A slim extension of a dancer's port de bras refashions the movement's narrative quality distinctly. A slight hesitation leading up to a fouetté en tournant affixes a touch of yearning, one that makes audiences sigh with emotional relief. And an imperceptible bend of the cavalier's elbow changes a lift from impressive to magical.
In ballet — classical and modern — it is the minute, almost inconspicuous details that morphs the beautiful into the sublime.
At Ballet Barre's "Ballet and Bubbles" Tuesday night, the young professionals who love and support all things cultural gathered at the Houston Ballet Center for Dance to experience what happens behind closed doors during a customary rehearsal. In this rare occasion, Stanton Welch, Houston Ballet's artistic director, welcomed a throng of balletomanes to the Margaret Alkek Williams Dance Lab for a first hand study of how works are refined.
While perfecting Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Act II Pas de deux — scheduled to be performed at Jubilee of Dance on Dec. 2 — Welch added insightful commentary and engaged a house of 120 en vogue and curious guests.
Ballerina and cavalier couples, Australian-born first soloist Danielle Rowe with Linnar Looris from Estonia and soloist Katharine Precourt with principal Jun Shuang Huang from Shanghai — donning a mixture of casual workout gear and tutus — shared their personal stories, struggles and triumphs.
The inquisitive audience — which included newlyweds Derith and Dr. Darrell Cass, whose 11-year-old daughter Hannah is enrolled in the Academy — wasn't shy to ask meaty questions.
When a patron inquired how to best support the arts in Houston, Welch simply suggested coming to and talking about the ballet.
It is informative events such as "Ballet and Bubbles" that have raised the profile of Ballet Barre into one of the most successful young professionals groups in the Bayou City thanks to co-chairs Lindsey Brown and Kristy J. Bradshaw. It's not just about the social affairs but more appropriately finding connections to develop close ties with the people and dancers of the art form.
Though we didn't mind the champagne courtesy of Roederer Estate and the Vietnamese shrimp balls on lemongrass sticks, pickled daikon-wrapped Korean-style beef stuffed with Kimchi and local pork pink peppercorn terrine via chef Chris Shepherd's latest venture, Underbelly, which hasn't even opened yet. Shepherd was also present to enjoy it all.
And no ballet affair is complete without the dapper and soon-to-retire C.C. Conner and his signature whimsical bow tie and suspenders. Conner was joined by the newly appointed executive director James Nelson.
In the corps were Estefannie de la Garza, sisters Ivette and Julia Mekdessi, Martha Rosas, Tausheli McClure, Josie Morgan, Melissa Lent, Patrick Raney, Karina and Carlos Barbieri, future Ballet Barre chair Christine Transier with her hubby Chris, Peter Franc, Chris Bradshaw, Mary Nichols, principal dancer Amy Fote, Naji Ghorayeb and soloist Jaquel Andrews, who became a part of Ballet Barre's steering committee while recovering from a broken tibia.
That same day marked Andrews' first dance steps towards returning to the stage. That was another reason to celebrate.