2017 Festival Season

Members of Susanna Leinonen Company (Helsinki, Finland) in Romeo & Juliet. Choreography by Susanna Leinonen and Jouka Valkama. Photographer: Heikki Tuuli.
Members of Susanna Leinonen Company (Helsinki, Finland) in Romeo & Juliet. Choreography by Susanna Leinonen and Jouka Valkama. Photograph by Heikki Tuuli.

Dance Salad Festival 2017

Thursday, April 13, 7:30 PM
Friday April 14, 7:30 PM
Saturday April 15, 7:30 PM

Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, 501 Texas Ave. Houston, 77002

The 2017 Festival marked its 22nd anniversary in Houston and the 25th season since its inception in Brussels, Belgium. Information on the 2017 Festival, including reviews, previews, and performance listings, are posted below.

Festival Links

Performance Preview Videos

Choreographer's Forum

April 12, 7:00 PM @ MFAH, Brown Auditorium. Free Admission

The Forum will be dedicated to the dance art and choreography of Carolyn Carlson, a major figure of European contemporary dance, based in Paris. Carlson’s career spans more than four decades as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and poet. Over one hundred creations have been included in the California-born, Finnish descendant’s repertoire. She was the first ever choreographer to receive the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, in 2006, for which she was the artistic director of its dance sector from 1999 to 2002. In 2014 she established the Carolyn Carlson Company, which tours throughout the world while simultaneously is in residence at the Théatre National de Chaillot in Paris. Carolyn has also been the Director of the National Choreographic Center of Roubaix, France, and is currently the Director of the Atelier de Paris Cartoucherie.

The film version of Carlson's choreography Inanna, will be presented in its full version as part of the Forum. “Inanna illustrates women today … warriors, seductresses, protectors who echo “Inanna”, the multifaceted goddess from the Sumerian pantheon.” In addition, Paris Opera Etoile, Marie-Agnes Gillot, guest performer of Carolyn Carlson’s solo work, Black over Red (My dialogue with Rothko) will share her long experience of working with the choreographer along with one of Carolyn's dancers who is in the Film. Discussion and Q/A will be moderated by Maggie Foyer, dance writer from London, UK.

More info from the MFAH website.

Press Conference

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 @ Wortham Basement Studio Lounge, 510 Preston, 77002.

For Out of Town Guests

Take advantage of the special package Visit Houston for Dance Salad Festival with discounted rates for Festival tickets and rooms at DoubleTree by Hilton Houston, Downtown including breakfast for 2 and free parking. Click here for more details.

About the Performers and Performances

USA Premiere Performances marked with **, Houston Premieres marked with *

1. Carolyn Carlson Company will have its USA premiere of a curated version of Carlson’s Black over Red (My dialogue with Rothko)**, a contemplative solo intertwining visual, performing arts and poetry, based on Carlson’s book, Dialogue with Rothko, Untitled: Black, Red over Black on Red (2012), in dedication to American Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko. Originally danced by Carlson since 2013, set to live music, played by cellist Jean-Paul Dessy, the solo will mark a world premiere with a special guest performance by Paris Opera Ballet Etoile, Marie-Agnes Gillot. The solo was given to Marie-Agnes Gillot at the special request of Choreographer Carolyn Carlson. Gillot performed at DSF 2009 with Carlson’s work Signes, a section of the full work, L'Esprit du bleu. Gillot was promoted to the status of Etoile (star) after starring in this choreography’s performance for the Paris Opera Ballet in 2004. Paris based Carolyn Carlson, sees herself as a “visual poet.” She has said, “I dance for the soul.”

Carolyn Carlson’s pas titled Li**, set to music by Aleksi Aubry-Carlson, will also be premiered in the USA by two Japanese, Paris based dancers, Chinatsu Kosakatani and Nakata Yutaka. Li was created as a part of Carolyn Carlson’s series of choreographic works under the title Short Stories. A poem follows:

« Li » est un idéogramme qui désigne, à l’origine,
le grain dans le jade ou le bois,
le « motif organique » à la base de toutes choses,
quand l’être s’accorde avec le « tao ».
Les transformations de la nature
Le souffle du vent
La pénombre et la lumière
La dualité du yin et du yang
Que l’un devienne l’autre
Sans un mot.

