Tuesday, March 12, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 106



Anderson perfect in lead role of Houston Ballet's 'Cleopatra'

By Kristin Buchanan
Daily Cougar Staff

The story behind the life and loves of the Queen of the Nile is the stuff of legends not to mention movies, pop culture and one of Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson's greatest creations.

The $1.2 million production concluded Sunday and was designed to showcase the talent and passion of Lauren Anderson, the first African-American promoted to
principal dancer.

Anderson is perfect for the role. She is the ideal embodiment of Cleopatra, from her athletic-yet-graceful physique to her powerful stage presence.

Leave it to Anderson to make dancing en pointe look as casual and easy as everyday walking.

Anderson has recently graced other stages as well. She was a guest on the WB's television game show To Tell the Truth in December. She was also profiled on CBS
News Sunday Morning.

In the Houston Ballet's revival of Cleopatra, Timothy O'Keefe played Julius Caesar, Cleopatra's lover in the first act. Dominic Walsh gave a great performance as Marc
Antony, who also loved the queen.

The pas de deux between Walsh and Anderson were resplendent. Sparks flew and the two lit up the stage together.

The original production attracted international acclaim, and for a good reason.

Cleopatra is everything a modern ballet should be: bold, innovative and spellbinding.

Modern ballet can be differentiated from classical ballet mostly in the shapes created while classical ballet strictly insists on perfectly rounded arms and pointed
toes, modern ballet challenges the form without quite rebelling against it.

The choreography in Cleopatra challenges its dancers with technique that isn't included in the movement vocabulary of classical ballet repertoire.

Cleopatra features bent arms and flexed hands and feet that are every bit as pronounced, but not nearly as garish, as those in Vaslaw Nijinsky's 1912 ballet Afternoon
of a Faun, most vividly characterized by the dancer's hands angled awkwardly downward, thumbs jutting out.

Standing behind the talented dancers is a masterpiece of scenic design.

Thomas Boyd's scenic designs beautifully capture the essence of Egyptian elegance, complete with hieroglyphics and reeds.

In Act II, Scene 4, one of the most amazing props, Cleopatra's barge, opens up to reveal a set of stairs that lead up to the queen's throne, flanked by two wings. This
symbolized the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, whom many believed Cleopatra to be. Her image was also sometimes accompanied by wings.

The Houston Ballet's revival of Cleopatra is a production fit for a queen.

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