WALKING THE GROUNDS of the Heights Ironworks is like stepping back in time, making it the ideal location for choreographer and former Houston Ballet soloist Nao Kusuzaki’s immersive dance performance, The House. Created for Houston Contemporary Dance Company and running Feb. 8-10 (5pm, 7pm and 9pm), The House explores the groundbreaking accomplishments of Barbara Jordan, the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, and Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Although Jordan and Lee’s paths never crossed, Kusuzaki imagines them as guests at the Yale House, a five-room historic landmark built in 1903.
As an audience limited to 30 for each performance is led throughout the house, the stories and secrets of these two amazing women are revealed through movement and spoken word.
“They were true to their values, and words were their main tool,” says Kusuzaki of Jordan and Lee. “They were both strong women who realized their dreams and influenced society in terms of human and civil rights.”
Given the limited amount of square footage within the Yale House, the big challenge for Kusuzaki has been predicting how the audience will react in such cramped quarters. “Some people like to be close, but others might want their space,” says Kusuzaki. Despite such challenges, Heights Ironworks has been a creatively stimulating choice of venue for dance. “It’s quite beautiful,” says Kusuzaki. “I was inspired by the property, and how it’s being used today.”
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