April 19, 2003


By Margaret Putnam, Copyright 2003 The Dallas Morning News

For someone inclined to gluttony, Cullen Theater was the place to be Thursday. Dance Salad Festival 2003 was a feast of talent from four continents that included dance companies seldom or never seen in the United States. Ballet dominated, but except for a pointe shoe or two and Ben Stevenson's lyrical suite from Fountain of Tears for the National Ballet of China, the style was essentially modern.

Trey McIntyre's Memphis, which opened the program, set the prevailing mood – pensive and occasionally passionate. Simplicity never looked so inviting, as Crystal Brothers from Memphis Ballet walked in slowly and deliberately, while Elvis Presley's "Blue Moon" wrapped her in an emotional wall. Every turn and stretch was sharp as glass. When the Staples Singers' "I'll Take You There" followed and three men showed, she took charge, puffing on a cigarette one offered. They took turns spinning her – her legs like stilts – in ever increasing speed. When she leaped into one man's arms, the two stared at each other with amazement, her legs straight as a board. The losers shuffled off.

Surrealism and fantasy washed over Sweden's Goteborg Ballet's Blue Ballerina, where the floor was covered with rose petals and a ghostly figure in a filmy chiffon tutu and cotton-candy wig appeared. Slowly, Uta Guttler arose, reaching to tip toe and posing for several seconds. As the music – Tschaikovsky's "Pathetique" – swelled, she spun like Giselle or undulated arms Odette style, but otherwise she moved with quirky, angled gestures. Men holding balloons joined her, swaying backward.

The colorful outfits of Quasar Companhia de Danca in Mulheres were a nice change from the muted costumes and dim lights elsewhere. Rich in imagination, the aggressive, disjointed movement suggested a deck of cards falling, as two women tumbled and collapsed. A third, in black, took command of a long red sofa, stretched out her legs and flipped back and forth.

Throttled energy surged and waned in Buglisi/Forman Dance's Requiem , set to Gabriel Faure's music. Five women in extravagant draperies rose and dropped from their stools, occasionally whipping their dresses. Baroque formality and grace captured another time.

The Dutch National Ballet's Suite From Kurt Weill featured a lyrical pas de deux; a wary friendship between two men who literally leaned on each other and the distant connection between yet two more men.

The company also performed The Grey Area – "about the space between the known and the unknown" – which repeated a tiny segment of an unfinished Bach work. Dancers spread out and realigned, as smoothly and randomly as fish.

The comedy came with the amusing folktale, Pointless Pastures, by the Swedish Cullberg Ballet.

For emotional impact, nothing could match Netherlands Dance Theatre's Sigue, danced and choreographed by the married couple Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon. He was clad in flesh-colored tights and she in black dress. The two engaged in a series of fluid lifts and long, suspended holds, her parked on his knees.

The ending was breathtaking: the two lied on the floor motionless while a misty powder descended from a stream of light, until they were covered with powder. It was magical.