Not The Nutcracker

Houston Ballet's Kim Wagman and Ian Casady
Drew Donovan

Though it's most often associated with The Nutcracker, Houston Ballet is boasting a show that pushes the envelope much further than its traditional, sugary holiday blockbuster. "If Houston Ballet were a movie studio," says artistic director Stanton Welch, "the Cullen Contemporary Series would be our art-house Sundance festival."

Recognizing that audiences are hungry for more than just mainstream offerings, Welch is bringing back the Contemporary Series after a three-year hiatus. The program's pieces, which include Touched and Blindness: An Exploration of Relationships, have been designed for an intimate setting by an international roster of choreographers: New Zealander Adrian Burnett, Canadian Matjash Mrozewski and Trey McIntyre of Houston Ballet.

The works are athletic, experimental and dynamic. McIntyre's quirky Touched examines relationships through jazz, roving flashlights and barefoot dancers. Blindness is about the difficulty in objectively viewing a lover's character and personality. Welch hopes that the program "explores the boundaries where contemporary and classical ballet meet." One thing's for sure: It's a far cry from the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy. 8 p.m. Thursday, October 28, through Sunday, October 31. Matinees at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Wortham Theater Center's Cullen Theater, 501 Texas. For info, call 713-227-2787 or visit www.houstonballet .org. $17 to $51.50.

Maternal Instincts

Upcoming Events

A Maverick Musico Makes Good for Her Mom

Oh, those crazy septuagenarian, local, avant-garde accordionists. Wait -- there's only one. As a maverick music maker, Pauline Oliveros works in a rarefied world largely of her own making. An early pioneer of electronic music, Oliveros has been a respected composer for five decades, having developed an intuitive and influential philosophical approach to sound production called Deep Listening. She has also created her own instruments, including the "just-tuned accordion," which she'll be playing this Saturday at DiverseWorks in a benefit performance for her 89-year-old mother, longtime Houston piano teacher Edith Gutierrez, who recently suffered a fractured hip. Audience members will find themselves surrounded by a quadraphonic speaker arrangement configured to accommodate Oliveros's specially designed Expanded Instrument System, promising an evening of music unlike any other. 8 p.m. Saturday, October 30. 1117 East Freeway. For information, call 713-928-5653 or visit $13. -- Scott Faingold

Southern Comfort

SAT 10/30

Houston rockers Southern Backtones have been generating serious local buzz for their blend of Texas-based rock with arty Brit-pop. The quartet's breathy, brooding vocals and down 'n' dirty guitar work even caught the attention of Levi's, who recently picked the band's single "Fallen Angel" for a national ad campaign. Tonight's gig celebrates the release of the Backtones' third album, Southern Backtones. "It's a brand-new fresh start for us," says bassist Mykel Foster of the eponymous CD. Catch the 'Tones with celebrated local jazzers Drop Trio and Tody Castillo at 9 p.m. Saturday, October 30. The Continental Club, 3700 Main. For information, call 713-529-9899 or visit $6. -- Steven Devadanam

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