On Tuesday, Tuesday, May 21 from 8:00 – 9:00 pm, join Houston Ballet for a free Dance Talk featuring former New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Bart Cook discussing Jerome Robbins’s comic masterpiece The Concert, and Roslyn Anderson about her work staging Jirí Kylián’s signature work, Sinfonietta. Both The Concert and Sinfonietta will be featured on Houston Ballet’s program Journey with the Masters running May 30 – June 9 at Wortham Theater Center.
Former NYC Ballet Dancer: Bart Cook; Ballet: The Concert; Photo Steven Caras
The Tuesday, May 21 Dance Talk is free and open to the public at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, 77002. For more information or questions, please contact marketing manager Elizabeth Cleveland: ECleveland@houstonballet.org, or 713 535 3236.
Dancer: Amy Fote; Ballet: The Concert; Photo Amitava Sarkar
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.
Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch serves as artistic chair of this year’s Pink at the Brown, a glittering one-night performance bringing together Houston’s leading arts organizations on Thursday, May 16 at 8pm at Wortham Theater Center. The event benefits the Pink Ribbons Project, which saves lives and enhances the lives of those touched by breast cancer.
Dancers: Jessica Collado and Ian Casady; Photo: Leonel Nerio
In this blog entry, Stanton talks about plans for the event, and the new work that he has created especially for the performance, Nocturne Op. 15 No. 1.
I’ve really enjoyed serving as artistic chair of Pink at the Brown. What I love most about Pink at the Brown is that it brings together all the arts in one performance. On one stage in one night, you get Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Stages, DaCamera, Houston Ballet and Society for the Performing Arts.
Jane Weiner, the founder and artistic director of Pink Ribbons, is very talented. She’s instrumental in putting together a very interesting evening of programming. At our initial brainstorming session for Pink at the Brown, after much discussion, we settled on the concept of using umbrellas as a motif throughout the performance. Everyone performing in Pink at the Brown is photographed with umbrellas. The umbrellas speak to a very basic question: How do you protect yourself? How do you find a safe space in a sometimes dangerous world?
Oliver Halkowich, a soloist with Houston Ballet, is very clever at exploring motifs, and I knew that I wanted him to choreograph a work for Houston Ballet II, our second company, to perform at Pink at the Brown.
I initially started out thinking that I might want to create a work to Coldplay’s Fix You. After much reflection, I settled upon Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 15 No. 1. It is soft, sentimental and touching.
I wanted to take two of my favorite dancers Ian Casady and Jessica Collado – and make this piece for them. Ian Casady was in my first work for Houston Ballet, Indigo, in 1998, and I’ve worked with him for 15 years. So my artistic relationship with him is one of the longest that I have had in America. And Jessica is in every ballet that I make.
They are two of the most musical dancers I’ve ever worked with in my life. Throughout this process, I’ve been so impressed with their musicality and ability to find very subtle nuances in the score.
Houston Ballet Pianist Katherine Burkwall-Ciscon is one of our company’s jewels, and I was so glad that she could join us in this collaboration to play the Chopin for Pink at the Brown.
I think that it’s going to be a very special night.
-Stanton Welch, Artistic Director
Pink at the Brown will be performed on Thursday, May 16 at 8:00 pm at Wortham Theater Center. It will feature performances by The Alley Theatre, Da Camera of Houston, Houston Ballet, Society for the Performing Arts Houston, Houston Grand Opera, Meta-Four Houston, Wrtiers in the Schools, and Stages Repertory Theatre. Tickets start at $25. http://www.pinkribbons.org/pinkatthebrown/
On Friday, May 17 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at 601 Preston Street, join Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch, and Shen Wei Dance Arts Company Manager Stephen Xue for a free group discussion on the 100th year anniversary of The Rite of Spring as they share insights into the Houston Ballet’s and Shen Wei Dance Arts’ productions of Vaslav Nijinsky’s seminal work.
Ballet: The Rite of Spring; Choreographer: Stanton Welch; Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
In March 2013, Mr. Welch choreographed a highly lauded new production of The Rite of Spring featuring Houston Ballet’s entire company. On Saturday, May 18 at 8:00 pm at Wortham Theater Center, Society for the Performing Arts will present New York-based Shen Wei Dance Arts, making its Houston debut performing two of its most celebrated works: The Rite of Spring (2003), coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s famed musical composition; and Folding (2000), a highly stylized piece performed to the melodies of Tavener and Tibetan Buddhist chants.
Shen Wei Dance Arts; Photo by Christy Pessagno
Shen Wei was the mastermind choreographer behind the stunning 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Beijing – featuring 16,000 performers right in the heart of The Bird’s Nest. The company itself is devoted to the creation of innovative dance forms for the 21st century. A seamless fusion of Chinese opera, painting, dance and music with Western performance arts, Shen Wei’s works are “visual feasts” (The New York Sun) that transfix audiences.
