For one week each fall and spring, Houston-area students are invited to Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy for a student-oriented performance by HBII, Houston Ballet’s pre-professional division. This year we premiered an entirely new program entitled Around the World in 7 Dances. Based on middle school social studies curriculum, this program taught middle school students about the language, music, food, culture and dance from each of the seven continents.
Narrated by Mother Earth (ABC’s own Melanie Lawson), Around the World in 7 Dances provided a unique blend of information, visual aids, and dance. As each continent was introduced, members of HBII displayed posters of cities, people, geography, food, and culture of that part of the world. For example, while Mother Earth explained how ¼ of all the air on earth originates from the Amazon rain forest in South America, audience members were looking at pictures of the plants and animals indigenous to that continent.
Much thought also went in to the dances chosen to represent each continent. In addition to old favorites such as the snow scene from The Nutcracker for Antarctica and Stanton Welch’s Red Earth for Australia, HBIIs also performed new works set specifically for this program. Cheryne Busch choreographed an African dance set to the music of Ipi Tombi. Claudio Muñoz’s Encounters set a hot and steamy mood for South America, and Alex Arizpe caught the fun-loving culture of North America in his swing piece.
Around the World in 7 Dances provided a unique opportunity for Houston-area students to observe the creativity and excitement of Houston Ballet in our studios. Each performance ended with a 15 minute question and answer session with our dancers. The audience is able to learn what it is like to be a dancer with Houston Ballet, the difference between pointe shoes and ballet slippers, how performers change costumes so quickly, and many other interesting facts.
How do I fit into all of this? My job is to contact the schools and coordinate which shows they come to. For this particular presentation, I also ordered and made the posters for the visuals and designed stress balls in the shape of a globe to hand out to the audience. I worked with our Academy artistic staff as well as our wardrobe staff to set the rep and make sure the costumes were available and fitted for the dancers. I also provided the curriculum to David Groover, who wrote the script. I coordinated with Melanie Lawson and KUHF for recording the narration and worked with Brian Walker (our production manager) on the sound effects.
This spring we reached approximately 1,229 students in five days, and we are looking forward to another successful Studio A series in the fall.