Archive for the ‘Artistic’ Category

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Making Magic Happen Behind The Scenes In New York At The Joyce Theater

November 4, 2013

Houston Ballet has been extremely busy during the month of October, preparing for two major tours: to New York’s Joyce Theater from October 22-27; and to the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris, France October 31 – November 4.

Joyce Banner 2013 HB

Image Courtesy of Houston Ballet

Over the last decade Houston Ballet’s Director of Production Brian Walker has managed the production aspects of Houston Ballet’s tours to Moscow, Spain, Montreal, New York City, and to many cities small and large across the U.S. In this blog entry, Brian discusses the challenges and rewards that Houston Ballet’s production staff faces when the company takes to the road.

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 Brian Walker; Photo by Kaye Marvins Photography, Inc.

1.)  If Houston Ballet opened at the Joyce on Tuesday night, when did the Houston Ballet crew arrive in NYC to get ready for the show?

We arrived Sunday evening and started working Monday morning at 9am.

2.)  How much time did production have to tech the show in Manhattan, compared to what you would have in Houston?

We loaded in for 8 hours on Monday and had 4 hours Tuesday morning. Our typical load in before the first tech rehearsal consists of about 36 hours total.

3.)  Does having 7 shows a week (-vs- our usual 4 shows a week in Houston) present any special challenges for the wardrobe department in terms of laundering the costumes?

Mary Clare (our wardrobe person) did have to stay late after each show to do laundry, but that’s a normal part of our process. On Saturday, when we had two shows, it was definitely more of an ordeal trying to get things cleaned and dried between shows. Mary Clare didn’t have a crew to assist, so she spent a lot of time during the matinee working to get things started so she had enough time to get it all done. 

4.)  What are the challenges of working in a much smaller theater (Joyce with 500 seats) versus working in your home theater, Wortham Theater Center (2300 seats, and our home venue)?

Because the Joyce doesn’t have the ability to fly any of their legs or other goods out, they have to come up with creative ways to get rid of things. 

 Play (Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet)

For Stanton Welch’s ballet Play, for example, Stanton wanted to reveal the back wall.  When we did the ballet at the Wortham, all of the legs, borders and up stage goods were flown out to reveal the backstage. At the Joyce, the legs cannot fly out and are hard flats, so they don’t go away. The upstage goods had to be “west coasted” which means bundling and tying them to the pipe that they’re hanging on. 

Lisa J. Pinkham - Joyce Lighting

Lighting Designer, Lisa J. Pinkham; Photo by Brian Walker

Play also used several moving lights in the original version. Our lighting designer Lisa Pinkham had to adapt those looks to conventional lights for the Joyce because we didn’t have moving lights, nor the time to program them.

5.)  What has it been like to work with the Joyce tech staff?

The Joyce Tech Staff are fantastic. They’re really good at what they do and have a keen eye on how to approach their venue and are very helpful in getting our show up and running.

6.) What’s been the most challenging aspect of the tour for production?

The most challenging aspect for this tour would have been putting Play back together. It’s been several years since we’ve done the ballet, and it was only done by Houston Ballet on the Wortham stage. 

Touring often requires an adapted version of shows we do at home, but having to adapt Play on the road to a unique venue, not having done it recently presented some challenges. It definitely gave us a place to start the next time we present the ballet outside the Wortham and we have a better idea of how Stanton would like to approach the ballet.

7.) What’s been the most rewarding aspect of the tour for production?

The most rewarding aspect for Stage Manager Michelle Elliott was getting to perform in New York. We all dream at one point or another of getting to do a show in New York City. This was Michelle’s first time stage managing a show in New York and she really enjoyed the experience. 

