Austin-Based Ishida Dance Presents a New World Premiere at the Long Center
"keepsake” is a performance that will linger In your memory long after the curtain closes
In a conversation with Brett Ishida back in 2022, this artistic director of Ishida Dance emphasized the importance of creating a work both timely and timeless: “Can someone watch this 100 years from now and still find it relevant?”, she questioned.
This January 15 and 16 at the Long Center, Ishida Dance presents keepsake, a collection of visionary and visceral works that will linger in the memory of the audience long after the curtain closes.
Exploring universal archetypes through a uniquely-striking choreographic language, Ishida evokes the midcentury masterpieces of New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine, filtered through the sensual chic of French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, who described his work as “a simple film about complex things” (“c’est un film simple sur des choses compliquées”).
Similarly, the seeming simplicity of Ishida’s dance narratives — memory and family are recurring themes — belie the nuanced and beautifully-tangled dynamics of human relationships that run the gamut from sibling rivalry to lost love.
The jewel-box pieces curated by Ishida offer meditations on human interconnection that are at once raw and refined, traumatic and tender, energetic and elegiac. Ishida cites her cinematic and classical training as central to her conceptualization of contemporary ballet, and this fusion is evident in the visual fascination and psychological saturation of her choreographic works.
In testament to her vision as choreographer and artistic director, the company that Brett Ishida founded in 2019 has received recognition by Dance Magazine as the only company on its 2023 “25 to Watch” list.
The bespoke program presented by Ishida Dance will feature world premieres by Ishida alongside works by Swedish choreographer John Wannehag and French choreographer Jérémy Galdeano, both rarely seen in the US.
Wannehag’s If the world was ending would you hold me tight? juxtaposes eschatological urgency with the human need for belonging, while the German techno score references the troupe’s rooting in the European traditions of William Forsythe and Jiří Kylián.
The world premiere of ascendant star Galdeano’s You look strange—you look happy showcases an “idiosyncratic choreographic language,” according to Ishida, that rounds out the aesthetic integrity of the evening and reinforces the immersive and custom experience for which Ishida Dance has become famous in Houston and beyond.
Ishida’s own pieces warm my bones and keepsake frame the program and display her signature synthesis of classical texts with cutting-edge choreography, haunting musical scores, and cinematically-searing staging.
The first work, warm my bones, presents a provocatively-modern take on two classically-cursed brothers, Polynices and Eteocles, from the Greek tragedy “Seven against Thebes.” Ishida’s alchemic mixture of mood, movement, and music by the Rolling Stones provides a transfixing start to the program.
The culminating keepsake explores what may happen to those who have experienced a trauma so great the soul literally leaves the body. The sensitive and of-the-moment rendering of a dissociative fugue state by a trio of dancers replays the patterns of memory, of reliving trauma, through a series of Rodin-inspired pas de deux.
Ishida Dance’s keepsake promises a memorable evening of introspection, connection, and transformation: once you open the box, you won’t be able to look away.
Ishida Dance’s keepsake will run at the Long Center January 15 & 16. Tickets are available here.
Natalie Rouland is Senior Advisor at the Kennan Institute and Scholar in Residence at The Washington Ballet. She is Professorial Lecturer in Russian Literature at George Washington University and has taught at Wellesley College, Miami University, and Stanford University.