Posts Tagged ‘Houston Ballet’

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RESEARCHING “ROMEO AND JULIET”

November 7, 2014

From February 26 – March 8, Houston Ballet will unveil a stunning new production of Romeo and Juliet, choreographed by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch and featuring scenery and costumes by the acclaimed Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. The production has been generously underwritten by Ted and Melza Barr. In this blog entry, Stanton discusses his extensive research to prepare to choreograph this classic work. 

Juliet Ball 2 - Sketch by Roberta Guidi di Bagno

Stanton Welch’s Romeo and Juliet; Sketch by Roberta Guidi di Bagno

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Guest writer: Stanton Welch, Artistic Director

Romeo and Juliet is a milestone work, a benchmark for a choreographer. Prokofiev’s score is so exquisitely evocative, with such a strong sense of the individual characters. There are parts of the score that are so moving and emotional that they can bring one to tears.

I have never created a work inspired by Shakespeare’s dramas before.

I first saw a ballet version of Romeo and Juliet when I was about six or seven, and my mother was performing as Juliet in John Cranko’s staging of the work. It was an intensely emotional experience for me, and I distinctly remember not wanting Juliet to take her own life. I grew up as a dancer, watching — and later performing in — the Cranko version with The Australian Ballet.

There were several other ballet versions of Romeo and Juliet that made strong impressions on me. I saw a wonderful 1954 Russian film version of Leonid Lavrosky’s staging featuring Galina Ulanova as Juliet with some very difficult partnering sequences that were breathtaking. And I also saw both live performances and video of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s version of Romeo and Juliet, featuring a consummate performance by Alessandra Ferri as Juliet that dancers of my generation grew up watching and admiring.

Romeo and Juliet film (1954) of Leonid Lavrosky’s staging featuring Galina Ulanova as Juliet

I have also watched several film versions of Shakespeare’s play, including the 2013 version featuring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet, with Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, was also very influential on me.

To prepare to choreograph my version of Romeo and Juliet, I’ve returned to Shakespeare’s original text.  It is such a deep work, which reveals more levels, subtleties and nuances every time you read it.

What’s fascinating to me is that there are difference between what Prokofiev indicates in his score for the ballet and what Shakespeare wrote in his original text. This presents a conundrum for a choreographer: Do you follow Prokofiev’s lead, or do you adhere to Shakespeare’s text?

Stanton Welch’s Romeo and Juliet; Sketch by Roberta Guidi di Bagno

Stanton Welch’s Romeo and Juliet; Sketch by Roberta Guidi di Bagno

In my creative process, I’ve also been influenced by our designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. With her Italian heritage, I think that she brings a very authentic take on the world of Romeo and Juliet.

As I begin to choreograph in the studio, I’m working with three couples, and they will each bring something unique and special to the work. The principal women creating the role of Juliet will be Karina Gonzalez, Melody Mennite and Sara Webb. The final version of the choreography will bear the imprint of each of the three couples upon whom it was created.

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Principal Karina Gonzalez

Principal Melody Mennite

Principal Melody Mennite

SaraWebb_Busath Photography

Principal Sara Webb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monique Loudieres will come from France to coach the principles of all three casts of Romeo and Juliet. She’s a wonderful, musical actress – and such a warm and loving coach. I love her passion, and I believe that translates into the performances you see on stage.

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HOUSTON BALLET CAPS INNOVATIVE THREE YEAR INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION IN GUATEMALA

September 30, 2014

From September 28 – October 3, 2014, Houston Ballet Academy Instructor Sally Rojas  will travel to Guatemala City, Guatemala for the third and final installment of an innovative, international collaboration with the Organizacion para las Artes focusing on training dancers aged 12- 18.

 Sally Rojas

Instructor Sally Rojas coaching students

Spanning from March 2012 until October 2014, the primary aim of the partnership is to strengthen the burgeoning relationship between Houston Ballet and Guatemala, and also to raise the standard of ballet training in Gautemala.  Geraldina Becca-Spross, President of Organizacion para las Artes, commented about the partnership, “Sally Rojas is not only a hard-working teacher, but also very understanding.  The young ladies she has instructed were amazed at her deep knowledge of ballet.  We know that only very hard work, concentration and practice will fully accomplish our goals in the long run.”

