What he does: Dominic Walsh is a leader in the contemporary ballet world, an award-winning choreographer and an accessible artist to boot. He was a principal with the Houston Ballet for more than ten years, eventually starting his own dance company. For the past decade, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater has helped place Houston on the contemporary ballet map in two ways: By staging innovative works by international choreographers to the delight of local audiences, and by taking the works of its founder on the road, touring nationally and internationally.
Walsh is noted for his use of theatricality and for incorporating multimedia, such as video and other visual art, in his performances. His Time Out Of Line, for example, uses music and video played backwards to symbolize our wishes, however impossible, to go back in time, and uses paper and paint to symbolize marking our place in time and space.
Part of Walsh's mission is to take dance to his audience instead of the other way around; during rehearsal periods, he opens company classes to the public, and the troupe's first show of the season, the annual Fall For Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, is free.
"I think that people are always surprised," Walsh says. "They think it will be traditional ballet. We get a lot of instances where the wives are kind of dragging their husbands to the show, and at the end of the night, it's the husbands who have so much to say."
Why he likes it: "It's a whole other form of communication that has to do with something that we all have in common, which is that we are living in this body in this time and in this place," Walsh says.
He adds that having developed a detailed and fluid relationship with your body yields a certain kind of physical intelligence that allows skilled dancers to create a fantastical, impossible shape. Developing that bodily relationship is not unlike the way athletes train.
"Often, people describe the pain dancers put themselves through as though they're masochistic, or something," Walsh notes. "That is such a small piece of the pie. We don't think that way about basketball players."
Who are his heroes? Walsh is largely influenced by modern European choreographers, chief among them Mats Ek and Jiri Kylian. He appreciates the earthiness of Kylian's work, adding, "There's a beautiful fusion between contemporary technique and more classical movement."
Meanwhile, Ek's narrative style and theatricality appeal to Walsh. "He takes the bold experiences of life and interprets it through gesture," he says.
What's next? Dominic Walsh Dance Theater kicks off its tenth season August 26 at 8 p.m. at Miller Outdoor Theatre with Fall For Dominic Walsh Dance Theater.
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