Music by Stevie Wonder and Prince isn't commonly used for ballet scores, but Complexions Contemporary Ballet isn't interested in what's common. Led by Co-Artistic Directors/Founders Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, the company comes to Houston for a one-night three-act performance on Friday. The program includes Innervisions, an upbeat modern dance tribute to the music of Stevie Wonder, as well as Solo, restaged for this program, and features music by Prince. Also on the bill: Head Space, a brand-new work featuring music by Grammy Award-winning New Orleans jazz musician Terence Blanchard.
The program will also debut new works. "[Complexions] is a fusion of traditional ballet and modern movement...but this performance will not have the women en pointe," says Richardson. "We really create an arc throughout the concert in order to transport the audience with music and dance." Among the 12 dancers performing in the concert is Houston native Ashley Nicole Mayeux; see her in an excerpt from the ballet Testament, which uses a score of gospel hymnals.
8 p.m. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $35 to $80.
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Last year marked the inaugural Houston Burlesque Festival, the first of its kind in Houston. The event drew more than 1,000 fans to the House of Blues.This year's events runs Friday and Saturday and expands beyond performances to include burlesque classes and merchandise. The Friday night kickoff party features Missy Lisa, Midnight Joy, Pelvis Costello, Lady Jae, Tifa Tittlywinks, Minxie Mimeux, Ginger Valentine and DJ Felipe Galvan.
Veronica Orso Flores, a.k.a. Miss Vhaven, is hosting the festivities that evening and is also co-producing the festival, along with Shana Lira of Atomic Bombshell Magazine, Lady Jae of Houston Burlesque Revue and the Ruby Revue.
Orso Flores says, "As a longtime fan and supporter of burlesque in the Bayou City, it is wonderful to host so much talent united on one stage. This art form has so much to offer and is never dull or shy. Stripping is an art, no matter what the critics say." Saturday's lineup includes Alia, Bethany Summersizzle, Renee Holiday, Emma D'Lemma, MaryLynn Mayhem, Shelbelle Shamrock, Incredisizzle, Abby Cadabra, Tifa Tittlywinks, Rosie Rawhide and the Dallasbased group Ruby Revue. Both of the group's recent Houston shows in January completely sold out.
Headlining Saturday's show is performer Roxi D'Lite ("The Bad Girl of Burlesque"), who was crowned as last year's World Champion of Exotic Dance. In 2010, she won the Miss Exotic World title in Las Vegas, one of the youngest performers to do so. warmup comedian Seth Herzog (a.k.a. "The Zog") is taking on the emcee duties for Saturday. (He's been known to do a little dancing himself, in a Wonder Woman costume no less.)
See the Houston Burlesque Festival at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. For information, visit facebook.com/houstonburlesquefest. $15 to $100.
Three of Houston's most esteemed choreographers -- Jane Weiner, Dominic Walsh and Leslie Scates -- are working as "advisers" with local companies for the 13th Annual Dance Houston Festival this Saturday. Walsh is working with the modern dance company Freneticore and Indian dance group Nritya Dance Company. "I'm not actually giving anyone any advice," he tells us. "And I'm not acting like a mentor exactly. I'm just bringing a new pair of eyes to the process and asking questions. Sometimes someone from the outside can see things differently than the people who have been working on something all along." He goes on, "What you'll see onstage is completely that choreographer's work. I'm trying to make sure that the vocabulary and style stays the same. I'm just asking, 'Is there another way to do that?' or 'What else can you use?' Hopefully, I can help them take their work to the next level, but it's all their work. Both of these companies [Freneticore and Nritya] have very different styles from each other, so it's been fun working with them."
The other groups -- Compañia Folklorica Alegria Mexicana, Dance of Asian America, Hope Stone, Houston Met, Inertia, Son Kiss'd Dance Theater and Urban Souls -- are working with Weiner and Scates.
Walsh was a longtime leader in the Houston dance community until he relocated to New Mexico last year. Although he's no longer based in Houston, he's still committed to working with local dancemakers. "I'm not living here anymore, but I'm happy to do what I can. If something comes up, like this opportunity, I'm here."
8 p.m. Saturday. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-526-1049 or visit dancehouston.org. $16 to $100.
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On Sunday, you'll see men and women suited in athletic gear, harnessed and strapped to machines traversing through space at frightening speeds -- each a real life Icarus ignoring the advice of the gods and attempting to defy gravity in .Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity , an independent documentary screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston this month. Their opponent is basic physics. They dodge swinging cement blocks and slam into any surface that denies them their right to flight -- padded mats, walls, Plexiglas, bridges. This is Elizabeth Streb's philosophy in motion -- extreme action.
"Anything that is too safe is not action," Streb has said. The subject of the documentary, the singular movement artist Streb along with her dance company, "is a bona fide genius," says Marian Luntz, MFAH curator of film and video. "She's innovative and original, fusing dance with movement, infused with some math and science connections (especially about gravity and physics)."
In November, Born to Fly screened twice during the Houston Cinema Arts Festival with Streb and the film's director/producer, Catherine Gund, in attendance. "We often select a film that's been popular in HCAF to bring back as part of the museum's year-round programming. Born to Fly is this year's choice," says Luntz. "We are fortunate to have an active, innovative dance community. Many of them turned out for the screenings in November, but others missed it, so we're providing two more chances."
The film's popularity isn't the only reason Luntz is bringing it to the MFAH. "I was inspired by them and by the film," Luntz says. "There are many fine documentaries about dance, but she transcends that genre to create something completely fresh. So many people are fans of Cirque du Soleil: She doesn't have their glitz or glamor, but in many ways [Born to Fly] is so much more cathartic."
Born to Fly screens at 7 p.m. Saturday; 5 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.
Hans Graf, Houston Symphony conductor laureate, embraces the wide variety of classical music. "If you are Russian, you shouldn't only play Tchaikovsky's music," Graf said. "The world is much too international for that." Former music director Graf returns to Houston on weekend run, including an afternoon Sunday performance, of German and French works, including Hindemith's Konzertmusik for String and Brass; the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2, performed by Lise de la Salle; and Schumann's Symphony No. 3, the Rhenish, in a program called Graf Conducts Schumann.
"This symphony is special -- it's very German in that it is very emotional but held back and stylish," Graf said. Schumann wrote the work after seeing the construction site for the Cologne Cathedral in Germany's Rhineland; he was so inspired that he completed it in only a month.
"Schumann wanted to create modestly heroic music -- noble music," Graf said. "The work is proud but not bragging. Friendly, even."
If you listen closely, you can hear the solemn tones of religious song that Schumann mimicked in the piece. However, Schumann believed that music should be beautiful and meaningful without any extra musical associations.
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"The symphony avoids being flashy and wants to be introverted. The second slow movement is songlike, almost an intermezzo. You could add text to it and it would fit in with Schumann's piano songs," Graf said.
Graf said he knows audiences want loud, flashy endings to symphonies, but the Rhenish ends as it began -- introspective and confident.
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224- 7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $25 to $125.
Ashley Clos, Katricia Lang and Alexandra Doyle contributed to this post.