 Sally Rojas coaching students

Instructor Sally Rojas coaching students

On October 12-13, 2010,  Houston Ballet II, Houston Ballet’s second company, toured to Guatemala City with a mixed repertory performance at the Organizacion Para Las Artes.  One student from the group of Guatemalan dancers was awarded a scholarship to attend Houston Ballet Academy.

 Sugar Plum Fairy Sally Rojas

Sally Rojas as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker

A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Ms. Rojas is a former soloist who performed with Houston Ballet from 1985 to 2004 before becoming an instructor at Houston Ballet Academy. While in Guatemala City, Ms. Herrera leads teacher workshops and teaches master classes. In Houston, Ms. Rojas is also the artistic coordinator of Pink Aware, a program created by Houston choreographer Jane Weiner to promote breast cancer awareness through dance and the arts.

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A Couple, On Stage and Off

September 26, 2014

By Kalyn Oden, PR Intern

You may now take the stage as Husband and Wife!

On July 5th, 2014, in Fredericksburg, Texas, Houston Ballet demi soloist Elise Judson and corps de ballet member Rhodes Elliott said “I do” and began a new chapter in their lives not only as dancers, but  as husband and wife.

In this blog entry, Elise shares her most cherished moments leading up to their big day and what’s to come in the future.

Rhodes Wedding Pic 3 - Jaime Lagdameo

Elise and Rhodes Elliott; Photo by Jaime Lagdameo

July 5th was a special day.  Tell us about your wedding.

 It was magical! We were married at my aunt and uncle’s home in Fredericksburg, Texas, a small German town in the Texas Hill Country. They have a beautiful home with a lot of property.

We turned it all into a wedding wonderland! Flowers in blues, whites, and tans; a big white tent; lawn games; twinkle lights in the trees; lots of good food, drinks, and of course, dancing! We had a very large wedding party (11 Groomsmen and 15 Bridesmaids!). We are very very lucky to have so many amazing friends and family members in our life. It would not have been the same day if they had not all been standing up at the altar with us! It was so amazing to have them all in the same place, partying and celebrating together!

Why did you choose this location?

I grew up going to my aunt and uncle’s home in Fredericksburg, and I have always had wonderful memories of their property. Since living in Houston, I tend to go out there to visit once or twice a year. Rhodes’ family is from South Carolina, and mine is from California. When we got engaged, Rhodes and I realized that it might be best if both of our families could meet in the middle for our wedding. I always wanted to be married outside under the trees, and since Houston’s weather is very unpredictable in the summer, Fredericksburg sort of presented itself to us. My aunt and uncle were SO generous to open their home and property to us for the most exciting day of our lives!

Elise and Rhodes Elliott

 Elise and Rhodes Elliott; Photo by Jaime Lagdameo

Fireworks and love… With both of you being dancers, how did you plan a wedding around your schedules?

We got engaged on November 30th, and were married on July 5th, so we had a bit of time to plan. As dancers, we only have a few opportunities and layoffs to plan big events like a wedding! Rhodes and I wanted to be able to go on our honeymoon directly after our wedding, so our 5 week layoff this summer was going to be the best time for us.

Because most people are able to take a long weekend for the 4th of July, we thought that more of our family and friends would be able to make the long trip to Texas that weekend. It all worked out!

Where and how did you both meet?

Rhodes and I met in 2005 at the Houston Ballet Summer Intensive Program! We danced together that summer and performed the Snow Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker at the end of summer performance. We danced the Pas de Deux from The Kingdom of the Shades in La Bayadere at the following summer intensive, traveled to Beijing, China for the Beijing International Dance Competition with HBII in 2006, and then both joined the company as apprentices in 2007. We’ve known each other for a long time!

Judson and R Elliott - The leaves are fading

Ballet: The Leaves are Fading; Dancers: Elise Elliott and Rhodes Elliott; Photo Amitava Sarkar

As Houston Ballet Dancers, what other roles have you performed together?

Since joining the company together, we have performed together a lot! We danced the first pas de deux in Antony Tudor’s The Leave are Fading, the Arabian Pas De Deux in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, Demi-Couples in Twyla Tharp’s The Brahm’s Hayden Variations, Ballet Couples in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, as well as many other smaller partnering parts in numerous other ballets. Our heights are comparable for dancing together, and we enjoy dancing together!

Describe Rhodes in 3 words or less.

Silly, Charismatic, Loving

What ballets are you looking forward to?