For more information on the May 18 performance by Shen Wei Dance Arts and to purchase tickets:
From May 10 – 12 at 8pm, Houston Ballet celebrates Miller Theater’s 90th anniversary by performing three stellar works in three free performances. The evening will open with two short, dazzling pieces: the duet from the 19th century classic Flower Festival in Genzano and the exquisite classical set piece Grand Pas Classique, set to music by Daniel Auber and showcasing the virtuosity of two superb classical dancers.
Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
The program concludes with Stanton Welch’s signature work Madame Butterfly, the story of a beautiful Japanese geisha who gives up her faith and her family to marry an American naval officer. Set to Puccini’s powerful score with lavish costumes and sets by Peter Farmer, Madame Butterfly is at once compelling and heartbreaking. It is a stunning achievement in neoclassical ballet that has been an international success, with performances on three continents.
Free tickets to these performances are available (4 per person over age 16 while they last) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office the day of the performance between the hours of 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. If tickets remain at 1 p.m., the box office will re-open one hour before show time to distribute the remaining tickets. As always, open seating on the hill. This is a ticketed event for the covered seating area.
Houston Ballet at Miller Outdoor Theatre; Photo: Nerio Photography
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.
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 email@example.com. For more information, visit Assemblée Internationale’s website.
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.
Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy has continuously shown its capacity to cultivate and reach talent on an international level. This season alone, they have traveled to Australia, Switzerland, and soon Canada for the Assemblee Internationale 2013.
Dancers: Satoko Konishi and Dillon Malinski; Ballet: Impromptu; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
However, right here in Houston, Texas, on April 27, two of these esteemed students of Houston Ballet II company, Satoko Konishi and Dillon Malinski will showcase their talent on the Miller Outdoor Theatre stage at the 9th annual East Meets West concert. This will undoubtedly be an evening of grace and culture as Konishi and Malinski perform an excerpt from Stanton Welch’s A Dance in the Garden of Mirth. Choreographed in 2000 for Atlanta Ballet and set to music of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Mr. Welch designed this ballet to capture the vibrancy and joy present in the music and gatherings associated with the time period. He describes this medieval music as the “techno music of the day – it was the house music that people danced to. There was almost a barbaric want to live in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries”. The music, recordings by the Dufay Collective, is certainly a raw, rhythmic experience. The audience will surely connect with the passion brought about by the sound, conveyed by the movement. I can only imagine the resonance it will bring to an outdoor venue like Miller. And with bright young talents like Konishi and Malinski, the performance is bound to captivate.
Dancers: Satoko Konishi and artists of Houston Ballet II; Ballet: A Dance in the Garden of Mirth; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
East meets west and talent meets culture will definitely be the name of the game for the entire evening. Included in the program will be Dance of Asian America, Mitsi Dancing School, Revolve Dance Company, and Ad Deum Dance Company.
For more information on “East Meets West XI” at Miller Outdoor Theatre, April 27, visit http://milleroutdoortheatre.com/events/378/.
From April 9-14, Houston Grand Opera will present The Memory Stone, a new opera loosely inspired by the experiences of Houston Ballet Soloist Nao Kusuzaki. The opera, which is composed by Marty Regan with a libretto by Kenny Fries, will be performed free of charge April 9-11 at 7:30 p.m. at Asia Society Texas at 1370 Southmore Boulevard in The Museum District. Additional performances will be given at the Japan Festival in Hermann Park on Saturday April 13 and Sunday April 14 Japan Festival in Hermann Park.
Dancers: Nao Kusuzaki and Christopher Coomer; Ballet: Falling; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
The Memory Stone takes place after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. A mysterious woman appears with a memory stone in Houston’s Japanese garden. The woman’s powers cause two Japanese-American women to relive crucial moments from their respective pasts. The Memory Stone explores the invisible bond between the women, and how they support those who have been affected by the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
This presentation of The Memory Stone is part of HGOco’s East + West series, which celebrates Houston as a crossroads for Eastern and Western cultures. All performances are free and open to the public. Asia Society Texas Center performances require reservations which can be done online.
On Tuesday, April 16 from 8:00 – 9:00 pm, join Houston Ballet for a free Dance Talk in which the great American ballerina Merrill Ashley will be interviewed by principal dancer Connor Walsh about her career, her collaborations with the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, and her staging of the Houston premiere of Balanchine’s masterpiece, Ballet Imperial, running May 30 – June 9 as part of Houston Ballet’s program Journey with the Masters.
Dancer: Merrill Ashley; Photo: Steven Caras
The Tuesday, April 16 Dance Talk is free and open to the public at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, 77002. For more information or questions, please contact marketing manager Elizabeth Cleveland: ECleveland@houstonballet.org, or 713 535 3236.