Stage Manager Michelle Elliott - Joyce HB

Stage Manager, Michelle Elliott; Photo by Brian Walker

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Choreographer Melissa Hough: Inspired by Machiavelli, The Moonwalk, and Gabriel Prokofiev

September 4, 2013

From September 5 – 15, Houston Ballet launches it 44th season with Four Premieres, featuring three world premieres and the American premiere of Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages. Choreographer Melissa Hough has been hard at work in the studios on  her new piece, …the third kind [is] useless. For this week’s blog, Melissa takes time out from rehearsals to explain the sources of inspiration for her ballet.

C Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet - Amitava

Ballet: …the third kind is useless; Dancers: Connor Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

1.) Tell us about the music you chose for your new work.  Who is the composer? Why were you drawn to this particular piece of music?

Melissa Hough: The music I chose is String Quartet No. 1 by Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of Sergei Prokofiev! I was drawn to this music because of its edginess, rhythmic intricacy and dark sense of humor (all attractive qualities to me).

2.) How many dancers are in your ballet? Does it have a specific structure, with different movements?

Melissa Hough: The ballet is 15 minutes long and has 4 movements. I am using 13 dancers and 4 musicians to create mayhem :)

3.) What type of movement vocabulary are you using for your new work? Neoclassical?  Contemporary? Will the ladies be on pointe?

Melissa Hough: I am using a wide range of vocabulary. Each movement is completely different from the next, so I used emotional themes to create the style for each movement. There is a bit of a story that goes with my ballet and the arc of the story is what ties it all together. I have everything from a la seconde turns and double tours to the moonwalk and conga!

IMG_6284_Melissa Hough and artists of Houston Ballet

Melissa Hough at Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

4.) Tell us about your choreographic process. Do you enter the rehearsal hall with the steps choreographed in advance and a firm conception of what you want the ballet to look like when it’s finished? Or do you begin working with the dancers with no fixed idea in mind, open to the inspiration of the moment and what comes from your collaboration with the dancers?

Melissa Hough: My process is a little different each time. Often it has to do with how much time I will have to work in the studio. For this particular piece, I knew exactly how many hours I would have to initially create it, which was really helpful! I worked on the concept and story for a long time on my own prior to starting with the dancers. All the steps, however, were made in the moment and then worked and tweaked up over time.

5.) Tell us about the title of your work. Where does it come from?  What does it mean?

Melissa Hough: The title is a fraction of a quote by Niccolo Machiavelli, whose work has been a big inspiration for this piece. He talks about how there are three kinds of intelligence and…….the third kind is useless.

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Ballet: …the third kind [is] useless.; Costume Sketch by Monica Guerra

6.) Are there any specific ideas or themes that you are exploring in …the third kind [is] useless.?

Melissa Hough: Containment, auto phobia, the use of classical mime and power.

7.) Is there anything else that you would like the audience to know about …the third kind [is] useless.?

Melissa Hough: I am hoping I’ve created something that is intriguing and interesting. Watch it with an open heart and having had caffeine prior to sitting in your seat because the ballet moves very quickly!

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To learn more about the other works on Four Premieres, running September 5 – 15, watch this video interview with Stanton Welch and 

Christopher Bruce about the program.  For more information and to purchase tickets, visit:  http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing_Schedule/Season_Calendar/Four_Premieres/

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Houston Ballet Hosts Free Dance Talk on Friday, Sept 6: Politics and Pop Music in Ballet

August 27, 2013

On Friday, September 6 from 6:00 – 7:00 pm, Houston Ballet will sponsor the first FREE Dance Talk of its 2013 -14 season: Politics and Pop Music in Ballet. The event will feature an open rehearsal of Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s hip one-act work Play, followed by a discussion with Mr. Welch and a group of Houston Ballet dancers. The Dance Talk will be held at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, Houston 77002.

 Play (Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet)

Ballet: Play; Dancers: Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Drew Donovan

Created in 2004, Mr. Welch’s imaginative and youthful work Play is set to several selections from the Grammy-nominated 1999 album Play by DJ/techno artist Moby. The ballet’s story is driven by the music: blues-inflected electronica, which provides the ideal musical backdrop for the ballet. “I always wanted to choreograph to Moby and techno music,” said Mr. Welch. “Moby was a pioneer of that genre.”