I am very much looking forward to Jorma Elo’s One/End/One, which is part of our fall mixed rep program. I performed that ballet when it was first choreographed on us a few years ago, and I can’t wait to perform it again! I am also looking forward to George Balanchine’s Ballo della Regina, and Mark Morris’s new work on our company later this year. Rhodes is definitely looking forward to John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew, which we are ending the season with this year. Lots to look forward to!

Artists of Houston Ballet_Ballo della Regina_Amitava SarkarIMG_0918

Ballet: Ballo della Regina; George Balanchine; Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo Amitava Sarkar

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From September 18-28, 2014, Houston Ballet offers up its fall mixed repertory program titled From Houston to the World with ballets choreographed for Houston Ballet dancers. Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo brings wit and humor to the extreme virtuosity that he demands in ONE/end/ONE. Edwaard Liang’s deeply spiritual ballet Murmuration also returns. Closing the program is Stanton Welch’s vivid and exciting interpretation of the third act of Paquita, showcasing a breathtaking display of technique and classical skill. Houston Ballet will give six performances of From Houston to the World at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.  Tickets start at $20, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org, or by calling 713 227 2787.

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DANCING JOHN NEUMEIER’S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

September 5, 2014

By Kalyn Oden, PR Intern

Fairies, lovers, donkeys and a love spell gone completely wrong…Houston Ballet begins its 2014-15 season with the company premiere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by John Neumeier  and inspired by William Shakespeare’s famous comedy, from September 4 – 14 at Wortham Theater Center.

Houston Ballet 2014 A Midsummer Night's Dream

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Now let’s get the scoop from two Houston Ballet dancers, principal dancer Karina Gonzalez and soloist Aaron Robison. Ms. Gonzalez will dance the leading female role of Hippolyta and Mr. Robison will be performing the leading male role of Theseus, Duke of Athens. You can see them both on stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at performances on September 4, 6, 12, and 14.

Can you relate to your character?

Karina Gonzalez: Not really. But she is a really fun and easy character to portray. Hippolyta is an elegant and beautiful queen who is going to get married to a guy who she is not even sure she loves. Then she enters her dream where she becomes this powerful and sensual woman, a woman that she can’t be in the real world.  In her dream, she is a sensual and powerful creature.

A Midsummer Night's Dream HB Gonzalez and Robison

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Karina Gonzalez and Aaron Robison; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

How do you get into character?

Aaron Robsion: It often depends on what type of role I am doing. As the ballet is being taught, John Neumeier and the artistic staff will feed you detailed information about the characteristics of the role while explaining the story.

So then I will try to imagine myself in that period and try to interpret what John is saying, in my own personal way because he wants to keep the ballet present, with real human emotions, keeping the characters human and real.

Karina: We spend so much time developing the character, learning the choreography, the music and the steps.  So when it is time for the shows, you know exactly who you need to be. My role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is easy to find. Before the show, I start to get ready at least one hour and half early, and I start getting into my character at that point.

How is this staging of A Midsummer Nights Dream different from other productions choreographed by George Balanchine and Sir Frederick Ashton?

Aaron: I think what makes John Neumeier’s version more unique and different from other stagings of the ballet is that it is much more realistic and there is a lot more emotional depth to the roles.

Karina: I know in this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you are not going to see pretty sparkling fairies with tiaras and wings. The dream scene is completely different:  more dark, magical, and a bit animalistic in a way.

Is there another character you enjoy other than the one you are dancing?

Aaron: It has been very funny watching my two colleagues, who are very manly male dancers, take on the role of Thisbe. It is danced on pointe and is very entertaining.

Karina: I love the role of Puck. He is mischievous, strange creature but very likable. He is the one that gets everything confused and then he has to put everything back together. It is a really fun role, and I enjoy watching both casts’ unique interpretation of the role.

 Houston Ballet Gonzalez and Robison

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Karina Gonzalez and Aaron Robison; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Why are you excited about this ballet?

Aaron: I’ve always been a huge fan of John Neumeier’s work, and I am thrilled to be dancing the lead role in this fantastic production. It really is a dream come true. I hope the Houston audience enjoys watching this ballet as much as I am enjoying dancing it. This is definitely one of the highlights of my career, and I am also very excited to be dancing with Karina Gonzalez for the first time.

