Blogging from the Road: The Kennedy Center Tour

Guest writer: Jim Nelson, general manager

Monday, June 14
One hour after the curtain fell on Sunday afternoon’s matinee of La Fille mal gardée, sixteen dancers (including the Sunday performance leads Connor Walsh and Melody Herrera), artistic director Stanton Welch, ballet mistress Louise Lester, and Maestro Ermanno Florio headed to IAH to catch the last flight to D.C. to participate in The Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America II festival which opens tomorrow. 

Houston Ballet will kick off the festival with Stanton Welch’s gorgeous ballet Falling.  Also on the program is The Suzanne Farrell Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre.

Houston Ballet was included in the inaugural festival in 2008, and we’re thrilled to be asked back for round two.  The Kennedy Center describes the festival as “an exploration of the breadth and depth of the art form, showcasing companies from across the nation.”  Other ballet companies participating in the festival include Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Arizona, Ballet Memphis, Tulsa Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and The Joffrey Ballet.

Today the dancers are loosening up with a class with Louise Lester, and they will have the remainder of the day to explore D.C. and to rest.  Maestro is rehearsing The Kennedy Center Orchestra and production manager Brian Walker and lighting designer Lisa Pinkham are focusing lights and preparing cues.  Tomorrow is jam-packed with class, dress rehearsal and the opening performance.

The festival is a shining example of the terrific programming The Kennedy Center presents.  The lineup allows dance-goers to see nine great companies over three nights with diverse rep from nine different choreographers such as Balanchine, Duato, Elo, Millipied, Welch and others.  It’s also a great opportunity for the dancers participating in the festival to interact with each other. Houston Ballet dancers will have the opportunity to take class with the dancers from the Suzanne Farrell Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre companies during the three days we’re here.

Tuesday, June 15
The dancers have their one rehearsal on The Kennedy Center stage from 2:30-3:30, and it’s their first time to dance Falling with The Kennedy Center Orchestra.  They have just enough time to run the ballet once, go back and correct a few tempos and spacing and re-run problem sections.  Stanton and Louise give the dancers a few notes and then release them for the afternoon.  Houston Ballet is first on the program, and the theater is absolutely packed.  Tonight’s awesome cast is Ian Casady and Melody Herrera, Peter Franc and Amy Fote, Nao Kusuzaki and Chris Coomer, Elise Judson and Joe Walsh, and Connor Walsh and Kelly Myernick.

I’m always struck by the D.C. audience.  They are well informed dance-goers, and they are so responsive.  In some parts of the world, the audience is extremely quiet throughout the ballet—they do not respond to solos or pas de deux sections, and it’s not until the ballet is concluded that you can judge the audience’s reaction.  D.C., like Houston, is on the other end of the spectrum, and they enjoy responding immediately and generously.  Tonight is no exception, and the audience cheers the Houston dancers on throughout the ballet and resoundingly at the end of the ballet.  The bravos and multiple curtain calls are reflected in the dancers’ beaming faces.


Photos from dress rehearsal:

Kennedy Center Dress Rehearsal 1
Dancers Connor Walsh and Kelly Myernick
Kennedy Center Dress Rehearsal 2
Dancer Melody Herrera
Kennedy Center Dress Rehearsal 3
Ballet mistress Louise Lester, Maestro Ermanno Florio, and The Kennedy Center Orchestra
Kennedy Center Dress Rehearsal 4
Dancers Connor Walsh (left) and Joe Walsh (right)
Kennedy Center Dress Rehearsal 5
Left to right: lighting designer Lisa Pinkham, artistic director Stanton Welch, and ballet mistress Louise Lester

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