 Play is city life made into ballet with classical technique. The dancers wear street clothes, but are on pointe. However, the pointe shoes look like sneakers. Mr. Welch’s inspiration for this piece comes from the media-saturated, heavily politicized twenty-first century environment that urban dwellers experience. “The ballet is set on the street,” explained Mr. Welch, “where walking becomes choreography.” Everyday city life is dance: the dancers brush their teeth, rush to and from work, and play video games.

Play (Artists of HB)

Ballet: Play; Dancers: Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Drew Donovan

Originally created for BalletMet Columbus in 2004, Play had its New York premiere at the Joyce Theater that spring, where it was a great success. Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times, called Play “a quirky exploration of youthful alienation….This is Mr. Welch in a witty disco mode.” (May 28, 2004) Barbara Zuck of The Columbus Dispatch said that it “was a hit…Welch’s newest piece has the hustle and bustle of a New York street as well as a humorous eye…[Play] quickly caught the audience in its grasp.” (May 27, 2004)

Houston Ballet will host its second Dance Talk of the 2013-14 season on Tuesday, September 24 from 6:00 – 7:00 pm at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, Houston 77002. Artists and speakers participating in the Sept 24 Dance Talks will be announced at a later date.

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The Return of Choreographer Garrett Smith

August 23, 2013

On September 5, Houston Ballet will launch its 44th season, unveiling a new work by choreographer Garrett Smith as part of the program Four Premieres, running September 5 – 15. Garrett got his start as a choreographer in 2007 at Houston Ballet Academy, where he created five works for Houston Ballet II. He then joined the professional company, dancing with Houston Ballet for three years, and winning the prestigious Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute. In 2012, Garrett joined the Norwegian National Ballet.

 Garrett Smith - Courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

Garrett Smith; Image courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

For the last three weeks, Garrett has been hard at work on Return, his first commissioned work for Houston BalletIn this blog entry, he talks about the inspiration of John Adams’s music and the sense of gratitude he feels to be coming home to his dance family in Houston.

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The music that I selected for my new work is by John Adams. I decided on using “Short Ride ” and also “Harmonielehre pt. III” I have never listened to much of John Adams before, but these two pieces I found were quite energetic and big. They made me want to dance, and I immediately got visuals of bodies on stage. Stanton seemed to be right on board and supportive of this decision which was very good. What was also exciting about this selection of music, is that John wrote back personally within about two weeks of asking for the music rights. It felt like this was the right choice.

The music is big and calls for larger cast. I saw many bodies filling the stage. Ideally I plan to use six men and six women. I don’t want the cast to be too big. I still want it to feel intimate and friendly, and also special to the dancers.

There isn’t necessarily a story to follow, but more of an experience between a group of friends. In my mind I feel that this group of  friends have traveled to a secret place that is special to them.

I decided to give the title of “Return” to the piece. There will be two movements:  one very energetic and explosive movement, and another energetic and sort of mystical movement. The title is slightly symbolic to me. Not only do these characters as good friends “return” to a place that is special to them within the piece. But this work is also my return back to Houston, or should I say my dance home.

Cave Lake Image

For me the setting is inside of a cave. But it can also be open to interpretation as the set is not so literal. Production director Brian Walker has helped me find a way to keep the idea with a more abstract and minimal approach. The cave element has served as a great source of inspiration for lighting and costume ideas. Ever since I found out about the commission, I have been surfing for photos online, as well as a few movies that were compiled into an inspiration album that I shared closely with my costume designer Travis Halsey, and lighting designer Lisa J. Pinkham, who is Houston Ballet’s lighting designer.

Garrett Smith Sketch 1

Sketch by Travis Halsey

I am very happy to have Travis do the costumes for this piece. He designed the costumes for my first big choreographic opportunity when I was in Houston Ballet II. He has now designed four of my ballets. I always knew I would ask him to design something for a big opportunity like this on Houston Ballet.