Karina: I have been dreaming of working with John Neumeier for a long time. And it has been fantastic to have him in the studios, giving us his inspiration and ideas of the ballet. Also,  he told me that he created the role of Titania for a Venezuelan dancer, Zhandra Rodriguez, one of the best ballerinas in my country. So I am excited to do this role and to try to fill her shoes. It is a wonderful ballet.  Also it is the first time that Neumeier’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been performed by an American company. So it is a must- see for all!

Describe this performance in 3 words or less.

Aaron: Romantic, humorous, thrilling.

Karina: A masterpiece.

 Houston Ballet 2014 Gonzalez and Artists of HB

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Karina Gonzalez and artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Why should people see this? What should the audience take away from the performance?

Aaron: People should come and see this ballet because obviously A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a very famous Shakespeare story, and this is the first time Houston Ballet will perform the work.   The production features great dancing and acting which shows off Houston Ballet very well. I hope the audience enjoys the ballet, and hopefully they will feel a sense of connection or can relate to a certain character.

Karina: John Neumeier it is one the most famous, and greatest choreographers of our time, so it is an honor to have his piece as part of Houston Ballet repertoire. I think it is a great interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that will be enjoyed by all. The audience should walk away feeling as if they were a part of three worlds of Shakespeare’s play created by Mr. Neumeier.

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From Setpember 4-14, 2014, American choreographer John Neumeier, artistic director of The Hamburg Ballet since 1973, is one of Europe’s most highly regarded dance makers.  Houston Ballet is pleased to introduce the first work by Mr. Neumeier into the company’s repertoire: his 1977 staging of William Shakespeare’s beloved romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, acclaimed by the Hamburger Morgenpost as the “jewel in John Neumeier’s œuvre.”  Featuring lavish scenery and costumes by the acclaimed German designer Jurgen Rose, the ballet brings to vivid life the magic and merriment of Shakespeare’s classic text.

For more information: http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing_Schedule/Season_Calendar/A_Midsummer_Nights_Dream/

Check out the preview of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Watch an interview with choreographer John Neumeier about A Midsummer Night’s Dream:  

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BUILDING STRENGTH WITH AKIHIRO KAWASAKI

August 19, 2014

By Kalyn Oden, Houston Ballet PR Intern

Let’s talk about Houston Ballet Academy’s 2014 Summer Intensive’s strength and conditioning program that the dancers participated in this season. This blog will not only give a perspective on the strength and conditioning training the dancers undertake but also about the coach himself.

First, a little about the trainer and his qualifications.

Akihiro Kawasaki is originally from Ibaraki, Japan. Kawasaki began his training in health and fitness while living in Japan and actively playing sports. “I became interested in the strength and conditioning field when I was 19. I have some certifications and a lot of experience before starting work as a strength and conditioning coach,” states Kawasaki. He then wanted to further his education in health and fitness in the United States. While continuing his studies at University of Alabama at Birmingham, graduating with a B.S. in Exercise Science, in the mechanics of the human body and more of the medical side of personal training, he met his wife who had been a professional dancer.

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While attending his wife’s performances, he was drawn to the world of ballet. The ballet career path draws individuals who are strong, flexible, demanding, disciplined and hard working professionals. Kawasaki states, “I became especially interested in the mechanics of ballet movements and the partnering skill of male dancers. The way ballet dancers move is more complex and complicated than other sports.” Being introduced to the world of ballet gave him the incentive to study more about the human body and the body’s capability. His knowledge of how the human body works combined with his understanding of the importance of nutrition enable him to provide better care to help keep clients’ bodies healthy and to prevent injuries, along with being able to offer better guidance.

Now I am sure you are wondering, “So, how does this apply to the dancers?”

Kawasaki has created exercises specifically for dancers that will help strengthen the muscles efficiently to prepare them for the strenuous movements on stage. This style of muscle strengthening takes a specific understanding of how dancers’ movements are complex, yet graceful, and demanding. His strength and conditioning classes at Houston Ballet are creative and fun for the dancers to participate in while utilizing resources such as: their own body weight, balance balls, and various sizes of dumbbells, among other resources.

