Astros vs. Atlanta: Our front-running boys of summer, the Houston Astros, have a legitimate shot at being boys of late fall this year, with the unstoppable Randy "Big Unit" Johnson, a high-powered offense anchored by hard-slugging first baseman Jeff Bagwell, super 2B Craig Biggio and homer-happy outfielder Moises Alou. (Early birds take note: Tonight they'll be giving away Moises Alou posters to the first 25,000 fans.) The defending NL Central champions host the Atlanta Braves at 7:05 tonight. (For the rest of this week's 'stros schedule, see page 26.) For absolutely up-to-date stats, visit the Astros on the web: www.astros.com. The Astrodome, 8400 Kirby, 799-9500. More info: 799-9555. $5 to $23. (Clay McNear)