"Li" is an ideogram that means, originally,
the grain in the wood or jade ,
the "organic cause" at the base of all things,
when being accords with the " tao ".
Nature's transformations
The wind
The darkness and the light
The duality of yin and yang
That one becomes the other
Without a word.

2. Susanna Leinonen Company, Finland will debut in Houston with a curated version of Romeo & Juliet** choreographed by Artistic Director Susanna Leinonen and Jouka Valkama, set to music by Sergei Prokofjev mixed with a contemporary score by Finland Prize winner, composer Kasperi Laine. The company will also present Susanna Leinonen’s Touch of Gravity**, set to music by Kasperi Laine. This Festival year will mark the 2nd appearance of Susanna Leinonen’s work in Dance Salad Festival. Her choreography Trickle Green Oak was performed by dancers of the Finish National Ballet, Helsinki, premiered in North America in Dance Salad Festival in 2004. William Shakespeare’s tragic but timeless love story has touched people’s hearts for centuries. In the hands of choreographers Susanna Leinonen and Jouka Valkama the work gains an interpretation in which two families and two languages of movement meet. Romeo & Juliet premiered on November 30th, 2012 in Helsinki, Finland.

Touch of Gravity, is a contemporary dance performance that defies the laws of nature. The dancers escape the limits of their physicality with deliberate slow movements emerging from the ground. The moving figures seek their places within a group and attempt to disrupt its balance. The striking visuals give rise to a surreal on-stage universe. Touch of Gravity, premiered in Helsinki, on August 21, 2014, was produced in cooperation with Helsinki Festival and Stoa and financially supported by the National Council for Dance, National Council for Music and the City of Helsinki.

3. Eastman from Antwerp, Belgium, presents the Houston Premiere of a curated version of Fractus V* choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Founder and Artistic Director of the company who will dance in this piece himself with 4 dancers of different contemporary backgrounds set to live music played by 4 musicians from Japan, Korea, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Nine different nationalities and outspoken identities will dialogue to come to an intense, dramatic and fluent whole… Fractus V stands for the natural fractures which are necessary to grow and become stronger…In Fractus V, I want to deepen the questions on information and manipulation; propaganda versus a more ‘objective’ and factual approach. If I translate Chomsky’s ideas for myself, I gain the insight that: ‘The only way the individual is able to protect himself against political and social propaganda, is to study all the information available. Each day we are bombarded with news that tries to influence our thinking. It is a very intensive exercise to filter everything and to resist believing what we are told to believe,’ writes Cherkaoui.

Curated sections of Cherkaoui’s Myth and Origin came to DSF in 2009, and also in 2010, Loin was danced by the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genéve. In 2011, DSF presented Cherkaoui’s Faun. Petrus (out of PUZ/ZLE) was specially curated from the Avignon Festival’s commissioned PUZ/ZLE, co-produced by Eastman and premiered in DSF 2013. The US Premiere of Cherkaoui’s Embrace (curated version of m¡longa), a Sadler’s Wells production, London, UK, was premiered in the US in Dance Salad Festival 2014. Cherkaoui’s Rigor Mortis, created specifically for Dance Salad Festival, premiered in 2015. The Royal Ballet of Flanders, (Antwerp, Belgium), presented his Fall in DSF 2016 where Cherkaoui was appointed Artistic Director in 2015.

4. Norwegian National Ballet, Oslo, Norway, will mark its 6th appearance in DSF with the US premiere of a curated version of the solo production, Player**, choreographed by Argentinian born, award winning dancer/choreographer Daniel Proietto, danced by American born dancer, Whitney Jensen, set to music by Mikael Karlsson. Player premiered at the Norwegian National Ballet Gala in summer 2016. DSF audiences remember Proietto’s remarkable performance in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Faun in DSF 2011, as well as his own choreography Cygne, danced by former Houston Ballet dancer Samantha Lynch in DSF 2014.