I am also very excited about Lisa being the lighting designer. I have seen many pieces she has designed for Stanton Welch. She is very talented and I have full trust in her ability to make something spectacular.

I am coming back to a place that is very special to me, Houston Ballet, where many of my close friends and dance family are. It feels like coming back home, but also now as choreographer. I feel it is the best way I could ask to come back. I am beyond excited to also return, and create something special here.

-Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith Headshot 2 - Courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

Garrett Smith; Image courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

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From two choreographers at the beginning of their careers and two of the world’s most respected and sought after, comes a program of all new works. Acclaimed by The London Times as an artist who “could change the face of British dance,” master Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages conveys the joy and the anguish of unrequited love in a deeply moving ballet of strong emotions and powerful actions. James Kudelka, hailed by the New York Times as “the most imaginative voice to come out of ballet in the last decade,” stages his second commissioned work for the company. The program also features new ballets by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough, both winners of prestigious awards from the New York Choreographic Institute, both who got their start choreographing on Houston Ballet.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

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Costumes for Return Take Flight September 5-15

August 19, 2013

From September 5-15, Houston Ballet will open its season with Four Premieres, unveiling a new work by Garrett Smith entitled Return, set to the music of John Adams and featuring costumes by Travis Halsey. In our blog this week, we would like to share some of the initial costume designs by Mr. Halsey for Return and show you how the working is currently taking shape in our wardrobe department, which is translating Mr. Halsey’s vision into reality.

Garrett Smith - Sketch 2

Travis Halsey is originally from Springfield, South Dakota, and received his BFA in Theater Arts from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His extensive experience working in theater and ballet includes stints with Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Omaha Community Playhouse, Black Hills Playhouse, Omaha Theatre Ballet, Houston Ballet and Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, for which he designed a new production of Sleeping Beauty. Mr. Halsey has won numerous awards for his designs, including  first place in regional design at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for his work for Omaha Theatre Ballet’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. In 2008, he collaborated with Monica Guerra to design the costumes for Stanton Welch’s A Doll’s House for Houston Ballet.

Garrett Smith Sketch 1

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From two choreographers at the beginning of their careers and two of the world’s most respected and sought after, comes a program of all new works. Acclaimed by The London Times as an artist who “could change the face of British dance,” master Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages conveys the joy and the anguish of unrequited love in a deeply moving ballet of strong emotions and powerful actions. James Kudelka, hailed by the New York Times as “the most imaginative voice to come out of ballet in the last decade,” stages his second commissioned work for the company. The program also features new ballets by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough, both winners of prestigious awards from the New York Choreographic Institute, both who got their start choreographing on Houston Ballet.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

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Summer Video Bloggers are coming your way!

June 20, 2013

Mayra Gomez (122 of 157)

Houston Ballet; Photo: Mayra Gomez

Guest Writer: Kate Owen, Academy Intern

The 2013 Summer Intensive Program is finally here! Dancers from every corner of the United States and all around the world came pouring into Houston Ballet Academy bright and early on this beautiful Monday morning. The energy around the Academy is electric! Staff and students alike can not wait to get started! Dancing, learning, and choreographing?! The SIP 2013 students are in for a tough but fantastic 6 weeks. In weeks 2 through 5, videos will be uploaded starring two gregarious students full of life and ready to share! Visit soon to find out who the two lucky students will be! They will share the highlights of their weeks, their favorite dance memories, and much more. These videos will be uploaded to Houston Ballet YouTube and Facebook pages as well.

Stay tuned!

-Kate

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Blog Entry – Jacob’s Pillow 2013

June 17, 2013

From June 10 – 23, two Houston Ballet II dancers have been invited to participate in the prestigious ballet program at the legendary Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Western Massachusetts.