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Kawasaki not only instructs the dancers on proper form but also reiterates the importance of nutrition, diet and hydration. Kawasaki begins each session by asking the dancers, “What did you have for breakfast/lunch/dinner? And how much sleep have you received today?” By asking these questions, he helps the dancers better understand the importance of taking care of themselves by what they eat, the crucial role of rest for the entire body and the best way to take in the necessary nutrients. He also helps keep them motivated to reach their goals and achieve their full potential. One of Kawasaki’s philosophies is, “it is essential for student dancers to understand human anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology in order to be able to practice self care, to rehabilitate, and to choose training exercises for their practice and performance in ballet.”

Kawasaki has taught both male and female dancers about the importance of the human body and how to take care of it. This year at Houston Ballet, Kawasaki mainly taught male dancers, or danseurs (as they are known in French). Danseurs have to be able to be powerful and graceful with every move yet “make his female partner look beautiful at the same time.” Kawasaki has designed different exercises for male dancers to improve personal ballet technique and strengthen partnering skills. Kawasaki works with Houston Ballet’s instructors to help the dancers with any weaknesses and to improve dance technique through strength and conditioning.

After the dancers strenuous yet productive session with Kawasaki, he teaches the importance of conditioning, resting the muscles and how to help prevent injuries after exercising. One way of helping the muscles relax is the practice of Yamuna Body Rolling or YBR. YBR is a component of bone stimulation which posits that if the bones are in correct alignment, then the muscle then will function correctly. Having the muscle properly function assists in relieving pain, preventing injuries and reducing unnecessary stress. YBR uses various balls to target specific areas of the body; the balls then become the hands of the therapist. By using the various balls for specific areas of the body, the person’s weight creates the traction, movement and release on the ball. This then results in Yamuna Body Rolling. YBR also compliments the goals of Yoga.

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As with any professional sport, these dancers work hard on a daily basis to better themselves in their performances. During the ‘off-season’, the dancers continue to exercise and maintain a healthy diet. They rely on the help of health professionals/trainers such as Kawasaki to reach personal goals, minimize injuries and keep the body healthy. Kawasaki asserts that understanding human physiology will “produce more great, strong and reliable dancers in order to bring the level of Houston Ballet or other ballet companies higher and better.”

Kawasaki always reminds his students, “Where there is a will, there is THE way. This is because it is only your own way — not the same as others. You are the one who opens a door for your path in your future.”

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Growth with the Eselgroths

July 23, 2014

by Emily Kammerlohr, Academy Intern

Week Five is where the rubber meets the road for the Summer Intensive Program students! Dancers from all levels scramble to perfect their moves in preparation for Week Six’s rehearsals and shows. Yet even amid all the craziness, the Eselgroths were both still smiling and ready to chat about how things progressed this summer! Check them out!

Lilian’s favorite piece from the Showcase is The Waltz of the Hours from Coppelia because it has everything: light bits, quick-paced sections, fun footwork- everything! She also mentioned that it’s a bit longer than what she’s used to dancing, but the exhaustion it brings is glorious because she loves it so much!

The kids were also quick to praise the instruction at Houston Ballet Academy! Lilian said that she “loves Rep class with Ms. Bryant!” Former company member Susan Bryant runs an excellent class, as Lilian said that they work very hard to keep their movements clean.

Clark said he adores Claudio Muñoz because “he is just so funny! He gives us great compliments and corrections, and is always so entertaining!”

Clark has really taken those corrections to heart, saying that the Summer Intensive has really helped him to dance cleaner. “My passé is higher, my turnout is better, and I’m more careful about the way my foot is pointed.”

As mentioned in the video, one of Clark’s favorite parts of the Summer Intensive is the opportunity to be around so many other men who dance! He’s one of the older boys at his studio, and as a Level 5, the ability to learn not only from the instructors, but also older boys, is priceless.

“I really look up to Valentin Batista in Level 7″ he said. “He gives me lots of advice on turns and tours, which is really helpful!” It also doesn’t hurt that Valentin is from Argentina- the home of Clark’s favorite soccer team!

“Second place…so close!” he mourned when I asked him about the World Cup.

This might be all from the Eselgroths, but next week, we’ll wrap up with a little something from all the students here at the Summer Intensive Program!

See you then!

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Checking in with Natalie Payne

July 21, 2014

 By Emily Kammerlohr, Academy Intern

 Time is just flying by and preparations for the final summer showcase are well underway here at the Center for Dance. This week, we’ll be highlighting one student’s path to the performance. Although her days are already brimming with learning, including jazz, gyrotonics, social, and Pilates classes in addition to ballet, Level 7 student Natalie Payne is working diligently to improve her technique for the show.

