One of Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s most important talents is his ability to attract world-class talent to set new works on Houston Ballet's dancers. With Premieres, a three-part mixed repertory program, those dance makers are Aszure Barton, Jiří Kylián, and Justin Peck. Thursday night’s performance, with Barton’s Come In, Kylián’s Dream Time, and Peck’s Reflections, was at turns refreshing, intense, and ultimately deeply satisfying.
Distinct in style, the three pieces have some similarities. Each is abstract with no storyline, each makes good use of company’s men, each employs dynamic music, and each, while contemporary, is well-grounded in classical ballet lexicon.
Aszure Barton’s Come In, a Houston premiere, features 13 male dancers on a bare stage. Sometimes in small groups, sometimes all together, the men often mirrored each other. One dancer would break away with a slight variation and then another and soon that sameness was shattered before being recreated.
With effortless dancing and especially strong presence, both Connor Walsh and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama stood out among the Come In performers. (Come In proves something we’ve secretly suspected for some time: Houston audiences will gladly watch principal dancer Connor Walsh do just about anything, including simply run in a circle around the stage.) Houston Ballet orchestra’s concertmaster Denise Tarrant provided an aching, beautiful performance on violin.
Like Come In, Jiří Kylián’s Dream Time is a Houston premiere. The curtain opened to a trio of women, Nozomi Iijima, Jessica Collado, and Alyssa Springer in silence. Walsh and Yoshiyama joined them and, as with Come In, the dancers performed in various groupings. Of special note is the pas de trois with strong performances by Walsh, Yoshiyama, and Collado. Kylián’s Dream Time is the latest addition of his work to the Houston Ballet repertoire.
The final piece of the night was Justin Peck’s Reflections, a world premiere. A contrast to the dark costumes and sets of Come In and Dream Time, Reflections was filled with bright colors. The dancers appeared in light greens, blues, and tans on a brightly lit stage.
Peck’s considered among the most talented of today’s working choreographers (he’s working with Steven Spielberg on the upcoming West Side Story film), and he delivered a lovely conclusion to the evening’s program. He worked with the Houston Ballet dancers as he created Reflections, using their strengths and suggestions to craft the final movement.
The resulting work was energetic, seamless, and fluid. Again, there was no storyline but the pairings and interactions suggested relationships between the dancers. Walsh, Karina González, Melody Mennite, and Chun Wai Chan were all standouts.
Along with the new choreography by Peck, new music by frequent Peck collaborator Sufjan Stevens was commissioned for Reflections. Houston Ballet pianist Katherine Burwell-Ciscon and collaborative pianist Yi-Chiu Chao appeared far up stage during the performance, and they were brilliant in their interpretation of the potent score.
Thru March 24. Tickets from $35. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-227-2787. More info and tickets at houstonballet.org.