Posts Tagged ‘Garrett Smith’

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HOUSTON BALLET’S FALL MIXED REPERTORY PROGRAM – DANCER’S PERSPECTIVE

October 1, 2015

From September 24-October 4, 2015, Houston Ballet presents its Fall Mixed Repertory Program featuring Stanton Welch’s Tapestry, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, and Garrett Smith’s Reveal. Here to discuss this exciting contemporary showcase program and share her experience is Soloist Nao Kusuzaki.

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In Houston Ballet’s Fall Mixed Repertory Program, which pieces are you performing in?

I will be performing in Stanton Welch’s Tapestry and Garrett Smith’s world premiere Reveal. 

 

Tapestry; Nao Kusuzaki and William Newton; Amitava Sarkar

Tapestry; Nao Kusuzaki and William Newton; Amitava Sarkar

Can you share about your experience dancing in Stanton’s Tapestry? What do you enjoy the most about his work Tapestry?

One of Stanton’s strengths as a choreographer is in his mesmerizing pas de deux work.  He crafts movements which flow and coalesce, then dissipates unexpectedly.  I’m dancing the second movement pas de deux in Tapestry, I enjoy expressing this vision come alive. As it also showcases the femininity of the ballerina and the strength of her partner, its process adds another layer of unison.  Like a well-thought out tapestry, this work of Stanton’s is a complex, intricate combination of steps which produces a clean, beautiful design.

Over the summer, Houston Ballet was invited to perform 3 works by Stanton Welch which included Tapestry.  What was it like to perform this piece in Germany?

I saw Hamburg Ballet perform for the first time during their New York tour with Neumeier’s Nijinsky.  It left an impression so powerful that the following year, I went to Germany to see them perform in their opera house.  So our tour to Hamburg this past summer was beyond exciting.  It was our turn to share the work with dancers and audiences in Hamburg.  Performing Tapestry which Stanton created on the company, was a very classy way to introduce Houston Ballet. Like Hamburg Ballet, our company is filled with unique, talented, compassionate artists, and Tapestry communicates that quite quintessentially. The longest applauds I have ever experienced came from there, and it still warms the heart.

 

Reveal; Nao Kusuzaki and Christopher Coomer; Amitava Sarkar

Reveal; Nao Kusuzaki and Christopher Coomer; Amitava Sarkar

You are also in Garrett Smith’s world premiere piece titled Reveal.  What’s it like to work with choreographer Garrett Smith?

Before Garrett left for Norway, we were colleagues here, and I have always respected him for his undying passion in choreography and choreographic ideas which seemed to pour out of him.  I was completely thrilled to work with him on Reveal.  The concept of Reveal -the duality of personalities- as expressed through fast-paced moves with attitude, was blood pumping.  Because he is not afraid to take risks, every rehearsal was presented with new sets of challenges artistically and technically. Because he demanded a lot out of us and the piece, there was never a moment of complacency. But because he trusted the dancers, it created a safe environment to reveal parts of self which could be vulnerable.  The process of working with Garrett was a valuable time of discovery.

Nao Kusuzaki in fittings with Monica Guerra

Nao Kusuzaki in fittings with Monica Guerra

Garrett’s Reveal has amazing costumes designed by Monica Guerra, can you tell us about your unique costumes that you perform in?

I represent the classical ballerina side of a woman, who so desperately wants to break away from the mask of beauty. She eventually shows her raw, more masculine side.  With Monica’s brilliant costuming, I start out in the stunning champagne colored tutu with many intricate details woven onto the bodice.  Then, in her reveal, the tutu tears apart, and a full length, black coat is worn on her new self.  In both costumes, I feel completely comfortable and confident. Monica’s costume design is a significant element of Reveal.

Costume Sketches by Monica Guerra

Costume Sketches by Monica Guerra

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Houston Ballet presents its Fall Mixed Repertory Program showcasing the best of contemporary choreography. British master and Houston Ballet’s Associate Choreographer Christopher Bruce’s hauntingly beautiful Ghost Dances returns after a twelve year absence from the Houston stage. Garrett Smith returns to Houston to create Reveal, his third new work for Houston Ballet. Rounding out the program is Stanton Welch’s Tapestry, a spectacular showcase for the company’s dancers.