“I’m always working and focusing on my technique, but now I’m doing it in a way where I can be relaxed on top, and still really enjoy what I’m doing,” she said. “I think that you actually tend to dance better in class that way.”

Click below to hear her discuss the other ways she is preparing for the showcase, as well as her favorite non-dance aspects of the program!

The Level 7 students have been steadily working on Stanton Welch’s Paquita in variations class, but they also have dabbled with Aurora, the variation from Act I of Sleeping Beauty. Natalie mentioned that her class was “fortunate enough to have two lessons with former Houston Ballet principal dancer, Dawn Scannell. It was amazing to learn the variation from her, and hear what the story is behind it!”

We also laughed about the excited atmosphere in the building as the World Cup soccer tournament was often playing in the 5th floor lunch area. “A lot of the guys will go and watch the matches during their breaks,” she said.“We were in class with Claudio [Muñoz] and we had the studio door open. We suddenly heard this giant yell coming from the fifth floor kitchen! It was all the guys screaming because Argentina had scored. It’s been a really fun thing this summer, with everyone going for their teams. It’s been crazy!”

Clark and Lilian will be back next week to give their “multi-level” perspective on the so-called craziness of this summer!

 

Until then!

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It Takes Two

July 8, 2014

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

 By Emily Kammerlohr, Academy Intern

Lilian and Clark Eselgroth are a dynamic sibling duo hailing from North Carolina! I had lots of fun filming with these two – they really love each other and it shows! Lilian, level six, is poised and professional and Clark, level five, is an absolute hoot. Click on the video below to check them out!

Clark recently attended the YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) in Atlanta and Lilian was able to assist him back stage.  She helped him tweak his performances and even did his makeup. What a good sister!  Clark mentioned that her guidance was so helpful because she participated in the event last year.

Lilian was able to watch two of Clark’s pieces from backstage, but for the very last one she watched him from the audience. She made sure he knew when he heard her clapping in the audience, he would remember to smile!

“That’s the only correction I really give him” she says, “is just to smile.”

Clark couldn’t pick just one favorite ballet, so he listed a top three: Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, and La Bayadère. Listed in no particular order, of course! He likes them because the variations have lots of jumps and, as he is working to perfect his jumps this summer, he would appreciate the opportunity to do them on stage. Also, he adds with a sly smile, “They’re kind of manly.”

Lilian is working to improve her technique this summer. She is avidly perfecting her turnout, as well as her strength when executing a move. Her favorite ballet to dance is La fille mal gardée because she really enjoys its comedic elements, and her favorite ballet to watch is Romeo and Julieta far cry from comedy!

“We’re doing that one here next spring!” I mention.

Both of their faces immediately lit up.

“We have to see that one!” Lilian says. “I haven’t seen it in person yet, only on video. So that would be amazing.”

That’s all from the Eselgroths – but don’t worry! They will return in week five to update us on the final performance. But in the meantime, you can check back next week for more news from Natalie Payne!

Until then!

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She’s Baaaack!

July 1, 2014

By Emily Kammerlohr, Academy Intern

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Miss Natalie Payne, everyone’s favorite Aussie, has returned to once again provide an inside look into the life of a Summer Intensive Program dancer. “The training is so good here,” she says, forming a beaming smile. “I love working with all my teachers, as well as the new ones who come just for the summer.” Now a year-round student, Natalie feels “at home” here at the Center for Dance and hopes she can help other students to feel the same.

Click below to hear Natalie discuss her growth since we last saw her, tips for new students in the program, as well as how she fights fatigue during those long-haul flights from Australia!

Her favorite modern ballet is SechsTanze (Six Dances) choreographed by Jiří Kylián. The piece is quick-paced and witty – just like Natalie. After watching it myself, it was easy to see why she loves it! As for the classical, she could not stop raving about our very own Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake. “I saw it multiple times” she gushed. “It was beautiful.”

While Natalie had lots to share about the artistic elements of ballet, we also talked about some pretty quirky habits in her day-to-day life at the Center.

“What’s a must-have item in your ballet bag?” I ask as our time together winds down.

“Lip balm,” she laughs, “I’ve tried to go without it but I simply can’t! I’m obsessed! ”

She also always carries a small Pac-Man notebook with her to write down corrections during class. Did you spot it in the video?

