Does anyone stay in Houston for the summer? Performers plan "dancecations" in faraway places

June 21, 2012
Culture Map Houston
Nancy Wozny


ring on the dancecations. Houston dance folk are on the move, taking off to parts East, West, to the mountains and across oceans.

Getting out of town is not just a break from Houston's swelter, but a big career boost. There's nothing quite like getting a reputation outside of your home zip code. Artists also have the potential to make Houston look good in the process. Take a look at the bounty of dancers, choreographers and companies taking impressive summer journeys.

On Thursday, Urban Souls Dance Company lights up the Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City with The Skin I'm In, along with New York's Keen Dance Theater.On the same night, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater (DWDT) performs at the Aspen Fringe Festival, where Walsh won "best choreographer" for Clamille Claudel.

"To be recognized outside of our hometown is always a perk, and we hope to be considered a cultural ambassador for Houston's growing art scene, bringing a unique sense of edge and class to the landscape," says Walsh. "The dance theater work is already deepening through the interpretations of the dancers, and through this opportunity for me to tweak a few things here and there."

Often a summer traveler, Walsh heads to Salerno, Italy, then to Japan to remount A Bientot on Asami Maki Ballet Tokyo.

DWDT dancer Domenico Luciano will also be guesting at Post-Ballet, a new contemporary dance company in San Francisco.

Vault artistic director Amy Ell wraps up teaching at the Irish Aerial Dance Festival this week. Ell, a frequent traveler, is in demand all over the world for her savvy sky skills. Ell taught Gyrokinesis for aerialists, fabric/hammock, lyra, Thai massage, and injury prevention.

"I love it over here, especially the kindness of the people and the warmth of the staff and students," she says. "Students are international, from the US, Norway, France, UK and many locals."

Randall Flinn's whirlwind teaching schedule at Ad Deum Dance Company takes him to Switzerland in August, while Andy Noble of NobleMotion Dance is at Florida State University teaching and choreographing. Former American Ballet Theatre (ABT) dancer Robert Underwood flies to Sochi, Russia, today to observe an intensive at the invitation of Ekaterina Tchelkanova, his ABT colleague.

"Alla Osipenko, Irina Trofimova, and Ludmilla Safranova are teaching. Trofimova is the last teacher trained by Vaganova, herself," explains Underwood, owner of Robert Underwood's Studio of Dance. The pièce de résistance summer gig is The Houston Met scoring a slot on the coveted Inside/Out stage at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. This is a great honor for any rising dance company, and not easy to get. The famous outdoor stage is a stepping stone to bigger things. Plus, crowds of hundreds show up to see these free early evening shows.

Suchu Dance was the last Houston dance company to perform there and they have the mug to prove it. (Their adorable dancing mugs are in fact on one of the Jacob's Pillow coffee mugs.)

For Doyle, it's a bit of a homecoming. "Growing up in Massachusetts, Jacob's Pillow was a place I always knew about, and visited as a child. Now that I'm the artistic director, I have always wanted to return to perform. It was one of my goals this past year to have the company travel and perform more, and Jacob's Pillow was one of my top festivals that I was looking at," says Doyle.

"After being accepted, I was ecstatic to be given the opportunity to perform in a place with so much history, while bringing a little bit of Houston back to the area I grew up dancing. This performance will be special to me personally because my family, friends and colleges who can't travel to Texas to see the company will be in attendance."

Not everyone is traveling to perform. At the Dance/USA conference in San Francisco, June 27-30, Dance Advantage founder and web maven Nichelle Strzepek is presenting on The Blogosphere: Writing about and For Dance panel. Houston Ballet's marketing director Andrew Edmunson presents on the Arts Marketing in the digital Age panel. Frame Dance's artistic director Lydia Hance and Doyle will be mentees of a new program, while C.C. Conner will serve as a mentor. That's a whole lotta Houston making a strong presence at the field's most important national gathering.

Houston Ballet goes on hiatus this week, but that doesn't mean a handful of them aren't still sharing their talents with the world. Sara Webb and Connor Walsh head to Tokyo, dancing Manon on June 24 & 26. Joseph Walsh and Karina Gonzalez will perform pas de deux from Madame Butterfly and Sleeping Beauty in Malaysia on July 14-15. Nao Kususaki and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama travel home to Japan to perform the lead roles in Giselle on July 14.

Even Houston Ballet chief Stanton Welch gets to spread his wings. He's off teaching in London at The Royal Ballet School. Later this summer, he premieres a new piece on the Joffrey Ballet at the Pillow, Aug 22-26. Yep, I'll be there to see it. Stay tuned to this space for the details, because I have a great dancecation planned myself.