Posts Tagged ‘New York City Ballet’

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Houston Ballet brings new tutus to the stage with the help of Holly Hynes

May 9, 2011

Guest writer: Lorena Capellan, PR intern

Costume designer Holly Hynes has worked closely with choreographer Jorma Elo to create costumes for his newest ballet, ONE/end/ONE, to be premiered by Houston Ballet in late May. Holly Hynes served as director of costumes at the New York City Ballet for over 20 years and has been entrusted by The George Balanchine Trust and the Jerome Robbins estate to teach the execution of costume designs for Mr. Balanchine’s and Mr. Robbins’s ballets to companies all over the world. Ms. Hynes has also designed costumes for many of Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s ballets, including Tu Tu, The Core, Falling and many more.

LC: What is the process like working with a choreographer to design a costume?
HH: After the choreographer tells me the chosen music, I listen to it for hours. Sometimes I’ve listened to a score 20 times before I put pencil to paper. If the dancers have started to work in the studio it helps to see a video of the beginnings of the ballet. Next I flush out ideas with pencil and watercolor. I’ll scan the art work and then send it to the choreographer who usually is not in the same city I am. Houston Ballet flew me in to overlap with Jorma’s rehearsal period, but before that we met in Moscow to talk about ideas. We talk about movement, color, aerobic needs, numbers of dancers, if atmosphere changes between movements…is there a story?

Man's costume for ONE/end/ONE. Costume design by Holly Hynes. All rights reserved.

Man's costume for ONE/end/ONE. Costume design by Holly Hynes. All rights reserved.

Woman's costume for ONE/end/ONE. Costume design by Holly Hynes. All rights reserved.

Woman's costume for ONE/end/ONE. Costume design by Holly Hynes. All rights reserved.

LC: Where did you shop for the materials needed to make the tutus?
HH: Sometimes I’ll swatch first in New York to help guide a shop with what I am after. I prefer to find fabric sources in the same city as the ballet company because that way it’s faster to buy more if they need it now or in the future. Houston has some amazing fabric stores, and Houston Ballet wardrobe manager Laura Lynch is the queen of shopping!

Woman's corset. Photo by Valerie Reeves of Art Institute of Houston North.

Woman's corset. Photo by Valerie Reeves of Art Institute of Houston North.

LC: Have you worked with Jorma before?
HH: This is my 4th original Elo ballet. We collaborated before on Slice to Sharp (New York City Ballet-2006, Stanislavsky Music Theatre in Moscow-2010, Stuttgart Ballet in Germany-2009 and Tulsa Ballet-2011); Double Evil (San Francisco Ballet-2009 and National Ballet of Finland-2012); and Pur ti Miro (National Ballet of Canada-2010).

Woman's tutu. Photo by Leonel Nerio of Art Institute of Houston North.

Woman's tutu. Photo by Leonel Nerio of Art Institute of Houston North.

LC: What do you enjoy most about designing tutus vs. full body costumes? Are there certain things you have to keep in mind?
HH: I adore creating tutus. I suppose I enjoy them so much because the top plate seems to be a canvas for an artist just waiting to be designed on. I learned how to make tutus from assisting Barbara Matera who had her own shop for 32 years, and by remaking Karinska tutus for over 20 years as the Director of Costumes for the New York City Ballet. I always do my research about what a company prefers before I crash into a situation, design something and then find out the artistic director prefers a different style on the company’s dancers. Thank goodness I have designed many tutus for Stanton as well. Getting to work with Jorma in Houston feels like bringing home a friend to meet the family!

Man's leotard. Photo by Valerie Reeves of Art Institute of Houston North.

Man's leotard. Photo by Valerie Reeves of Art Institute of Houston North.

The tutus created by Hynes for ONE/end/ONE are “old school” mixed with “new school”. The four ladies’ tutus consist of a mix of nets and incorporate a modern edge to the top layer. They are made with horsehair cloth and are stiff like the tutus seen in Stanton Welch’s Divergence.

ONE/end/ONE will be premiered by Houston Ballet on Thursday, May 26 as part of the program Raising the Barre.  More information can be found at Houston Ballet’s website.

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Who were the women who inspired George Balanchine’s Jewels?

September 27, 2010

Guest writer: Sarah Meals, marketing manager

There are mixed reports on what exactly inspired George Balanchine to choreograph his three-act abstract ballet Jewels.  Some texts say he admired the famous Van Cleef and Arpels jewelry firm, and the gemstones were the actual inspiration for the movement.  Other texts say the ballet had nothing to do with jewels; the dancers were just dressed like gems by way of Karinska’s famous costumes.  Regardless, most reports confirm that Balanchine was equally inspired by his musical selections (Fauré, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky) and three ballerinas whom he adored:  Violette Verdy, Patricia McBride, and perhaps most of all, Suzanne Farrell.

Violette Verdy was a French ballerina who danced with New York City Ballet from 1958 to 1977.  Verdy was an unusual addition to New York City Ballet due to her idiosyncratic way of accenting the music, a trait which may not have appealed to Balanchine.  However, within two years of joining the company, Balanchine created six roles especially for her.  Her moody, soul-searching spirit was perfect for the first soloist role in Emeralds, which required extended legato dance phrases.  After retiring from the stage, Verdy held brief directorship stints at Paris Opéra Ballet and Boston Ballet before becoming a guest teacher and choreographer.

