Guest writer: Soloist Nao Kusuzaki
In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh
There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it for New York
New York, New York
-Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z
With an Empire State of mind, we arrived in New York. It was Houston Ballet’s return to the city after a 26 year break. We had seven shows to be performed at the Joyce Theater.
The program of Falling Angels, ONE/end/ONE, and Hush fit magically well in the intimate, 472 seat, art-deco theater. Personally, it was a joy to find my friend who drove down from Boston in the second row cheering me on. In the dressing room post-performance, dancers shared who they saw out there and the true, up-close reaction they witnessed as the show progressed.
This tour to NYC was a transcendental one, and it may be my imagination, but I sensed unusually strong curiosity from New Yorkers. It was beautifully balanced with Houston patrons, friends, and families who took the time to visit the Joyce for this occasion.
Stanton also reminded us of the significance in his “chookas” card (a note he always writes to the company on opening night):
We are the first company to perform Kylian’s Falling Angels in Manhattan. Last time, the original Netherlands Dance Theater performed it at B.A.M in Brooklyn. And the other two pieces, ONE/end/ONE and Hushare tailor-made to Houston Ballet personalities. This program is uniquely us…
The house was filled each night, and the response was extremely positive…minus a few critics, though strong opinions aren’t necessarily bad, in my opinion. Through experiencing the audience on stage, I sensed it exceeded their Tex-pectations.
The Joyce staff was impressed with the quality and the consistency of our performances–a huge compliment. And there is something very special about the Joyce. After practically living there for a week, I’ve decided it was the lively staff. They seemed thrilled to be working there and seeing us perform. Even though they’re exposed to dance companies from around the globe–over 270 companies since its inception in 1982–they welcomed us like their family. The stage manager, Sharonica, was the first connection I made. Not only was she more than excited to see the show, but she was always available. Her response was “I can help you with that” followed by a huge smile. As the days went on, I felt the same attitude from all. It was obvious they were proud to be working there. After all, the Joyce was created by dancers for dance, and over the years it’s become one of the premiere venues for the art form.
I was charmed to find the Joyce was formerly the Elgin Theater, a 1941 movie house. It was then closed by the community when this revival movie house became a pornographic movie theater. The architect, Hardy Hugh, rescued the place, and after a two year renovation it became the Joyce we know today.
Now we’re back in Houston, tougher and more inspired. We are in preparation for The Nutcracker and Jubilee of Dance. I’m especially looking forward to seeing this evolving group of artists in motion this holiday season.
Keeping in mind the Empire State of Mind, I go back to plié.