Posts Tagged ‘dance’

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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 Intensive: Wait…it’s already Week 6?!

July 26, 2013

Guest Writer: Kate Owen, Academy Intern

Friday July 26, 2013

I can not believe that 6 weeks have already come and gone! This year’s Summer Intensive Program flew by and was a great success, if I do say so myself. I can feel the excitement spreading throughout the entire building as the students prepare for the final performance. In the video below, I was able to get a few students to weigh in on their favorite parts of the summer program and even got a few to show me their unique talents!

Click play below to see what they have to share!

Thanks for keeping up with us this summer. Hope to see you next year!

-Kate

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Reflection – Goals You Set for Yourself: Jonathan Vecseri!

July 23, 2013

Guest Writer: Kate Owen, Academy Intern

Tuesday July 23, 2013

Jonathan is a 16 year old level 6 student from Houston, Texas. Jonathan has been dancing for 3 years at the Ballet Center of Houston and with Houston Repertoire Ballet. He has been in ballets such as Nutcracker, Midsummer Nights Dream, Cinderella, and Storybook. Other activities that he is involved in include speech, debate, square dancing, Civil Air Patrol, and viola. Talk about well-rounded! Jonathan has a love for engineering and mathematics, and ballet of course. During this Summer Intensive, he intends to decide whether he should continue with his ballet career. I don’t know about y’all, but I sure hope he sticks with it!

Please click the link below to meet Jonathan Vecseri and hear him talk about his past few weeks!

Jonathan wants to be a Summer Intensive video blogger to gain interview experience; therefore I will do my best to improve his skills! Besides being involved in Color Guard, speech, and debate, Jonathan has no experience in front of the camera. Dancers must present themselves in front of an audience and with his performance background; this blog will be a breeze!

This courageous young man is attending the Summer Intensive here at Houston Ballet in order to improve his technique and repertoire. He also would like to gain knowledge in what it would be like to be a part of a professional ballet company. Jonathan hopes to decide based on the outcome of this intensive whether or not he will become an engineer or continue with ballet. I know one thing for sure and that is no matter which direction he goes, Jonathan will most definitely flourish.

Stay tuned for the last student video blog post coming soon! The video will show various students sharing their favorite parts of summer and some unique talents.

-Kate

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Meet Our First Summer Blogger: Natalie Payne!

June 27, 2013

Guest Writer: Kate Owen, Academy Intern

Natalie is a 16 year old level 6 student from Sydney, Australia. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an Aussie on our hands! This is her first Summer Intensive ever and she is just thrilled to be at Houston Ballet Academy. She auditioned for the program back in January while on vacation with her family. Talk about commitment! She has a deep passion for ballet and considers herself very dedicated. I think we all can agree with that! Natalie aims to become a professional ballet dancer (hopefully with Houston Ballet)!

Please click play below to meet Natalie Payne!

Natalie wanted to become a Summer Intensive Video Blogger because she knew that it would be a fun and wonderful opportunity. Natalie stated, “I love expressing myself and sharing stories with people. I would love that my family, teachers and friends back in Australia could keep updated with what” she is doing here at Houston Ballet Academy this summer. All of you Natalie-loving-Aussies and ballet fanatics out there get ready to be a part of Natalie’s summer experience!

If you aren’t already head over heels for this amazing ballerina, just wait! She has acting experience! When she was 10 years old she was part of an acting agency and even starred in a few commercials. Her sister is into film-making, so of course Natalie is quite use to being in front of the camera! Thanks Natalie’s sister, because now we get to enjoy her camera-ready vivacity throughout the summer!

Natalie wanted to attend the Summer Intensive Program to grow as a dancer and an artist. She loves working hard and always pushes herself to be better. She was truly inspired by the Houston Ballet II dancer, Harley Campbell. Harley came from the same ballet school in Sydney and absolutely loved it here in Houston. Natalie hopes to “gain an immense amount of knowledge from the amazing staff” and also hopes to be “noticed for her drive, dedication and artistry.” Natalie wants to stay in the year-round program and I sure hope she does!

Stay tuned for more videos from Natalie and come back next Friday to meet another video blogger!

-Kate

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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.

_MG_ 7563_Peter Pan_Sara Webb and Joseph Walsh_HB_Amitava Sarkar

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.

_MG_8148-Peter Pan_James Gotesky and Derek Dunn_HB_Amitava Sarkar

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

Artists of Houston Ballet_MG_5031-2

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