In stressful times it becomes all the more vital to allow ourselves some fun and moments to play, and so the Houston Ballet will do just that for a very special production — the final mixed-repertory of the season — a dancing romp of joy and celebration of our city, appropriately titled Play.
Back in December, while continuing to work through the aftermath of Harvey and the year-long loss of the Wortham Center, Houston Ballet announced additional scheduling and venue changes for its spring season. They also included a big surprise. Artistic director Stanton Welch was reworking what would have been the early summer mixed program, formerly titled Global Movements. Instead the renowned ballet company would present world premiere works focused on Houston’s strength as well as some beloved Welch pieces to give Houston dance-lovers the ultimate fun summer treat.
“Houston is a very resilient city. You can tell that about the fabric of this community by the way we all helped each other through Hurricane Harvey and returned to our lives as best we could so quickly. We shared this experience. We love this city. This is our reaction,” explained Welch in a statement describing the program.
Calling Play an “immersive three-sided performance experience,” Houston Ballet will stage performances in George R. Brown Convention Center’s General Assembly Hall creatively rejigged to allow the audience a unique perspective on the dance.
A thrilling highlight of the performance will literally become poetry in motion, as a Welch collaborates with some of Houston’s great poets in a series of new works. For “Revisit, Rebirth, Revolt,” Houston’s Poet Laureate, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton will perform a new poem that reflects on Harvey, as the HB dancers bring her words into beautiful movement. Performance poet Outspoken Bean and Welch contemplate Houston’s resilience in “What the H Stands For.”
Welch’s other new work, “Class,” set to a selection from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, will embody the grace of in-studio ballet. Also among the world premieres comes “What We Keep” a piece created especially for the GRB space by Houston Ballet dancers Oliver Halkowich, Melody Mennite, and Connor Walsh.
The title work "Play," and an audience past favorite, is set to the music of Moby’s 1999 now-classic, techno-dance album Play, and melds 21st century urban energy and dress with classic ballet technique. Welch will also include his "Bolero Triptych," which debuted in 2004, inspired by Maurice Ravel’s haunting score. Even those audience members familiar with this "Bolero" will likely see it in a whole new way, as Welch has re-imagined the masterwork for the new performance spaced that extends into the audience on three sides.
The Houston Ballet's Play runs at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas. Show runs June 8-10. Tickets start at $40.