Mixing It Up

After a decade of whetting appetites, Dance Salad has grown into a full-course meal. This year the highly regarded sampling of cutting-edge international dance is like a mini-festival, with three evenings of performances plus master classes and educational outreach.

"It's like giving birth," says founder and producer Nancy Henderek. "You know you have something to do with it, but it has a life of its own." The analogy makes sense: Henderek spends eight to nine months every year pulling the show together. She travels extensively, attending festivals, concerts and -- her favorite place to see new works -- rehearsals. Last year she went to Norway, Sweden and New York City, where she found a last-minute addition to the lineup when she stumbled across former Parsons dancer Robert Battle's new company, Battleworks. "I am always interested in the serendipity of the moment," she explains.

While there are no princes of Serendip in this production, there will be a French tap dancer, a Chinese modern company, the Norwegian National Ballet, a contemporary ballet company from the West Coast, a woman invoking an iguana and, oh, yeah, a nod to the locals with a piece choreographed by Houston Ballet's Timothy O'Keefe. It sounds more like ten tapas than a leafy appetizer, but sampling is what Dance Salad is all about. It's the only event in Texas where you can see contemporary dance of this caliber. It's also the only opportunity in the country to see China's exquisite Guangdong Modern Dance Company, since it canceled its only other U.S. trip after September 11.

The best bet is sure to be Guangdong, even though the company will be without co-artistic director Liang Xiang, who brought down the house in past Dance Salads. Also don't miss Houston Ballet associate choreographer Christopher Bruce's riveting solo Hurricane, set to Bob Dylan's song of the same title and performed by a dancer from Bruce's own Rambert Dance Company of London. Even if you don't have a clue about contemporary dance, you'll find something meaty in this mix.

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Marene Gustin