I was quickly flipping through Dance or Pointe magazine, I don’t even remember which, but suddenly Manuel Legris’ name popped out at me in a small paragraph in the lower right hand corner. Manuel Legris was or is going to be in Houston, Texas. My mind sort of fizzled a bit – wait, what??? Houston??? When??? Did I miss this??? I’m about to assume that I missed something that I really needed in my life and I was on the verge of screaming. One should always read an article before screaming so I read it carefully – there was something called The Dance Salad occurring in Houston, Texas and Manuel Legris was going to be dancing in it and I had NOT missed it. So you know exactly what I did, I opened up a window on my computer and began looking for tickets and airfare! There really was no other choice.
So what I discovered is that there is an annual festival in Houston and it’s called The Dance Salad because it is by design a mixture of various kinds of dance, a salade composée of a generous variety of dancers and dance styles. I get it but it’s still a weird name. And, no offence to Texas because I really like Texas as a general rule, but what in the heck could interest someone of the caliber of Manuel Legris to Houston I wondered? Well, first off, the rest of the line up is pretty darn impressive and looking at past programs it becomes clear that this is no backwoods hoedown! Past Salads have included Semperoper Ballett, Stuttgart Ballet, Estonian National, Royal of Flanders, English National, Vladimir Malakov, and many, many others!
I like galas and festivals. I realize that there is a whole not-cool stigma attached to galas but I don’t really have the time and energy to be snobby, I’ve got stuff to get really excited about! I don’t really think I missed much by not sitting at the cool kids table all this time and I’m not about to start to worry about it now. For me, the gala or festival is like a tapas bar – a smattering of little plates with wonderful yummy bites of things you’ve never seen before and you get to taste a bunch of different things and walk away satisfied. I enjoy knowing that at a gala or festival, I will almost always see a dancer or company that I was unaware of prior and works by choreographers that I’d never heard of before. Perhaps it is a bit “introduction to dance” but if you aren’t an expert in every form of dance and everything that’s out there then maybe it’s a good place to be. And I am not an expert. At any rate, I find the whole gala/festival bit a lot of fun and I enjoy them without reservation and without apology.
So, yeah, I bought tickets and booked a trip to Houston. The programming is done in such a way that if you attend any two of the three performances, you’ll see everything. I think that’s very cool. I bought tickets for all three nights though as Manuel was dancing every performance. The performances were held in downtown Houston, which is very similar to other large metropolises with a beautiful performing arts complex called The Wortham Center. The festival was held in a nice sized theater called the Cullen. I did think the stage was a tad small but the rake was good and the place filled up to the brim! I’m not sure if Houston is altogether a dance town or not because I met lots of people like myself who came from out-of-town or even out-of-state to attend but I will tell you that this group was full of hooting and hollering energy.
If you will allow me, I’m going to indulge myself a bit and make a short series about the festival because I think that The Dance Salad is a somewhat hidden gem. There is so much to share, I don’t want to cheat you on information but I also don’t want to throw the entire kitchen as well as the sink into one post either. I’ve already decided to make it an annual event to attend. Who knows, maybe next year you can join me in Houston or find some sort of hidden fabulousness where ever you are!
Here are some particulars:
Looking back at prior programs, The Dance Salad seems to always be held in April of each year. It is held at The Wortham Center in downtown Houston. The official hotel is the Double Tree by Hilton Houston Downtown. It’s where all the dancers stay. I stayed here as well – lots of dancer and choreographer sightings, which is always fun. It’s a nice hotel with a free shuttle to the Wortham. Downtown is just that – there are the theaters, an aquarium, a couple of shopping malls, and The Bayou Place, which is where all restaurants and clubs and whatnot are located. You can get to the Museum District, which is where I went, and to other sites by bus or metro rail. The metro rail isn’t much to speak of, it is only one line, but it is inexpensive and easy to navigate. Hobby airport is closer to downtown but I flew into George Bush International, it was about a 45 minute taxi (expensive) or a much longer multiple stop trip by shuttle (much cheaper). Tickets for the festival run between $20 and $50 per ticket, which is really very reasonable. If you buy multiple tickets, you can get a discount. The festival runs for three performances, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. On the prior Wednesday there always seems to be a live interview or a film showing or something. Each performance runs for about three hours. A single program gives a lot of great information about the dancers and the choreographers and it’s free but it’s not very fancy.
So sit back in your center orchestra seat, the lights are going down, the curtain is coming up, it’s time to see and hear and feel some dance in Houston, Texas, USA!!!