Patricia McBride danced with New York City Ballet from 1959 to 1989 and became one of its most beloved stars.  McBride never quite fit the conventional image of a Balanchine ballerina, but she sailed through some of Balanchine’s most difficult classical ballets, such as Theme and Variations.  Balanchine choreographed the lead role of Rubies on her, showcasing her ability to dance breathtakingly complex choreography with a teasing, lighthearted smile.  Her huge eyes endeared her to New York City Ballet audiences.  She is perhaps best known for creating the role of Swanilda in Balanchine’s version of Coppélia.

Suzanne Farrell is one of the most highly regarded American ballerinas of the 20th century.  She joined New York City Ballet in 1961, eventually working her way up to principal status, until she retired in 1989.  Farrell took a brief 5-year leave of absence from New York City Ballet (1970-1975) when she married fellow dancer Paul Mejia, which strained her relationship with Balanchine.

Balanchine referred to Farrell as his “Stradivarius.”  She was one of the Balanchine’s greatest muses, and he created countless works on her.  The Diamonds pas de deux showed off Farrell’s limitless capacities for classical dancing and reflected Balanchine’s reverence for her.  Ms. Farrell now runs her own dance company, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, which performs at the Kennedy Center.  She was one of five recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2005.

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Principal dancer Connor Walsh Participates in Documentary

May 28, 2010

Houston Ballet’s premiere principal Connor Walsh returned Wednesday from a film shoot in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Walsh was participating in a documentary on legendary dance photographer Steven Caras. Caras was nurtured first as a dancer for 14 years at New York City Ballet by America’s most influential choreographer George Balanchine and secondly as a dance photographer by Balanchine.   The new hour-long PBS documentary titled Steve Caras: See Them Dance was directed by Emmy Award winning film-makers Deborah Novak and John Witek. 

For more information on Steve Caras and the PBS documentary, please visit www.stevencaras.com.

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Off to the Races

May 3, 2010

Guest writer: Andrew Edmonson, director of marketing and public relations

Houston Ballet’s dancers are leaping towards the conclusion of our 2009-2010 season.  Instead of a leisurely stroll around the home stretch, the company is engaged in an all-out sprint to the finish line on June 20, performing seven ballets, in three venues, in two different states, over the next seven weeks. 

First up on the calendar is an annual rite of spring for the company:  three free performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre Friday, May 7 – Sunday, May 9.   This year, Stanton has put together a stellar program that showcases the contemporary side of the company’s repertoire:  Nacho Duato’s modern classic Jardí Tancat  (literal translation:  Enclosed Garden), set to the haunting Spanish folk songs of  Marie del Mar Bonet; Twyla Tharp’s groundbreaking work In the Upper Room that takes its audience on an exalted journey from earth to a more transcendent space; and Stanton’s beautifully classical work for five couples to the music of Mozart, Falling.   Take a peak at Stanton’s Falling on Youtube. 

From May 27 – June 6, the company returns to Wortham Theater Center to present Pecos, a mixed repertory program featuring the company premiere of George Balanchine’s Ballo della Regina.  A very special style is required to perform Balanchine’s works.   Our dancers have been blessed to be taught and coached in Ballo by the legendary American ballerina Merrill Ashley, who not only had the good fortune to work with Balanchine from 1967 to 1983, but also created the leading female role in Ballo in 1978. 

“Balanchine always seemed to take special delight in challenging me with difficult steps, and since he knew I excelled at moving quickly, he decided to make that the feature of Ballo – virtuoso steps at high speed,” commented Ms. Ashley.  “He highlighted all my strengths in Ballo, giving me a ballet that not only was challenging and fun to dance, but one that gave me the opportunity to communicate the joy of dance, which was my favorite mood to express on stage. Ballo epitomizes the essence of the technique that he advocated, as it requires extreme precision, clarity, speed, and expansive movement. Dancers who are not trained in the Balanchine style are always startled to find how much easier the steps are when they use the technique Balanchine advocated. His choreography is constructed with the idea that the steps will be done as he would have taught them. That is what makes the angles of the steps look best, and what makes the transitions from step-to-step possible at high speeds.”

For more information on Ms. Ashley and her amazing career, read a 1997 interview with her in The New York Times discussing her special link to Balanchine, and the 1997 review of her final performance with New York City Ballet detailing so many of the qualities that audience adored about her.

A very different balletic style is required to perform the works of Sir Frederick Ashton, whose 1960 masterpiece La Fille mal gardée closes Houston Ballet’s season on June 10-20.  The English critic Alastair Macaulay has observed, “The ballet style shown in Ashton’s ballets is a particularly intricate one, with upper and lower body maintaining a lively activity, and many internal embellishments of head, arms, épaulement and footwork.”  Two experts in the Ashton style have been in Houston helping our dancers to prepare to perform Fille:  Englishman Christopher Carr, a former dancer and ballet master with London’s Royal Ballet, and Australian Grant Coyle, principal dance notator to The Royal Ballet.

There will be no rest for the weary.  The weekend after Fille opens, ten Houston Ballet dancers will hop on a plane to Washington, D.C. to perform Stanton’s work, Falling, for the prestigious national ballet festival, Ballet Across America II, at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Houston Ballet was a part of the very successful first installment of Ballet Across America in 2008 and is very happy to make its 8th appearance at The Kennedy Center.  Houston Ballet opens the festival Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16 on a program with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre.

Then the ten dancers who performed in Ballet Across America will rush back to Houston for the final four performances of Fille June 18 – 20.  And then, it’s off to a very well-deserved long summer break for most of the company. 

-Andrew

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