Natalie sends love to her mom, dad and sister and will be back during week four to update us on her final performance, but I return next week to introduce you to our next two vloggers.

 

See you soon!

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Education and Outreach “Goes Global”

June 27, 2014

By Emily Kammerlohr, Academy Intern

Friday, June 27, 2014

Houston Ballet partners with the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center (ERJCC) to put on “Jump, Jive, Move and Groove!” now in its second year.  This year, the program is hosted by Ripley House, a local service site of Neighborhood Centers, one of the largest charitable organizations in Texas, located at 4410 Navigation Boulevard.

Houston Ballet Education and Outreach staff partner with teachers from the ERJCC to design a summer camp curriculum which is modeled after the pedagogy created by Jacques d’Amboise at the National Dance Institute.  This year, over 50 children are taking two classes daily creating both dances and crafts. Following the theme “Wonders of the World” the young dancers are hard at work learning choreography for multiple pieces and creating costumes and props inspired by cultures from around the globe!

Education Outreach Photo

Sommers leading the group during warm ups

I was invited to join Outreach Coordinator and Curriculum Specialist, Jennifer Sommers, to observe a Tuesday morning class. We were joined by Michele Kitchen and Sarah Oakley, Education and Outreach staff acting as assistant teachers and the lead teacher for ERJCC, Valerie Handy. Live music was provided by Pedro Huertas and Pelaya Parlade.

On the day I visited, the kids were learning a new dance, an Indian-inspired number to the tune of Jai Ho. I later discovered, along with the students, that it roughly translates to “let there be victory” from Hindi. A fitting mantra for a successful class!

Before the students arrived, Sommers rehearsed the steps she planned to teach and ran through the educational song she created to close the class. It was set to a fun, easy-to-remember rhyme scheme and as she sang about India, we followed her hand motions to learn about its capital, native animals and geographical location.
The students were working to prepare a short showcase of dances to present to friends and family this morning, Friday, June 27th.  Both classes already had a Greek-inspired dance in their repertoire, and while the younger students later immersed themselves in India, the older students took on China.

 

Education Outreach Photo 3

Students strike a pose during the Greek-inspired number

The Greek dance was electric! It had goddess-inspired poses, an Olympic opening and a triumphant cry of “Opa!” ended the piece.  The energy was hard to resist! Even the slumped shoulders of the older kids weren’t enough to convince me that they weren’t enjoying themselves. The smiles twitching on the edge of their lips gave them away.

As a classics major, it was only right that the students quiz me on their Greek dance.

“Did you recognize the goddess in our dance? What about the god?” They were so proud of themselves– I had to make sure to get it right!

There was an embarrassing pause as I racked my brain for possibilities. I had been so enthralled in the overall feel of the dance that I hadn’t picked up on it. After a quick hint from Sommers, I guessed that their outstretched right arms were arrows, and as their left hand rested on their hip, the curve of their arm represented the bow. They were Artemis and her brother Apollo – the hunting twins!

Between the two classes, I had a chance to visit with the students. They grilled me about the trip to Greece I took through my study abroad program, and I was able to share my love of ancient history with a kindred audience. I mentioned that in college, you can choose to study classics exclusively. I could see the wheels begin to turn in their heads. “You mean…if I go to college, I can talk about this stuff all the time?”

Education Outreach Photo 2

Discussing history and dance

Moments like this are what make these programs essential. They not only provide a safe space for the kids to spend their summer mornings, all the while learning about cooperation, confidence and coordination, but they also serve to introduce the dancers to the endless possibilities for their futures.

While some of the students discovered a love for Greek culture and history through this dance, others’ preexisting passion was simply nourished through the program. Maybe a few of the students don’t love Greek history – but that of India or China may fascinate them.

Students with a knack for the artistic can hone their skills in arts and craft class and even the simplest notion that this program allows these kids to just dance is significant.

“Jump, Jive, Move and Groove” allows students, many of whom don’t normally have access to dance classes and live music, to discover their passions.

At the end of each class, Sommers leads the students in thanking the live musicians, the assistant teachers, as well as themselves for a job well done.   We said it in Hindi that day: pronounced “Dhan’yavāda” the sentiment flowed off everyone’s tongue as they celebrated a successful class.

 

For more information about Education and Outreach programming please click here.

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