April 2013_MG_4540-order - Aoi Fujiwara and Eric White

Ballet: Brigade; Dancers: Aoi Fujiwara and Eric White; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Aoi Fujiwara, an 18 year-old originally from Osaka, Japan who has trained at Houston Ballet’s Academy for two years, was awarded a full scholarship. Mallory Mehaffey, an 18 year-old from Sugar Land, Texas who has studied at the Academy for two years, was selected by the Jacob’s Pillow panel to participate.

The Sleeping Beauty_Mallory Mehaffey and Joel Woellner

Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty; Dancers: Mallory Mehaffey and Joel Woellner; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Jacob’s Pillow Dance is lauded worldwide as a “hub and mecca of dancing” (TIME Magazine), and “the dance center of the nation” (The New York Times). “The Pillow” is a treasured 220-acre National Historic Landmark, a recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts, and home to America’s longest-running international dance festival. Each year thousands of people from across the U.S. and around the globe visit the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts to experience the Festival with more than 50 dance companies

At the Pillow, both Ms. Mehaffey and Ms. Aoi will have the invaluable opportunity to train with stellar teachers such as New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Wendy Whelan and Anna Marie Holmes, director of the program. They will also perform in a world premiere created by the acclaimed dance maker Helen Pickett in the opening gala of the 2013 Festival on June 15.  And on June 22, they will take the stage again as part of the Pillow’s free outdoor performance series.

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Making Musical Magic In Peter Pan

June 14, 2013

Portland, Oregon-based musical arranger Niel DePonte worked with choreographer Trey McIntyre to create the score for Mr. McIntyre’s three-act narrative work Peter Pan, which Houston Ballet will perform June 13 – 23 at Wortham Theater Center. Mr. DePonte used the music of the venerable English composer Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) to create the score for Peter Pan, including exerts from such compositions as Crown of India Suite.

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Ballet: Peter Pan; Dancers: Sara Webb as Wendy and Joseph Walsh as Peter Pan; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Elgar was arguably the leading English composer of his generation, and a significant figure among late Romantic European musicians. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music describes Elgar’s contribution to music by saying, “Elgar’s greatness as a composer lies in his ability to combine nobility and spirituality of utterance with a popular style.  Side by side with his large scale works are dozens of lighter pieces distinguished by melodic charm and fine craftsmanship.”

In this blog entry, Mr. DePonte talks about his search to find compositions by Elgar that were beautiful and evocative, but not necessarily widely known by American audiences, for the Peter Pan score.

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In Peter Pan, you will hear all or part of 22 pieces by Elgar including Wand of Youth, Suites 1&2 for the opening scenes of Act I; and In the South Overture for Peter’s victory over Captain Hook in Act III. There is very little music in the ballet that was not composed and orchestrated by Elgar.

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Ballet: Peter Pan; Dancers: Derek Dunn as Michael and James Gotesky as Hook; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

It should be said that a conscientious musical arranger does not alter even a single phrase of a master composer’s music capriciously when creating a score like Peter Pan. The arranger’s responsibility, therefore, goes beyond honoring the choreographer’s vision for a ballet. He must also fairly represent the melodic, harmonic, and formal integrity of the music he is arranging to the greatest extent possible, thereby honoring the music itself, its composer, and the music’s role in the ballet.

In creating the compilation score for Peter Pan, I specifically avoided using the most familiar Elgar melodies. Accordingly, you will not hear excerpts from either the Enigma Variations, or Pomp And Circumstance March #1. The reason for this is twofold.

First, an audience might already associate this music with specific visual imagery, and I didn’t want those associations to transfer over to Peter Pan. Second, I wanted an opportunity to introduce to American audiences the “other” Elgar–  the one whose violin solo from the Crown of India Suite (heard during Peter and Wendy’s 2nd Act pas de deux) is breathtakingly, achingly, beautiful.

