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
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
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
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.