Photos courtesy Dominic Walsh Dance Theater
Two Star Symphony got its ballet-scoring career off the runway in brilliant style last night at Zilkha Hall. The band’s dark, thick, goth-rock-informed approach to classical music matched well with Dominic Walsh’s stylish, whimsical, ultra-modern adaptation of Shakespearean gore-fest Titus Andronicus.
This was the ensemble’s first foray into ballet scores, and the audience reacted with a rousing cheer when Walsh signaled toward the orchestra pit after the final curtain. Two Star's inventive 90-minute score seemed virtually flawless.
At a small reception afterwards, the players were relieved and ecstatic things had gone so well.
“That was fun,” said cellist Margaret LeJeune. Asked what comes next, violinist Debra Brown said, “As soon as we finish this, it’s back to work. We’re scoring a silent film to be shown at Discovery Green. And we’ve got some other projects brewing.” Jo Bird was talking about her new unnamed band that she described as gypsy metal.
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Working with Belgian set and costume designer Frederique de Montblanc, former Houston Ballet principal Walsh has created another way-out but winning production. Montblanc has wardrobed the characters in kitschy country-club athletic styles and juxtaposed those outfits with interesting abstract costumes in certain scenes. The contrasts and the kitsch - Walsh is dressed in a Payne Stewart-type traditional golf outfit complete with brown plaid argyle stockings - bring an extremely interesting visual aspect to the dance.
A continuing theme throughout the ballet is a constant stream of travelers passing through airport security, and this required multiple clothing changes by every member of the cast. I’m pretty sure last night’s debut of Titus Andronicus marks the first time a Texas A&M athletic sweatshirt has been worn in a ballet.
As with any Walsh production, the dancing was fantastic. With her perceptive facial expressions, Woodlands native Amy Cain was spectacular as the conniving Queen Tamora, and Dawn Dippel was exquisite as Lavinia, Titus’s daughter who suffers rape and mutilation at the hands of Tamora’s sons. Houston Press dancer of the year Dominico Luciano, who burred his head for the production, was his usual athletic self as the suffering Titus.
Titus Andronicus runs two more nights at Zilkha Hall. Despite the heaviness of the underlying themes, the production is fun, visually exciting, and done with great enthusiasm and energy. Modern dance doesn’t get much better - or more fun - than this. - William Michael Smith