The MET Reset: Still Dancing After All These Years

With new dancers and a fancy new Midtown home, MET Dance is ready to impress a whole new audience.

By Adam Castañeda November 3, 2014 Published in the November 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

“Shifts in Normality,” MET Dance.

Image: Ben Doyle

Nov 21 at 8 & Nov 22 at 7:30. Zilkha Hall, The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
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“Change is always good,” says Marlana Doyle, artistic director of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, commonly known as MET Dance. Last year the company moved to its fancy new Midtown home after spending nearly two decades in an un-air-conditioned, slightly shabby space in the Museum District. And those aren’t the only changes the troupe is undergoing. Six new dancers join the roster for the 2014-15 season, which opens with this month’s Indivisible at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. After a lengthy audition process, Doyle says she’s pleased with the talent she recruited. “I got six dancers that kind of represent what is missing in the company. They’re doing really well. They’re young, moldable, and excited to dance with us.”

The shuffling of dancers need not worry longtime fans; MET Dance is still a crowd-pleaser. A typical MET dancer is a technical powerhouse, but also possesses a fine sense of musicality and rhythm. The repertoire reflects this combination of strengths, especially in dances by nationally known choreographers like Sidra Bell, Peter Chu, and Kate Skarpetowska. This season’s opener, meanwhile, features a program of works by choreographers Joe Celej, Larry Keigwin, jhon r. stronks, and Steven Vaughn. 

Indivisible is an appropriate title for the show, which in some ways is a testament to the company’s staying power. Even as MET Dance has thrived over the past 18 seasons, other local companies including Hope Stone Dance, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, and Earthen Vessel have been forced to close or radically scale back their operations. “We’re doing really well with our new space and new studio,” says Doyle. “Thing are changing in the Houston dance community with the disbanding of other companies, but we’re staying strong through that. We’re showing sustainability.” 

One world premiere slated for the opener is a piece by well-known Houston choreographer jhon r. stronks, who’s been working with MET Dance for years and teaches at UH. “I’m going back over the 20 or so dances I’ve made or restaged over the 10 years I’ve been involved with the organization, trying to figure out what my relationship to the MET is in terms of the work that I’ve created, and what this development has meant for me,” stronks says. His ties to the organization run deep—he’s directed, performed, taught in the organization’s adult dance program, and even pitched in with the administrative work. “It’s an open relationship, but it’s not complicated,” he says, laughing. “They’re like my family.” 

The rest of MET’s upcoming season will include five shows performed at venues across Houston, including Spring Street Studios, the Wortham Center, and the Miller Outdoor Theatre. Stronks says he’s eager to work with the new faces and bodies. “My work almost always heavily revolves around the contributions of the dancers, even though I do tend to choreograph things.” (He is a choreographer, after all.) “I’m excited to get a feel for them.”

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