Brian Enos

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Dream Teen

Lauren Kern - The Houston Press

This must have been what it felt like to witness Urlicht in Stuttgart in 1976. William Forsythe's first piece for a professional company announced the choreographer to the world, or at least to Germany, and launched a career that would push ballet beyond its neoclassical boundaries. It was this feeling of dance destiny that was in the air last Thursday night at the Houston Ballet's Cullen Contemporary Series.

Perhaps that's overdramatizing a bit, and we don't want to put to much pressure on the young choreographer Brian Enos, but his work Landing was, quite frankly, brilliant, and besides, he's got nearly a ten-year jump-start on Forsythe. The 18-year-old is a Level 8 student at the Houston ballet Academy. Artistic director Ben Stevenson invited Enos to choreograph a piece for the academy's graduation performance last spring - rare for a student. After seeing a rehearsal of the dance's first movement, Stevenson offered Enos the chance to work with the professional company - absolutely unheard of for a choreographer of his age. But Stevenson has an eye tor talent, and the efforts of this inexperienced teenager dominated the Cullen program.

Indeed, some critics will put Enos in context as a successor to Forsythe's neoclassical deconstructionist movement. And it's true that the speed, athleticism, and unusual plays on the classical lexicon are similar. But Enos resists the categorization. Perhaps it's just artistic arrogance, a young man trying not to follow in someone else's footsteps. Then again, there's something to the idea that what Enos is doing is different.

Inextricably tied to aboriginal didgeridoo music by Stephen Kent, Landing was both primitive and sophisticated, a space-age tribal dance for the new millenium, The hooded,one-legges costumes, which Enos designed, lent the dancers anandrogynous quality; the men and women were distinguished only by color: blue or pink. But the androgyny was overlaid with intensely, though not overtly, sexy choreography.

More impressive, Enos has an unusually adept eye for both the big picture and the details. He moved his ten dancers through a series of dynamic patterns on the stage, and yet paused the frenetic pace ever so briefly to give a strikingly nuanced image of a sharply turned head or a flexed wrist. Soloists emerged from the group effortlessly - the chorus complementing the featured dancer with subtler movements then syncing up with a larger phrase here and there. In other words, Landing was not just a series of steps but an integrated whol. Something that many choreographers never master seems to come naturally to Enos.

Enos Wanted to use younger members of the company in his piece because, understandably, he thought it would make him more comfortable. And while the corps de ballet dancers in other pieces seemed to struggle, they attacked Enos's choreography with confidance and professionalism. Still, experience is not to be discounted. Principal dancer Dawn Scannell was phenomenal in the featured role, dancing a breakneck pas de deux with Lucas Priolo, She was sharp and sensual and on, from the dramatically simple entrance of a deep second pisition plié to the conclusion when the choreography acknowledged its own difficulty by dropping Scannell lifeless and exhausted into Priolo's arms...

...Enos' work blew away that of his older colleagues. Perhaps in the coming years he, like Forsythe, will push the limits of ballet for his generation. But he's already got the talent to remind us why we love dance, pure dance, movement and music conspiring to hypnotize an audience. And if he can keep doing that for people, he will be a success.