When: At 7:30 p.m. on September 24, 26 and October 2, 3, 2015 & At 2:00 p.m. on September 27 and October 4, 2015

For more information visit: http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing-Schedule/Season-Calendar/Fall-Mixed-Rep/

Watch a preview of Fall Mixed Repertory Program: 

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UNVEILING AND REVEALING THE COSTUME DESIGN PROCESS OF GARRETT SMITH’S WORLD PREMIERE FOR HOUSTON BALLET

September 30, 2015

This weekend from October 2-4, 2015 Houston Ballet performs its final 3 shows of the Fall Mixed Repertory Program featuring Stanton Welch’s Tapestry, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, and Garrett Smith’s RevealReveal had its world premiere on September 24. The work is set to music by Philip Glass and focuses on the ideas of self-reflection and vulnerability. To realize Mr. Smith’s vision for the costumes, Houston Ballet’s Costume Shop’s Resident Textile Artist Monica Guerra collaborated closely with choreographer Garrett Smith to create and make the designs come to life. Here, Ms. Guerra discusses her design process for Reveal.

Reveal; Jessica Collado and Karina Gonzalez; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Reveal; Jessica Collado and Karina Gonzalez; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

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Can you share with us your inspiration and creative process for the designs of Garrett Smith’s Reveal?

When Garrett asked me to design this piece for him early this year he gave me a few key words that would best represent his vision for Reveal.  ‘Chic’ and ‘fashionable’ were among a few of them. It was perfect, I was so excited! When I design for dance it’s always important for me to keep fashion at the forefront since that is my aesthetic and my background. So for Garrett, shape, form and color all help shape his vision, as well as mine.

Reveal sketches by Monica Guerra

Reveal sketches by Monica Guerra

He came to me first with the music and the idea of his piece, then he showed me some pictures of textures and colors he liked. One of the pictures was of a scrunched up layered leotard worn down to the waist as many dancers wear in rehearsals. He was very drawn to the look. He also happens to love the sheer and stretchy quality of mesh, so I fused both and added my love of silk to it. This is how it started. I began playing with a knotted detail with long bands/ribbons stretched and cut at different widths and pleated organically to create a texture that is light and comfortable, yet beautiful as well.

For the women I wanted to add to this texture by joining silk along with the mesh for added depth. The more I played with the mesh overlaid onto the silk I loved the way the shiny silk would bleed through the mesh and then in other moments where the mesh was randomly heavier it mattified the silk. This idea then became the cohesive element for both the men and women.

Fabrics for Reveal

Fabrics for Reveal

The knotted detail is used on the ladies corsets, and for the men it is used on their pant waistbands. I would drape these ideas on my dress form at home and send Garrett pics so he had a more dimensional concept, not just a flat sketch to go by. This was usually done around 3am, lol. I sketched a lot as I presented new ideas to him or challenged myself to rework some existing designs he had already approved, and then we would talk about it. We spoke almost every night for months and locked down designs, details and fabric choices.

Garrett Smith’s piece Reveal features the men in very edgy black coats; can you explain the design process behind these coats?

In choosing the fabric for the black coats Garrett just wanted to keep them black. In my many trips to the fabric store here in Houston I came across a metallic silk and cotton blend fabric. The metallic wasn’t incredibly shiny, and the reverse side of it was a nice deep black. These coats are long and take up a lot of yardage so keeping that in mind the price of this fabric was good, and there was a possibility for more to be ordered, which is always important.

Reveal costumes by Monica Guerra

Reveal costumes by Monica Guerra

These coats were going to be choreographed into the piece so I knew they had to have a little weight at the front after Garrett explaining some of the choreography with me, but they needed to stay mostly lighter at the back so they could fly behind the dancers. This was also something that was important to Garrett. Very early on he sent me a pic of a dancer wearing a heavy, ill fitting coat, but the focus was on the fantastic movement the coat had. I took that idea of it flying into the air and amplified it!

For these coats I was originally looking for a waxed linen but couldn’t find it in a lighter weight. I told Garrett about the idea of making the coats out of this metallic fabric I had found and he liked it, but was a little hesitant about it, as was I.. But I had this feeling that it could definitely work! I had it purchased since we had to get moving on the coats.. They were the first costumes to get done so the dancers could have them in rehearsal their first week.

Have you worked with Garrett Smith in the past? What’s it been like collaborating for the designs of Reveal?

