The Lone Star State took center stage on Tuesday night at Fall for Dance, New York’s most popular dance festival which officially launches the new arts season in Manhattan. Houston Ballet was one of five companies featured on the fourth program of Fall for Dance, running September 17-27 at the City Center in Manhattan.
Houston Ballet principal dancers Connor Walsh and Sara Webb sailed effortlessly through George Balanchine’s demanding classical showpiece Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, eliciting a roar of approval and rousing cheers from the sell-out crowd.
Sara caught the eye of Wendy Perron, editor in chief of Dance Magazine, the leading trade publication for ballet, who was beguiled by Sara’s authoritative presence and sparkling interpretation.
Immediately following Sara and Connor were Houston native Ayman Harper and HSPVA grad Mario Zambrano, who charmed the audience with their comic modern dance duet The New 45, choreographed by Richard Siegal for his company Richard Siegal/The Bakery.
Both the programming and the audience were incredibly eclectic at Fall for Dance. Tuesday night’s concert opened with an excerpt from Cold Dagger, performed by China’s cutting-edge modern dance troupe, BeijingDance/LDTX.
In the second part of the program, Taiwanese dancer Fang-Yi Sheu of LAFA & Artists Dance Company held the audience spellbound with only a table as partner in an excerpt from Single Room, a modern dance solo dramatizing a woman’s loneliness in a relationship in which Ms. Sheu writhed sensuously and mysteriously. Single Room was choreographed by Bulareyaung Pagarlava.
And an ensemble of eleven male hula dancers in grass skirts from Hawaii, The Gentlemen of H ä lau N ä Kamalei, brought the evening to an intriguing close, performing Kahikilani, choreographed by Robert Uluvethi Cazimero to music that he also composed.
After the show, the trendiest of the crowd adjourned to the FFD Lounge for drinks, conversation with the artists and club dancing.
Houston Ballet ballet master Claudio Munoz traveled with Sara and Connor, coaching them for their big moment, while stage manager Brian Walker insured that everything went smoothly backstage. Former Houston Ballet staffer Carmen Mathe, in Gotham to teach for two weeks, was at the performances to cheer the Houstonians on.
The fourth program will be performed a second time tonight, September 24.
There is no rest for the weary, however. Sara and Connor fly back to Texas early Thursday morning for the final dress rehearsal for Houston Ballet’s program Classically Modern, which opens Friday, September 26 at Wortham Theater Center.