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_MG_8358-Peter Pan_Sara Webb and Joseph Walsh_HB_Amitava Sarkar

Ballet: Peter Pan; Dancers: Sara Webb and Joseph Walsh; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

From June 13-23, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan. Based upon the popular story by Sir James M. Barrie, Peter Pan is a magical ballet set to the music of Sir Edward Elgar in an arrangement by Niel DePonte and features spectacular flying sequences, swashbuckling swordfights, giant puppets, colorful masks, as well as costumes inspired by punk fashion. With elaborate, magical sets by Thomas Boyd and imaginative costumes by Broadway designer Jeanne Button, the production reinterprets the classic story with verve and wit. Houston Ballet will give seven performances of Peter Pan at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

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Dancing Balanchine

June 7, 2013

Houston Ballet is presenting the company premiere of George Balanchine’s 1941 masterpiece Ballet Imperial through Sunday, June 9 on the program Journey with the Masters. Performing the works of George Balanchine presents special stylistic challenges for a dancer, especially those who didn’t grow up training in a school heavily influenced by the Balanchine style.

Sara Webb and Artists of Houston Ballet_MG_4806-2

Principal dancer Connor Walsh has performed many ballets by George Balanchine.  In this blog entry, Connor shares his experiences of finding the correct musicality of Balanchine’s works and the impact of the coaching of two highly regarded répétiteurs of Balanchine’s work, Victoria Simon and Merrill Ashley, who coached and staged Ballet Imperial for Houston Ballet.

  1. Which ballets choreographed by George Balanchine have you danced the lead in?  In what ways did they push/develop you as a dancer and an artist? 

Connor:   I’ve been fortunate enough to dance the lead in Apollo, Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, Ballo Della Regina, Theme and Variations, Western Symphony, Symphony in CRubies and Diamonds. Each ballet presented its own set of challenges for me that has helped me improve and approach my work in a different way.

ConnorWalsh_Apollo

Ballet: Apollo; Dancers: Connor Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

  1. What are the particular challenges of dancing the Balanchine style for a dancer who didn’t grow up training in the Balanchine style?

 Connor: As I mentioned before every ballet is filled with its own challenges. But when it comes to Balanchine’s style, I would say it is in his musicality. The musicality his steps require is both his ballet’s biggest challenge, but also the key to mastering them.

When first approaching his work I tried to give equal effort to every step that I did, but I was finding that even with all of my effort, something was missing. I didn’t feel as if I was dancing poorly but I wasn’t quite getting the correct style.

Since Balanchine’s work is so classically based, it is hard not to approach them with the same technical emphasis as other classical ballets. But once I began to open my mind about why Balanchine dancers dance with a slightly affected style, I started to realize that it wasn’t without reason. More often than not, it is to get the most out of a step within the musicality that is required.

So now when approaching Balanchine’s work, I try to find the correct musicality before anything else in hopes of understanding what part of the step is the most important — and will clearly allow the audience to see the music coming through the steps.

IMG_7465ConnorWalshArtistsofHoustonBallet

 Ballet: Apollo; Dancers: Connor Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

  1. How is Balanchine’s legacy transmitted through stagers such as Victoria Simon and Merrill Ashley who taught and coached Houston Ballet dancers in Ballet Imperial? What special nuggets of wisdom have they shared while working with Houston Ballet’s dancers that have resonated with him/stayed with him?

Connor: It’s very special to work with people who performed for Balanchine himself and have danced and seen his works performed at their best. It  is important for dancers to bring their own imagination to their dancing. But it is equally important to hear exactly what Balanchine had in mind for certain sections. Or there may be some underlying symbolism that may not be obvious, but is incredibly valuable.

Merrill-Ashley-and-Connor-Walsh_Dance Talks

 Courtesy of Houston Ballet

  1. You did extensive research on the great Balanchine ballerina Merrill Ashley and her work with Balanchine to interview Ms. Ashley for Dance Talks sponsored by Houston Ballet on April 15 at the Center for Dance. Did you come across anything in your research that was particularly impactful?

I had a blast doing research and eventually interviewing Merrill. She made my life extremely easy for two reasons. One, she had a very rich career. Two, she was a real pleasure to talk to.

