Houston Choreographers Showcased at JCC's Dance Month

The Set-Up: On January 26 and 27, the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center continued this year's Dance Month with Choreographers X6, a showcase of work produced by six Houston dance-makers, including Kristen Frankiewicz, Laura Gutierrez, Lydia Hance, Erin Reck, Sandra Organ Solis, jhon r. stronks (one of Houston Press' 100 Creatives 2013).

The Execution: Perhaps the most provocative choreography on the program was Lydia Hance's A Long Line. The piece was performed to an original violin composition by Charles Halka. The music was performed live to captivating effect, as it gave the impression that the score and dance were married in synchronicity. Halka's music is at times haunting, at time reflective, and Hance's choreography is filled with such impulses. The trio of Jacqueline Boe, Laura Gutierrez and Ashley Horn moved in releases of the spine and contractions that suggested a personal investigation of self and space that is at times scary, yet, necessary to fulfillment. The dancers' technical proficiency was also matched by soulful performance and an insightful understanding of musicality.

Speaking of soul, there was plenty to spare in jhon r. stronks' program opener Coming Home to Nothing and the Possible Next. The piece begins with his gorgeous dancers moving to his vocal performance of the hymn "Lord, I'm Coming Home." He enters the stage from the audience along with Cori Miller, and dance shifts in its point of contemplation. The spiritual exploration of the hymn becomes an intellectual exploration as the sound design fades into the introspective words of Loueva Smith. The choreography's full-bodied movement is so rich and evocative, it could probably be just as effective in silence. Then the hymn comes back, and it becomes understood that perhaps the spiritual and the intellectual are the same, or at least parts of each other.

One of the most thrilling dances was Laura Gutierrez's Metric, which was performed to a simple metronome. The minimalist was sufficient, as the piece was meant to replicate the process of change. And change the dance did. The piece changed tempo, changed levels and changed directions all in rapid succession. The kinetic energy created by such striking juxtapositions was a palpable force.

If the purpose of dance is to put a smile on the faces in the audience, then Sandra Organ Solis' ELLA! gets high marks. Performed to the honey-sweet vocals of Ella Fitzgerald, the trio of Lauren Bay, Rebekah Chappell and Michele Kitchen were all sunshine and girlish confection in their retro-chic dresses. The sumptuous choreography, filled with pretty pirouettes, chaine turns and pique arabesques was easily the most traditional of the six, but felt like one of the freshest in its vibrancy.

The Verdict: The dances in Choreographers X6 have been described here as provocative, soulful and forceful. One could also use the descriptors thought-provoking, skillfully crafted, imaginative, lovely and entertaining. Of course, a few of the pieces on the program were more soulful then the rest, more though-provoking than the rest, and certainly more entertaining. But there's no denying the richness of dance talent in Houston, both on the stage and off of it.