Headshot: Merrill Ashley
During her 31-year career as a dancer with New York City Ballet, Merrill Ashley was considered one of the great Balanchine ballerinas, and she now helps keep George Balanchine’s legacy alive by staging his ballets for companies around the world. For more information on Ms. Ashley, visit: http://www.abt.org/education/archive/choreographers/ashley_m.html
Houston Ballet’s veteran wardrobe manager Laura Lynch collaborated closely with two of three choreographers featured on Houston Ballet’s The Rite of Spring mixed repertory program March 7 – 17 to help them realize their visions for the costumes for their works.
Dancers: Karina Gonzalez and Simon Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
For Edwaard Liang’s ballet Murmuration, Ms. Lynch served as costume designer, along with Mr. Liang. For Stanton Welch’s world premiere of The Rite of Spring, Ms. Lynch realized the costume designs conceived by Mr. Welch.
Here is her journal of how she worked with the choreographers to realize their different visions.
CHOREOGRAPHER EDWAARD LIANG’S MURMURATION
Guest Writer: Laura Lynch, Houston Ballet Wardrobe Manager
Edwaard Liang and I met via email. We then had a couple of phone conversations. He sent me a video of “murmuration.” (a phenomenon in Europe where starling birds flock together and make beautiful shapes and patterns in the sky), filmed in the wild. We discussed the simplicity he wanted in the design.
Edwaard was concrete in his decision that all women would have one look and that all men would have one look. The shop then took direction and created mock-ups for Liang to look at his first day here. Edwaard is a true collaborator. He thrives on hearing others’ opinions as well as seeking guidance when he is stuck.
Although he knew he wanted the ladies in a leotard, he wasn’t sure about the drape he wanted to soften the look with. After looking at the first round of mock-ups, we determined that a flat tab of fabric would better serve the simplicity he was looking for.
Dancers: Christopher Coomer and Karina Gonzalez; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
The leotard color also changed as we discussed the color of the birds. Black leotards became gray leotardss and the chiffon tabs were shortened and the hem angled. We also decided to hombre (gradation of color) the chiffon tabs to better show the body. For the men, a simple pair of pants. The decision together came in the discussion of using different fabrics to achieve the gray color for the women’s leotards. The decision was made to layer black mesh over white lycra.
The next decision was to determine the best width for the legs. A mock-up went into rehearsal so Liang could see the garment move. Changes were communicated and we were ready to purchase show fabrics and begin the build.
CHOREOGRAPHER STANTON WELCH’S THE RITE OF SPRING
Stanton created a design book with research pictures and information sketches of members of indigenous tribes charting what each character track would wear.
Stanton presents his ideas, and then I ask questions to clarify.
We shopped fabrics and trims together early in the process because we had an upcoming season brochure photo shoot. I have the shop go straight to fashion fabrics when we have a definitive decision about the costume. We knew we’d use circle skirts and loin cloths – so those go right into production.
I draped all the North and South tribal women’s bras using the discussions with Stanton as my guide. Costume shop supervisor Sara Seavey draped the tribal men’s loin cloths, and incorporated the shop to assist. The tattoo mesh work was done by Monica Guerra using the research and discussion from Stanton.
Dancers: Nozomi Iijima and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
The shop follows direction from both Stanton and me as we construct all the other costumes and details. Amanda Mitchell and crew created all the wigs. All North and South tribal women have wigs, the “religious” have wigs, and everyone has some type of make-up. The tattoos are mostly created by painted mesh costumes.
Stanton Welch’s The Rite of Spring and Edwaard Liang’s Murmuration continue in performance with the company premiere of Mark Morris’s Pacific through Sunday, March 17 at Wortham Theater Center. www.houstonballet.org.
Principal ballet mistress Louise Lester and the female dancers of the corps de ballet have been very busy lately, preparing for one extremely challenging undertaking: dancing La Bayadère, which opens next week (February 21) at Wortham Theater Center.
La Bayadère’s third act, the famous Kingdom of the Shades section, showcases 24 female dancers in white tutus, executing 38 synchronized and seamless arabesques while descending onto the stage, and is one of the purest forms of ballet-blanc, or white tutu ballet.
Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar
“The Kingdom of the Shades is a challenging segment because it requires such control and precision from the corps de ballet women,” says Mr. Welch. “There are few works in the classical repertoire that require more precision from the corps de ballet.”
The Kingdom of the Shades is so popular it is often performed on its own. Houston Ballet first performed The Kingdom of the Shades scene, staged by Ben Stevenson after Marius Petipa, in March 1994 and revived it in 1998. In 1963, the celebrated English dance critic Clive Barnes famously observed, “If you don’t enjoy La Bayadère, you really don’t enjoy ballet “.
The Kingdom of the Shades_ Martha Butler and Carlos Acosta and Artists of Houston Ballet
Houston Ballet will give 7 performances of La Bayadère February 21 – March 3 at Wortham Theater Center. Tickets start at $19, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org
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