Working with Houston Ballet

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Recently, I received an invitation from Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch, to see if I would be interested in going to Houston during our October lay-off here at SF Ballet. The timing could not have been better, so I said yes. I had been Stanton’s ballet master for a ballet he created for us here at SF Ballet, so he knows my work well.

Stanton had me teach company class every day for two weeks and also put me in charge of the principal couples in Giselle for their upcoming tour to Detroit. At the same time I rehearsed Houston Ballet dancers Karina Gonzales and Connor Walsh who will be dancing Stanton’s gorgeous version of La Bayadere as guest artists with the Australian Ballet. I had the best time working with them and as a dancer, Giselle was one of the ballets I enjoyed performing in the most, so I just love to coach it. Karina and Connor are two excellent dancers and they were incredibly committed.

Houston is one of the country’s biggest cities and it sure feels like that when you’re downtown around all those huge business buildings. Smack in the middle of the city is the Houston Ballet, in a state-of-the-art building, with the most gorgeous studios where the company, the school, and Houston Ballet II (HBII) are based (right next to the Wortham Theater). A smart tunnel connects the Ballet facilities with the theater and they even have a small and very impressive theater they call the Black Box, which doubles as a studio/theater and has about the same stage dimensions as the Wortham Theater. Seeing the ballets at the Black Box before they go on the big stage, saves time and money and is an advantage artistically.

I also coached HBII  in Ben Stevenson’s Nutcracker several times and they are looking very strong, with lots of great dancers and new talent. This month, our own school Trainees will  join the company for a unique collaboration. Besides the ballets I mentioned, the company was also working hard staging Kylian’s Les Noces. This fascinating work was being staged by someone I admire very much: Sherri Trevaskis who worked for 35 years in Munich and recently retired. She’s a true Benesh Institute notator, a Grand Dame, and a sweetheart.

Houston Ballet is also staging an evening of Stanton’s choreography and three big pieces will be presented during their engagement with the Hamburg Ballet next year. SF Ballet has also performed at the incredible “Hamburg Ballet Days” Festival hosted annually by John Neumeier.

Overall, it was really great to be a guest and to work with the artists of the Houston Ballet and it was very interesting to compare the way they dance, train, and go about their day-to-day schedule.

I have come back to SFB infused with great energy, and I’m excited to be working now on Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering which is a master work being staged by my friend Jean-Pierre Frohlich.

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