Christopher Cardenas and Marlana Doyle in Larry Kegwin's Air on Jacob's Pillow's Inside/Out Stage Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Christopher Cardenas and Marlana Doyle in Larry Kegwin’s Air on Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out Stage.
Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Imagine a room full of dancers twisting, spinning and hurling themselves through the air with complete conviction.  Place choreographer Peter Chu in a studio with The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, add a tremendous amount of dedication and skill, and you are bound to have a compelling show in the works.

“I love what you are doing — let’s raise the level even higher,” says Chu to the dancers. “I’m aiming for the movement to be pulsing, electric, physical, and most importantly, visual.” As one of the most sought-out dancers on the planet, it’s a big deal to have Chu in the house.

Chu is an internationally-known dancer and choreographer, and he’s  spending part of his hiatus from Kidd Pivot—Crystal Pite’s famed company— to set a new work on the company which will premiere as part of “The Vessel,” along with a new work by Kiki Lucas and Ben Doyle, on April 11 & 12 at The Wortham Center.

You might say The Met is in growth mode. Besides having a rep with such heavyweights as Chu, Larry Keigwin and Kate Skarpetowska, they are about to move up in the world and down the street. In June, the studio and company will move to a newly refurbished facility at 2808 Caroline, complete with 11,000 square feet, four new studios with Harlequin sprung floors, office space, 75 parking spaces (think “happy parents!”) and room to grow.

Lisa Wolff, Terrill Mitchell and Christopher Cardenas of The Houston Met in Larry Keigwin's Air Photo by Ben Doyle.

Lisa Wolff, Terrill Mitchell and Christopher Cardenas of The Houston Met in Larry Keigwin’s Air.
Photo by Ben Doyle.

Last summer, The Met received well-deserved raves for their performance on the Inside/Out stage at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and they are a regular at dance festivals in Chicago and Boston.

“The Vessel” is an evening of dances that explore the senses of sight and hearing. Chu’s work hones in on sight, and is set to music by Las Vegas-based composer Jean-Francois Houle.  “I’m inspired by the city’s larger-than-life displays and its past history with iconic headliners,” says Chu. “I plan to pull back the curtain, so to speak, and explore the pent-up frustrations, the emotions and relationships that these iconic figures may have experienced during their time in the limelight. The glamour of Old Vegas is such a powerful image — it conjures stories, celebrities, and icons engrained in American culture.”

Chu, director of chuthis, thrives on the details. He spent an entire week developing  movement principles , improvisational tasks, and body conditioning, as well as building dance phrases that will be utilized in the piece. “I do love an organic process, and like to have a balance between being prepared and time for me to explore and get to know the dancers,” explains Chu.

Lucas hones in on hearing for The Vessel, a collaboration with multi-media artist Doyle. She drew from the company’s work at The Center for Hearing and Speech, along with time with artist and choreographer Jason McDole.  “We had a conversation about being deaf,” says Lucas. “Dance became his ‘vessel’ for dealing with the challenges of being deaf. Opportunities to create something this huge and this meaningful are rare,”

The Met ends their season with a new home and “Swing, Jive and Pop into Dance”, their annual dance blast, on June 5 at Miller Outdoor Theatre—one joyous conclusion for a year of big changes.

-NANCY WOZNY


The Vessel
April 11 & 12, 2013
Cullen Theater, Wortham Center

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