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Dance Salad Is Don't-Miss

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The international dance community descends upon Houston this weekend in a not-to-be-missed festival of stellar dance. Featuring 11 major dance companies from nine countries, Dance Salad assembles "fresh dance ingredients" for a three-day feast of contemporary and ballet dance performance.

A standout of the April 21 program, The Beijing Dance / LDTX company of China flooded the stage with 14 dancers for the hypnotic Pilgrimage. This dance, choreographed by Cui Tao, rolled slow and steady, first with meditative walking, which evolved into bellowing dancing. While endless waves of patient sojourners careened across the stage for most of dance, the piece ended in a magnificent solo, contrasting the solidarity of the group against the ardor of the individual.

Zoran Markovic & Masa Kolar of Croatia presented a delightful duet choreographed by Sthephan Thoss. No Cha-Cha-Cha provided much-needed comic relief, in an otherwise somber program, by parodying the dynamics of a dance duet. From the gender- bending costumes to the whimsical musical accents, the partnering was punchy and offered a meta comment on the sometimes overly serious pas de deux.

Staatsballett Berlin of Germany presented Le Morte del Cigno (The Dying Swan) danced by male dancer Vladimir Malakhov, a lovely, yet oblique reimagining of the famous dying swan death dream.

While the program's diverse choreography is a mixed bag, the technical execution of the dancing is sophisticated and thrilling. The performers are world-class -- literally. Dance Salad producer and director Nancy Henderek's efforts to position Houston as a hub for international dance are much applauded.

Dance Salad runs through April 23 at Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. For tickets, call 1-877-772-5425.

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