The Austin Chronicle

On the Road Again

Ballet East's 'Paths' traces passages through life

By Robert Faires, December 5, 2003, Arts

Robert Frost wrote about "the road less traveled." Joseph Campbell described the path down which the mythic hero journeys. At some point, most of us leave home to make our way in the world. Life is about the paths taken and not taken, and this week Ballet East Dance Company will trace a number of those paths. For its fall 2003 production, the 25-year-old Austin company has focused on the passages we take through life and the role identity and self-awareness play in the roads we travel.

For some choreographers, the journey is internal. Company Artistic Director Rodolfo Mendez uses Nathaniel Hawthorne's description of egoism as the "Bosom Serpent" as a jumping-off point to explore a soul on the path to suffocation; he titles the solo No Exit. Assistant Artistic Director Melissa Villarreal is likewise interested in metaphysical passages. Her dance Seven Spirits for the Gemini Soul connects a figure in crisis with loved ones from beyond who provide counsel and direction.

For other choreographers, the journey is political. Company member Ananda Mayi Moss comments on "this time of economic uncertainty and jaded terror" through a dance that charts the role personal choice and social responsibility play in an individual's development. In a similar vein, local choreographer Leticia Rodriguez builds a dance around a flight attendant to expose the dangers that lie in our journey through a turbulent economy -- a flight that offers no safety net for most of its passengers.

For two of the choreographers, however, the production is a literal journey back home. Jason Brooks and Dixon Mena are both alumni of Ballet East, who left Austin several years ago to carve out their own paths as dancers and choreographers in the larger dance world. Mena has found his niche in New York City, where he has worked with the Erica Essner Performance Co-Op and choreographers Regina Nejman and Nell Breyer. Brooks' path has taken him as near as Houston and as far as Europe. He will contribute a dance based in the journey of suffering and survival undertaken by immigrants. In addition to setting a dance on his old company, Mena will dance a solo. They are the latest to continue Ballet East's longstanding tradition of drawing on the talents of exceptional choreographers. It helps explain why the company is still around and still growing after a quarter-century and is evidence that Ballet East is on the right path. end story

Ballet East Dance Company will perform Paths Dec. 4-7, Thursday-Sunday, at the Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Rd. For information, call 474-TIXS or 385-2838 or visit

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