I have worked with Garrett before but not at this level. In 2012 I designed and built costumes for his NYCDA piece Unseen. It was a pas de deux, only two costumes. He always wanted to work together again so I was honored and ecstatic when he asked me to design Reveal. Being able to collaborate with Garrett on Reveal has been inspiring, and thrilling! He’s every bit a perfectionist like me, which I love. It’s been fun to work through ideas with him since he’s such an artist himself, always recognizing color and fit. It’s always so rewarding to be able to present a different concept, or challenge a choreographer with fresh ideas or interesting fabric choices, and Garrett always listens to the possibilities which makes for a great collaboration. I have always loved his choreography and watching him work is like seeing art in motion..It’s his gifting. So to be a part of it has been truly wonderful.

Reveal costume sketch by Monica Guerra

Reveal costume sketch by Monica Guerra

Any challenges?

As far as challenges go..I always believe everything is possible, so with that said the costume shop had to tackle building a tear-away tutu that is functional and able to be fully ‘ripped-away’ on stage. Garrett’s choreography has the tutu being ripped off from side to side so that meant the center front and center back had to be split open and slightly overlapped. With the construction of a tutu there are usually 12 layers of net all hand tacked together. Also, a key component to helping a tutu structurally stand the way it does is with a hoop strategically sewn inside of a hidden casing. It was tricky since our talented pattern maker had to split the hooping in half.. therefore already weakening the structure. She added spokes and Velcro to help it along, usually not a norm for a traditional tutu. We had to test it out in rehearsal and worked closely with Nao Kusuzaki who is wearing it. She was strategic in assisting us with this. We also put a male dancer in a tutu which is new for Houston Ballet. Charles-Louis Yoshiyama was very helpful in us perfecting the tutu for what he needed. He wore it in almost every rehearsal just to get used to it. It didn’t take long though.. He was meant to wear it. He looks so powerful in it! I can’t wait for you to see it all in motion!

Reveal costumes by Monica Guerra

Reveal costumes by Monica Guerra

Favorite pieces?

Definitely! There are several pieces that have become my favorites for various different reasons. One of my favorites is Nao’s silk ombré burnout and velvet coat that is placed on her on stage at a very strategic moment in the piece. There are panels in black velvet and others in a beautiful silk burnout velvet that I ombré dyed and painted. The entire back of it is pleated and the pleats continue to the side front. The collar is a high military style collar and looks

Reveal costumes by Monica Guerra

Reveal costumes by Monica Guerra

amazing on Nao! I would also have to say that another fave is the men’s look with the long black coat and black silk jersey roughed pant. The coats have these beautiful pleated panels at the center back to create an element of surprise, as well as movement and intrigue. Oh and the pants! Pure luxury in soft and stretchy silk jersey…it feels like a second skin and the dancers are loving it! The main reason I love this look is for so many reasons but also because I could easily see it on a runway. What is even better is that they are on our amazing dancers and we get to see them in full movement. Another of my favorites is the blue, as well as the white corsets worn by Katelyn May and Karina Gonzalez. They have these beautiful silk and mesh knots anchored in different places with the bands/ribbons all organically placed to wrap around the corset. The mesh and silk together form such a perfect union of draping and texture.

Reveal costume sketches by Monica Guerra

Reveal costume sketches by Monica Guerra

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Reveal; Katelyn May and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Reveal; Katelyn May and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Houston Ballet presents its Fall Mixed Repertory Program showcasing the best of contemporary choreography. British master and Houston Ballet’s Associate Choreographer Christopher Bruce’s hauntingly beautiful Ghost Dances returns after a twelve year absence from the Houston stage. Garrett Smith returns to Houston to create Reveal, his third new work for Houston Ballet. Rounding out the program is Stanton Welch’s Tapestry, a spectacular showcase for the company’s dancers.

When: At 7:30 p.m. on September 24, 26 and October 2, 3, 2015 & At 2:00 p.m. on September 27 and October 4, 2015

For more information visit: http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing-Schedule/Season-Calendar/Fall-Mixed-Rep/

Watch a preview of Fall Mixed Repertory Program: 

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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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Houston Ballet II Steps Center Stage in Toronto

May 1, 2013

From April 28 – May 4, the dancers of Houston Ballet II will tour to Toronto to appear in the prestigious international ballet festival Assemblée Internationale 2013 (AI13) in the Betty Oliphant Theatre at 404 Jarvis Street. Houston Ballet II dancers will appear along side other young dancers from some of the world’s most elite training institutions, including Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet of London, the Royal Danish Ballet, the National Ballet of Cuba, and The Australian Ballet.