What I found most impactful was that Balanchine’s style and approval did not seem to come easy to her, so throughout her career she had to work extremely hard. Through her hard work and dedication she gained a true understanding of what she was doing. Some dancers have such natural gifts that they often never have to learn what makes them great. But Merrill’s greatness came from hard work and gaining knowledge that she can now pass on to other dancers.

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From May 30 – June 9, 2013 Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program titled Journey with the Masters featuring the company premiere of Ballet Imperial, George Balanchine’s tribute to Marius Petipa and Peter Tchaikovsky, alongside revivals of Jirí Kylián’s exuberant and joyous Sinfonietta (not seen in Houston since 1997) and Jerome Robbins’s The Concert, a laugh-out-loud ballet depicting a group of concertgoers at a performance with keen insight to human behavior.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.

Ballet: Ballet Imperial; Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

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Pink at the Brown: Saving Lives and Making Art

May 14, 2013

Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch serves as artistic chair of this year’s Pink at the Brown, a glittering one-night performance bringing together Houston’s leading arts organizations on Thursday, May 16 at 8pm at Wortham Theater Center. The event benefits the Pink Ribbons Project, which saves lives and enhances the lives of those touched by breast cancer.

Pink at the Brown - Jessica Collado and Ian Casady_Photo Leonel Nerio

Dancers: Jessica Collado and Ian Casady; Photo: Leonel Nerio

In this blog entry, Stanton talks about plans for the event, and the new work that he has created especially for the performance, Nocturne Op. 15 No. 1.

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I’ve really enjoyed serving as artistic chair of Pink at the Brown. What I love most about Pink at the Brown is that it brings together all the arts in one performance.  On one stage in one night, you get Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Stages, DaCamera, Houston Ballet and Society for the Performing Arts.

Jane Weiner, the founder and artistic director of Pink Ribbons, is very talented.  She’s instrumental in putting together a very interesting evening of programming. At our initial brainstorming session for Pink at the Brown, after much discussion, we settled on the concept of using umbrellas as a motif throughout the performance. Everyone performing in Pink at the Brown is photographed with umbrellas. The umbrellas speak to a very basic question: How do you protect yourself? How do you find a safe space in a sometimes dangerous world?

Oliver Halkowich_Photo by Jaime Lagdameo_2012

Oliver Halkowich, a soloist with Houston Ballet, is very clever at exploring motifs, and I knew that I wanted him to choreograph a work for Houston Ballet II, our second company, to perform at Pink at the Brown.

I initially started out thinking that I might want to create a work to Coldplay’s Fix You. After much reflection, I settled upon Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 15 No. 1. It is soft, sentimental and touching.

I wanted to take two of my favorite dancers Ian Casady and Jessica Collado – and make this piece for them. Ian Casady was in my first work for Houston Ballet, Indigo, in 1998, and I’ve worked with him for 15 years. So my artistic relationship with him is one of the longest that I have had in America. And Jessica is in every ballet that I make.

Jessica Collado_Photo Amitava_2012Ian Casady_P_Amitava Sarkar

They are two of the most musical dancers I’ve ever worked with in my life. Throughout this process, I’ve been so impressed with their musicality and ability to find very subtle nuances in the score.

Houston Ballet Pianist Katherine Burkwall-Ciscon is one of our company’s jewels, and I was so glad that she could join us in this collaboration to play the Chopin for Pink at the Brown.

 I think that it’s going to be a very special night.

-Stanton Welch, Artistic Director

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Pink at the Brown will be performed on Thursday, May 16 at 8:00 pm at Wortham Theater Center. It will feature performances by The Alley Theatre, Da Camera of Houston, Houston Ballet, Society for the Performing Arts Houston, Houston Grand Opera, Meta-Four Houston, Wrtiers in the Schools, and Stages Repertory Theatre. Tickets start at $25.  http://www.pinkribbons.org/pinkatthebrown/

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