5. Texas Ballet Theater from Fort Worth & Dallas, Texas, will present a powerful, double Pas de Deux from Carmen choreographed by Carlos Acosta, former Principal Guest Artist of The Royal Ballet and arguably one of the most famed dancers in the world. Acosta’s adaptation of Bizet’s and Mérimée’s story was co-produced by The Royal Ballet, Queensland Ballet and Texas Ballet Theater where it was premiered in North America by TBT in September, 2016. Taking the parts of Carmen and Don Jose, the double Pas de Deux will be danced by former Houston Ballet dancers, Carl Coomer and Leticia Oliveira. The famous opera’s universal and timeless themes of love, jealousy and revenge are laid bare in a powerful setting."…Stylishly sexy, seductive and earthy, Oliveira simmers in the title role." Edge Media Network.

6. Shantala Shivalingappa, Indian born, Paris raised, well-known Indian classical dancer, will debut in Houston with an adapted version of the Rasalila piece from Shiva Ganga (Love Poem on Krishna and Radha)*. Since the age of 13, Shantala Shivalingappa has worked with artists such as Maurice Bejart, Peter Brook, Bartabas, Pina Bausch, and Amagatsu and was trained by Master Vempti Chinna Satyam in the classical Indian dance form Kuchipudi. She dedicated her career to sharing Kuchipudi with Western audiences and to refining her own flavor of the style through subtle innovations, while retaining Kuchipudi’s heart and soul, its core strength and essence. She has performed at Theatre de la Ville, Sadler’s Wells, Mercat de les Flors, The Herbst Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow, and New York City Center and received a Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance of Shiva Ganga at the 2012 Fall for Dance Festival. Her many artistic collaborations include Play (2010), a duet with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; Nineteen Mantras (2012), an opera directed by Giorgio Barberi Corsetti; and Blooming*, a duet with the ‘Crown Prince’ of Memphis Jookin’, Lil’ Buck from Los Angeles, which premiered at Vail International Dance Festival in 2014, will debut in Houston for Dance Salad Festival 2017 with Lil’Buck himself.

7. Charles “Lil' Buck” Riley is a jookin’ street dance style virtuoso. For Dance Salad Festival, Lil’ Buck will perform his acclaimed solo The Swan* as well as Blooming*, a dance duet with Shantala Shivalingappa (information at No. 5 above). International phenomenon LIL BUCK began jookin’ – a street dance that originated in Memphis – at age 13 alongside mentors Marico Flake and Daniel Price. After receiving early hip-hop training from Teran Garry and ballet training on scholarship at the New Ballet Ensemble, he performed and choreographed until relocating to Los Angeles in 2009. Named one of Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch, his collaboration with Spike Jonze and Yo-Yo Ma performing The Swan went viral in 2011. Since then he has collaborated with a broad spectrum of artists including JR, Damian Woetzel, the New York City Ballet, Madonna, Benjamin Millepied, and Spike Lee. Buck is an avid arts education advocate, recipient of the WSJ Innovator Award, collaborates frequently with global brands.

8. Evidence Dance Company, Brooklyn, NY, USA will present an excerpt March from the 1995 work Lessons, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, founder and Artistic Director of the company, set to music by Bobby McFerrin. March is set to a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that speaks to the value of a man. The movement embodies the sentiment of the text to illustrate a physical story of perseverance, dignity, and collective strength and care-taking. “...There is his agile use of stillness that subtly brushes the surface of raw emotions. And there is the undeniable way his propulsive movement crosses beyond the stage. Yes, this is the rare choreographer who makes you want to get up and dance.” Gia Kourlas, New York Times.

Afternoon Student Concert Program

Thursday, April 13, 2017 from 12:30 – 2:00 PM. Designed for middle and high school age students, the Afternoon Student Concert Program combines a short tour of the Wortham Center and a final dress rehearsal performance in the balcony of the Cullen Theater, Wortham Center. Free program.


Members of Susanna Leinonen Company (Helsinki, Finland) performing Touch of Gravity. Choreography by Susanna Leinonen. Photograph by Sharen Bradford. 2017 Festival performance.
Members of Susanna Leinonen Company (Helsinki, Finland) performing Touch of Gravity. Choreography by Susanna Leinonen. Photograph by Sharen Bradford. 2017 Festival performance.