Sur la pointe
Houston Ballet's 2011-12 season combines familiar works & contemporaryinterpretations
Tis’ the season to announce the season.
And in that spirit, the Houston Ballet released its line up for 2011-12. The highlights? Four new works, world premieres by Stanton Welch and Nicolo Fonte, a company premiere of Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes and a new staging of the lovely Giselle. For non-ballet goers, this is a line-up that could increase the organization's subscriber base as it contains a healthy mix of familiar works with new and contemporary interpretations.
Houston is one of a few cities that boasts a full-time symphony, opera, theater and ballet companies. For that, we stand proud, sur la pointe. But in typical Texas-style, we like things bigger and better. In this case, not just bigger but the biggest professional dance building in the country. The Houston Ballet's massive Center for Dance, a new 115,000 square-foot facility, is set to open this spring.
The $53 million dollar investment in the company's artistic future exemplifies a larger attitude in our city: We care about, fund and believe in the arts, with the feeling that they are essential to the economic and cultural well-being and development of Houston.
The season opens in September with the Return of the Masters. The program consists of pieces that have not been performed in Houston for a decade and have specific significance in ballet history and the company in general.
The repertoire includes Ashton's Les Patineurs, MacMillan's Song of the Earth and Robbins' In the Night. Ecuadorian born and raised in Peru, Sir Frederick Ashton's one-act Les Patineurs, literally, "the skaters," depicts a graceful, romantic and pretty waltz on an ice-covered pond. Set to Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth is rarely performed in America. Based on a Chinese poem from the 8th century T'ang Dynasty, it's a story of renewal and the cycle of life and death.
The program ends with Jerome Robbins' In the Night. Having dual carriers in dance and theater, audiences will remember Robbins for Broadway Across America's recent presentation of West Side Story at the Hobby Center. Using some of Chopin's colorful Piano Nocturnes as a musical departure point, Robbins emotionally charged work plays with three couples' state of being, from serenity to aggression.
If Giselle doesn't make you swoon, I don't know what will. Scheduled for mid-September, this new staging by Russian born ballerina Ai-Gul Gaisina, the delicate story deals with deceit, forgiveness and salvation. Although the work was originally premiered in 1841, the story line is universal.
From a historical standpoint, this ballet has a special and formative place in the development of the company. Having been the first full-length work that the original Houston Ballet Foundation staged in 1967, it gave impetus to fund and propel the organization into professional status. The program will conclude with a show of pure dance athleticism with Welch's Indigo (1999), one of the company's signature works.
In the genre of Giselle, Welch modernizes the classic story of Cinderella, which is set to Prokofiev's score and features opulent wigs and luxurious costumes by New Zealand designer Kristian Fredrickson. Performances are scheduled for mid-February to early March 2012.
Also set to Prokofiev's music and scheduled for June 2012, Ben Stevenson's Romeo and Juliet tells the tragic archetypal story of forbidden young love. From a historical perspective, Romeo and Juliet helped the company continue to grow and attain international recognition. The production inaugurated the newly built Wortham Theater Center in1987 and was performed in 1995 in Beijing, making the Houston Ballet the first full American company to perform and tour China.
In Rock, Roll & Tutus, set for February 2012, the Ballet juxtaposes the virile music of The Rolling Stones with the more lyrical tunes of Bizet's L’ Arlésienne. Associate choreographer Christopher Bruce brings backRooster, a story exploring young confidence and hopelessness, now a signature company work set to “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Paint it Black,” and “Ruby Tuesday,” among other Stones songs. Welch's Divergence plays with the notion of classical dance.
And of course, the holiday season — and the ballet season —would not be a season without the Nutcracker. The single biggest revenue producing production for nearly all ballet companies, the run starts on Nov. 25 through Dec. 27.