Fingerprints_Artists of Houston Ballet II_Amitava Sarkar9891_sm

Ballet: Fingerprints; Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet II; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Hosted by Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS), the AI13 will bring together students and artistic staff from eighteen international professional ballet schools for an intensive seven days of classes, performances, forums and professional development. Former Houston Ballet dancer Garrett Smith is choreographing a new work that will premiere at the festival. Houston Ballet II will also perform the first movement of Stanton Welch’s work Fingerprints, inspired by the music of the famous Kronos Quartet’s Pieces of Africa.

Tickets to four public performances can be purchased by calling the box office at 416-964-5148 or by email at boxoffice@nbs-enb.ca. For more information, visit Assemblée Internationale’s website

logo-assemble-internationale-2013

We are so proud that Houston Ballet II has been invited to Toronto to participate in the prestigious Assemblee Internationale 2013, the international ballet festival April 28 – May 4. Learn more about this innovative program that brings together the best young dancers from all over the world for an incredible week of classes, professional development and performances.

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Corps Member and Choreographer Garrett Smith’s Work to be Performed at Jubilee of Dance

November 29, 2010

Guest writer: Lorena Capellan, PR intern

Each year Houston Ballet performs the Jubilee of Dance, a one-night-only gala performance of audience favorites and dancer showcases.  This year’s Jubilee of Dance, held on December 3, will feature the second movement of Garrett Smith’s Vivacious Dispositions.  A corps de ballet member with Houston Ballet, Mr. Smith is a burgeoning young choreographer whose work has already been performed in the United States and abroad.  I had a chance to chat with him about his work and what it means to him for his choreography to be featured in a Houston Ballet performance.

LC:  What inspired you to create this piece? Is there a story/meaning behind it?
GS:  The music is what inspired me because there is something special and unique about Baroque music.  The distinct harpsichord accompanied by the dramatic strings act like the bass of a modern pop song.  Vivaldi has a way of bringing dramatic sound to the strings with the heavy and pounding beat that intensifies but is also playful.  When I hear his cello concertos in a minor key, I relate so well to the dark and mysterious tones.  Also, the liveliness and vivacious energy you feel when listening to the music of his double cello concerto immediately draws me in, making my body move which inspires contemporary movement.

LC:  How did you pick the music? Is it a piece you always wanted to choreograph to?
GS:  I was searching for cello concertos, mainly works composed by Antonio Vivaldi when choosing music for this piece.  I was actually on YouTube when I first heard his double concerto in G minor.  I loved it! I played the music over and over, that whole night.

LC:  What essence or mood were you trying to capture with your choreography?
GS:  There were specific moods I wanted to capture through the three different movements, or “dispositions”.  The first movement was first created when I heard “La Nolte,” which means “The Night.”  This was a very fast and energetic flute concerto by Vivaldi and was meant to be the “Vivacious” disposition.  It is full of energy with a hint of flirt and dramatics.  The ideas were mainly about vivacious personality or energy.  The second movement was inspired by a calm beautiful oboe concerto.  This dance happens first as a pas de deux between a man and a woman.  It also represents a calm, shy, expressive, and more intimate disposition.  The last movement is inspired and created from the music itself, Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto in G minor. The music says it all: power, playful, friendly, expressive, and positive.  This music just makes me want to dance!   For the Jubilee of Dance, we’ll be performing the second slower movement.

LC:  How was it choreographing on your fellow company members?  Did you pick the cast?  If yes, why did you pick who you did?
GS:  Choreographing on my fellow company members was a huge treat.  I really had no limitations.  The talent in this company is crazy!  I did select a certain few dancers from pieces I had choreographed in the past because I am a big fan of their movement and versatility.  I also picked some others I had not yet had a chance to work with yet.  I was very anxious to work with them because I knew they would bring my ideas to life without words.

LC:  Were there any unanticipated challenges?
GS:  There were of course challenges here and there.  Sometimes I get a crazy idea or lifts in my head that are almost impossible, so I recreated them in rehearsals and changed the vision a little.  This cost time, but I grew from the experience and any other challenge I faced.

LC:  What does it mean to you for an excerpt to be performed on the Brown Theater with the professional company?
GS:  For me to have an excerpt from my choreography on the Brown Theater stage for the very first time is some of the most exciting news Stanton could have told me this season.  The Brown Theater stage is massive.  I am so excited to have my work on such a great stage so the dancers can utilize all the space and let the movement really come to life as they dance this again.  It really is a big step for me to have the opportunity of using this professional venue to show the viewers the second movement of Vivacious Dispositions on this stage at the gala.  I think the most exciting part of this opportunity is it gives my mom and dad a good reason to fly here to see my choreography!  They have never seen Houston Ballet perform, and have never been in the Brown Theater.  I’m so happy that they will be here to see an important first moment for me.

