Opening the triptych is Ketubah, choreographed by Julia Adam. The piece had its world premiere on February 26, 2004 by Houston Ballet during Stanton Welch's first WOMEN@ART program. Julia Adam has said that she made "some subtle changes that will deepen the experience" and "that ultimately will make it more a part of who I am now." The performance is fantastically underscored with rich, traditional klezmer music performed by The Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas. The choreography itself expertly combines rigid movements that evoke Eastern-European styles of dance with ballet traditions, seamlessly incorporating both aesthetics. Furthermore, the dance beautifully captures the jovial feelings of marriage in general, while allowing audiences a glimpse into the Eastern-European Jewish traditions and rituals surrounding the sacred bonding of two souls. At the performance I attended, the full company in the dace was delightful and impressive. In solo, leading roles Jessica Collado, Simon Ball, Kelly Myernick and Linnar Looris showcased the poise, elegance, professionalism, and grace that Houston Ballet is associated with.
Costume design by Christine Darch zealously captured Eastern-European Jewish styles, completing the picture for the audience. The use of sheer material on the men's long jackets was inspired, allowing the audience to see their movements without obstruction. Christina Giannelli's lighting design was simplistic and kept the stage bathed in mostly warm lighting, aiding in the jovial feelings of the choreography. When the candles lower from the ceiling to add an extra element to the narrative, an sigh of romantic delight from the audience could be heard in the auditorium.
The second piece in the program is the World Premiere of Aszure Barton's Angular Momentum. The piece is set to Mason Bates' strident and oft-unsettling The B-Sides, which is the combination of five pieces written for Orchestra and Electronica and features samples of the communication between ground control at NASA in Houston and the astronaut Ed White during the 1965 launch of Gemini 4. Aszure Barton's choreography is an extravaganza of arresting, jarring, and altogether unusual movements. Most impressively, every inch of the bodies of the 27 dancers is meticulously choreographed. From the tips of fingers to the movement of the mandible, Aszure Barton has attended to every aspect of the body in such a way that there is always some large easily noticed movement accompanied by smaller, more frenetic movements happening at all times. This complicated and complex piece adroitly captured the feeling of the music and unnerved the audience in a fascinating way, especially when a female dancer let fly a chilling laugh in the middle of the piece. Capturing the contemporary zeitgeist, I couldn't help but feel that this is what ballet by Lady Gaga's Haus of Gaga would look like. Moreover, the large cast was enthralling and captivating in this dance, with each performer visibly executing the choreography with practiced perfection.
Costume design by Fritz Masten was just as striking as Aszure Barton's choreography, and completed the space age vibe and breathed life into the Haus of Gaga feeling of the piece. The sparkling jumpsuits that over-emphasized shoulders and calves were fascinating and alluring, as were the flesh tone body suits with bold black bars or swirls that caught the eye. The differences in the costuming created a dizzying, kaleidoscopic effect for the piece. Set and lighting design by Burke Brown was intriguing as well.