By Tyann Clement, Copyright 2004 Pointe Magazine

Every spring, Houston's dance audience is treated to a weekend of performances by dance companies from around the world at the Dance Salad festival. The Royal Danish Ballet, Quasar Companhia de Dança (from Brazil), City Contemporary Dance Company (from Hong Kong), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Nederlands Dans Theater II were among the troupes represented this year at the Cullen Theater in the Wortham Center, April 8-10. The program was long, but not without inspiration.

NDT II dancers Valentina Scaglia and Alejandro Martinez were superb in Jirí Kylián's 27'52" pas de deux. The movement contained such great contrast, almost violent at times, but then controlled and smooth. It offered a lesson in action and reaction; and the dancers’ phrasing and punctuation seemed as natural as breathing.

Cheryl Mann and Tobin Del Cuore, of Hubbard Street, also stood out in Nacho Duato's Cor Perdut. Not an inch of the stage went unused. The choreography was expansive, yet centered, and the pair displayed a beautiful freedom in their upper bodies. They danced with so much heart that the audience could hardly contain itself.

Henrique Rodovalho's choreography for Choreography for Listening presented a feast for the eyes. It also pushed his dancers, Lavinia Bizotto, James Nunes and Gleidson Vigne, of Quasar, to the limit. But this fearless trio met the challenge head on, executing full height jumps from prone positions on the floor with no preparation and in complete unison. Both the piece and the dancers were intensely musical, and the cast displayed amazing quickness and control. Listening was funny and sexy in the most subtle ways and generated athletic excitement from beginning to end.

The most creative piece of the evening, however, was Paul Lightfoot's Shutter Shut, for NDT II. It was a playful word game with movement set to text by Gertrude Stein. The dancers, who looked almost like mimes in their black-and-white costumes, were precise with excellent comedic timing. This piece left viewers wanting more.

A common thread connected all these choreographers, although their styles varied greatly. All communicated the intent or feeling of their work through movement, so the dancers looked natural and never appeared to be "acting." This honesty was wonderful to watch.

Tyann Clement is a soloist with Houston Ballet