Performing Arts Houston Debuts South Africa’s Vuyani Dance Theatre and Last Comic Standing Winner Felipe Esparza in April

Vuyani Dance Theatre’s Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro on April 21, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. at Cullen Theater

Photograph: John Hogg

Performing Arts Houston presents the Houston debut of South Africa’s Vuyani Dance Theatre, led by award winning choreographer, founder, and Executive Director Gregory Maqoma. The company will perform Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléroon

Tickets start at $39, at

Inspired by the novel Cion and Ways of Dying by South African author Zakes Mda, and Ravel’s Boléro by composer Maurice Ravel, Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Boléro tells the story of a professional mourner, Toloki, and a community’sa bility to band together to share the burden of grief. Set in a graveyard, this evening-length contemporary dance piece is scored to an a cappella arrangement of Ravel’s Boléro composed by Nhlanhla Mahlangu, sung in Isicathamiya, a singing style created by South African Zulus. Through the crying voices of mourners and despair embodied through Maqoma’s choreography, Cionexploresthe sadness that continues to affect those who have lost loved ones.

Immediately following the performance, Vuyani Dance Theatre company members will participate in a discussion with audience members about the performance’s inspiration and creative process in a Westwood Creative Chat. On Saturday April 22, intermediate and advanced dancers can participate in a master class at the Institute of Contemporary Dance focusing on Pulse Technique, a dance style created by Gregory Maqoma. Registration is $20. More information can be found at

Felipe Esparza: The Big Foo Tour at Jones Hall on April 28 at 7:30

Join Last Comic Standing winner Felipe Esparza for an evening of stand-up comedy as part of The Big Foo Tour. Felipe will make his Performing Arts Houston debut at Jones Hall on April 28 at 7:30. Tickets start at$29 at

Esparza got his start in comedy all because someone asked him to list five goals in life while in rehab before age 21. As a young Mexican immigrant growing up in the projects of Boyle Heights (East L.A.) and then as a teenage father with a drug and alcohol problem, he had never taken time to consider goals for his future. Up until that question, Felipe was under the impression that life was over at 18. Among the items on his list of goals were, “to be happy,” and “to be a stand‐up comedian.”

If you had told him back then that all of his life experience would one day make people laugh, he wouldn’t have believed it. From being raised in the projects in a family of 9 living in the most gang‐infested neighborhood in the country to winning NBC’s Last Comic Standing, to selling out live comedy shows allover the country and being able to act in TV shows and movies, Felipe’s life has been anything but boring.

He worked for years as a stand‐up comedian, opening on the road for fellow comedians such as Gabriel Iglesias and Paul Rodriguez, then took a leap of faith and went out on his own which, at first, led to very little income and opportunity. During his early years as a comedian, Felipe was part of the successful stand‐up comedy TV show, Que Locos on Galavisión (the only English‐speaking show on Spanish television). That show and the resulting tour helped launch the careers of several other Latino comedians such as George Lopez, Gabriel Iglesias and Willie Barcena. Finally, after 16 years of struggling, Felipe’s big break came in the form of winning NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

In addition to the performance, Performing Arts Houston and Harris County Public Library will host a free Pages & Stages book club prior to Felipe’s performance at 5:30 on April28. The book club will discuss Father Gregory Boyle’s book Tattoos on the Heart, which illuminates the stories of Felipe and many others who participated in programs with Homeboy Industries. Registration and more information can be found at

Photo courtesy of Performing Arts Houston