In what's already a landmark 50th season, Houston Ballet is ready to shatter records again by presenting its 150th world premiere March 12-22.
Trey McIntyre's Pretty Things is one of three works included in Forged in Houston, a mixed repertoire program created in Houston on Houston Ballet dancers. It also features Christopher Bruce's Hush and Jorma Elo's ONE/end/ONE.
It’s fitting that McIntyre's new work marks this milestone in Houston Ballet's rich history. McIntyre was a Houston Ballet Academy student before dancing professionally with the company, where he launched his choreographic career.
"It's been interesting to return to the company after so many years and seeing what has remained intrinsic to this company's style and what has evolved and grown," he says. "It has reminded me of beliefs about dance that I learned and developed here, and now I see the company grow just as I have grown as an artist. I'm proud of all of us."
In his new work, McIntyre explores a subject that has weighed on him throughout his career as a dancer: narcissism within men in ballet. He examines the relationship between male performers, especially their "peacocking" behaviors.
"I had been considering the quality of narcissism that is in many ways a part of being a performer," says McIntyre. "As a spiritual person, I had some conflict in reconciling its necessity for the profession. So I wanted to make a work that explored and opened up the act of being seen, rather than judging it."
McIntyre has selected music from the iconic David Bowie for exploring this theme. The set is comprised of eight songs by Bowie: "The Man Who Sold the World," "Life on Mars?", "Oh! You Pretty Things," "Little Wonder," "Ashes to Ashes," "Ziggy Stardust," "Young Americans," and "Changes."
While the ballet is not about Bowie or his life, there are parallels between the ballet's message and the singer's music.
"David Bowie's music is grand; it's operatic," McIntyre says. "Huge in scale. He sings like a peacock walks. There's great depth and humanity as well. In many ways his voice embodies the conflict I'm looking to work out in this dance."
Each cast calls for 11 men, who will embody the Bowie vibe thanks to costumes and sets by Thomas Mika. Between the various casts, McIntyre nearly worked with all of the company's 29 male dancers.
"It has been a dream to work on this piece with Houston Ballet," says McIntyre. "The men have been creative, focused, vulnerable, and supremely talented. And they work fast! They digest ideas quickly and support me as muses to plumb the depths."
McIntyre will share more about creating this work during Houston Ballet's free Dance Talks lecture series on Tuesday, March 3, at 7:15 pm. Houston Ballet executive director Jim Nelson will lead the conversation, and the panel will also include former Houston Ballet principal dancer Dawn Scannell, current principal Connor Walsh, and current soloist Harper Watters.
Tickets for Forged in Houston are available now online or by calling 713-227-2787.