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A Town Without Critics

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Many years ago in Cambridge, I had the pleasure of meeting the esteemed former New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff. The lecture she’d delivered that night at Harvard was so inspiring that I decided I was going to become a critic as well. In a hopelessly naïve gesture, I went up to her after the talk and asked if she could explain my next move. “Well,” she said with a sigh, “the first thing to remember is that you’re going to have to … [Read more...]

Three Symphonies for the Price of One

Christoph Eschenbach (Photo: Eric Brissaud)

Here in Houston, it isn’t just the bronze commemorative star in front of Jones Hall that honors the legendary German conductor Christoph Eschenbach. Loyal fans in the city honor him with their presence and rapt attention. The orchestra members honor him with their finest performances. For music-loving Texans, he is a hero in the truest sense, and we live in a time where authentic heroes are far and few between.     Maestro … [Read more...]

There is nothing outside the dance

Suchu Dance, Щелкунчик (Photography/digital collage: LSarah Creative)

After more than three decades of observing that holiday über-warhorse, The Nutcracker, one would think my exhaustion had reached its limits. Seven of those years were spent dancing in various permutations of the ballet, 12 more were spent writing reviews and labored newspaper features about it. In recent years, my essays have focused primarily on the nature of that exhaustion, using humorous language. And then, December rolls around. I find … [Read more...]

Sopranos Yearning for Zion, in New York

Original artwork for Dark Sisters, dirt on canvas, by Noah Scalin

As I watched Nico Muhly’s new opera Dark Sisters last weekend in New York, at the same time his Quiet Music for solo piano was being performed in Houston by Aperio’s Michael Zuraw. I would have loved to attend both performances. Muhly’s work figures prominently right now on my MP3 player, and it’s been a while since I’ve been so taken with the work of a young composer (he is 30-years-old). I first encountered Muhly’s work two years ago in … [Read more...]

Color My World With Hopes

Karen Stokes Dances in The Secondary Colors. Photo: Lynn Lane

Contemporary dance prevails this autumn in Houston, with two events in particular focusing on themes of color, literal and figurative. They are major works that suggest a new, prosperous and invigorating period in this city’s dance scene. The premiere of choreographer Karen Stokes and composer  Bill Ryan’s The Secondary Colors in Houston (see my preview story in Houston Chronicle at the sidebar) was not only a chance to hear some first-rate … [Read more...]

Houston Symphony in the Desert of the Real

Composer Don Davis (photo by Leftéris Pavados)

I’ve had an extraordinary and most unexpected experience in the concert hall. In a time where symphony orchestras appear to be losing audiences, Houston Symphony is gathering a new one. Last night at Jones Hall, a nearly sold-out house enjoyed a screening of the Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix with Don Davis, a formidable composer in various genres, conducting his original score for the film played live by orchestra, chorus and … [Read more...]

Two Alike: The Cogent and Irrational Dance of Jack Ferver

Jack Ferver Two Alike

I had never seen Jack Ferver dance, but I remembered him as Jimmy Tickles in Strangers With Candy, still my favorite program ever aired on Comedy Central, when he appeared last week in Texas. Well-known in New York, his works with titles such as Death is Certain, Rumble Ghost, and When We Were Young and Filled with Fear have caused a considerable buzz in contemporary dance circles. We were extremely lucky in Houston to have the world premiere … [Read more...]

What Remains on the Canvas

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Houston artist Wayne Gilbert makes paintings out of cremated human remains. Most people who have observed his work wonder first where he obtained the material, which he mixes into nearly-colorless resin before applying with a  palette knife to stretched canvas. The recent summer day we spoke in his vast home and studio, Gilbert told me that he had just come from the grocery store, and in the parking lot an acquaintance had offered his … [Read more...]

Grim Eye for the New Guy

Cristian Laverde Koenig & Britt Juleen in "Grim Eye," Photo by Simon Gentry

Infinite Movement Ever Evolving’s recent premiere of Maurice Causey’s Grim Eye made me feel like I was in 1990s Berlin. In particular, I thought of a Depeche Mode record party I attended one December night in a smoke-filled warehouse in Kreuzberg. This is not to suggest that either iMEE or Causey are in any way old-fashioned. On the contrary, when young people in Houston want to see a ballet embodying their lifestyle and emotional concerns, it’s … [Read more...]

George Gittoes Writes from Norway

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Since June 16, when I reviewed The Station Museum of Contemporary Art's  WITNESS TO WAR: GEORGE GITTOES, I've been corresponding with the artist.  Earlier today, Gittoes wrote, "I am presently editing the films in Stavanger which is on the North sea side of Norway. I return to Afghanistan on 5th of September." The show at The Station continues until September 18. Our recent correspondence focused on artist responses to the upcoming 10th … [Read more...]

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