For more dance companies, spring shows come and go, but when you're audience demands a second viewing, it's a rare pleasure to be able to oblige a repeat performance. Houston City Dance finds itself in that enviable position; tomorrow night the company presents Junebug: A Ballet after an enthusiastically received run earlier this year. For artistic director Sherese Campbell, the magic is all in the story. "We typically don't do storylines," she explains. "We usually present a theme, and then create pieces around that theme. I believe people connected with Junebug because of the story. It's theater, and a full-length ballet."
And what a story it is. It's based on the real life of a former preacher's wife in rural Louisiana who discovers that her picture perfect husband is in fact a philanderer. As Campbell explains, women of that time did not divorce because of the social taboos, so Junebug has no choice but to stay and act the role of the ideal Stepford wife.
Her preacher husband eventually runs off with his mistress, leaving Junebug with the care of two young daughters. Despite the odds, Junebug goes on to lead an amazing life filled with success, including earning a Ph.d. in garments and textiles and teaching fashion in Rome. "She was really a woman that was beyond her time," says Campbell. She also notes that Junebug kept her faith through it all, and still teaches Sunday school to this day.
Houston City Dance company member Kim Taylor will bring to life the title character in tomorrow's performance. Even though she enjoys performing narrative dance because it allows her to dig into the motivations of the choreography, there's some obvious pressure involved in embodying a real life character.
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"I feel it is my responsibility to portray Junebug as a strong woman," she explains. "I try to put myself in Junebug's shoes as she went through different periods of her life and really try to do justice to her character. Another added challenge is that Junebug will be present at the concert so there is definitely more pressure to be truthful with my interpretation." The real Junebug, in fact, has been a longtime supporter of Houston City Dance, as her daughter performs in one of Campbell's secondary companies.
For dance enthusiasts who've never seen a Houston City Dance production, Junebug might be the perfect introduction. "I would describe the company as technical, strong, diverse, and exciting," says Taylor. " We're also an all-female company. The company's movement ranges from ballet, modern, jazz, and tap." Strong dancing aside, the ticket price also includes a Southern cuisine dinner catered by Rae Hudson of Kouture Kuisine.
To create the narrative, Campbell has an entire manuscript of Junebug's life as a jumping board, but she was careful to include both light-hearted and dramatic moments. An orator fills in key moments of the production, and the Junebug character never leaves the stage. Taylor does all of her changes in front of the audience in a makeshift bedroom. This touch of voyeurism further ingratiates the character to the audiences, and makes her the real person that she is. And that, ultimately, is what Campbell hopes audiences take away from the show. "Junebug is a woman of strength," she says. "I think , too, because I'm an ethnic woman, people have this idea that ethnic people in general are strong, and they don't view a Caucasian woman as that. People think, oh, they have husbands, they have money, they are taken care of. But this was her journey, this was her life, and she surpassed that. She sustained."
For more information and to purchase tickets, call (713) 529-6100 or visit the company's Web site.