-Lorena

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Blogging from the Road: HBII’s Tour to Germany

April 16, 2010

Guest writer:  Jim Nelson, general manager

It is so gratifying to look back over the past few years and see the growth of our second company, Houston Ballet II (HBII).

While so many dance companies say they have a second company, when you look closely they are generally a group of upper level students who sometimes dance with the first company in larger productions like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or The Sleeping Beauty.  Rarely are these junior companies giving their own fully-produced performances in professional venues. 

That is what sets Houston Ballet’s second company apart from the majority of dance companies around the globe.  In 2006, we took a leap of faith that our second company was ready to give public performances that had less of a graduation concert feel or educational/outreach focus.  Our first season on the road included a terrific trip to Monterrey, Mexico as part of the Extremadura Gran Festival Internacional de Danza Contemporanea.  Since 2006, HBII has performed internationally in Hungary and China as well as nationally in Louisiana, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma.  Additionally, HBII performs regularly in Houston at Wortham Theater Center, Discovery Green, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Moores School of Music at The University of Houston.

HBII dancers in The Long and Winding Road.  Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

From April 18-28, I’ll be accompanying HBII to Germany for a five-performance, two-city tour.  We’re traveling with 12 dancers, ballet master Claudio Muñoz, and production manager Brian Walker.  We will give four performances in Schweinfurt and one performance in Villingen-Schwenningen.  We fly from Houston to Frankfurt and then bus to Schweinfurt.  The repertoire for this tour is Stanton Welch’s Long and Winding Road and Blue, Garrett Smith’s Den III, and Claudio Muñoz’s staging of excerpts from Raymonda (Act III).  And while the dancers are all quite young (16-18), there is nothing junior or watered down when these dancers take the stage.

This tour is a real milestone for HBII, and I’m terribly proud of all they have achieved.  The touring component is only one part of the HBII program, but it serves us in providing additional performance opportunities, expanding our national and international presence, and attracting the best dancers we can find to Houston Ballet and the Houston Ballet Academy.  The success of the program is the result of the great work of the Houston Ballet Academy, which is led by Stanton Welch, Shelly Power and ballet masters Claudio Muñoz and Sabrina Lenzi.  I don’t know of another second company that has the level of dancers we do:  three Prix de Lausanne finalists (including a winner) in a group of twelve dancers!

I’ll be sending photo updates and blogs from overseas.  Follow us while we embark on this great adventure!

-Jim

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Dance Advantage Interview with Garrett Smith

June 30, 2009

Dancer Garrett Smith, a Houston Ballet II graduate and company apprentice for the 09-10 season, sits down with Dance Advantage to discuss why he started dancing, how he balanced school and dance classes, and why he chose to study at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy.

At 20 years old, Garrett Smith is a recent graduate of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy and already an accomplished performer and choreographer. He has toured internationally to places like Budapest and Japan. In addition, Garrett has set four works on HB II, often doing double duty as dancer and dance-maker.

Even before being awarded a scholarship to the Academy in 2006, Garrett’s ambition and dedication won him numerous honors. Originally from Riverton, Utah, he has performed off-Broadway and in the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Summer Olympics. Garrett is a national title winner of the New York City Dance Alliance competition, awarded in the Junior category at age 13 and selected as Teen Male Outstanding Dancer at 16. And, as an NFAA youngARTS winner, he was one of 20 students selected as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts in 2007. And those are just his dance achievements!

Clearly, on the fast-track to a bright future, Garrett took some time to talk with me about his early training as a young man in dance, his passion for choreography, and what lies ahead for him.

Dance Advantage: You began dancing at age 9 but you didn’t start with ballet. What prompted you to try dance in the first place and why did you decide later to give ballet a try?

Garrett Smith: Sports just weren’t doing it for me so I tried tap, jazz, and hip hop. I loved it. I was silly at age 9 wanting to be famous. I thought if you were a jazz dancer, it meant you were dancing on screen with the Utah Jazz [laughs]. I tried ballet because the studio I was attending was dying down and I switched to this great ballet school in Utah called Jacqueline’s School of Ballet. I changed so much there, as did my opinion of ballet. I guess I never knew what ballet really was until I was in a correct ballet academy.

Continue reading this interview on the Dance Advantage website…

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