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BY Alex Wang [ September 14, 2015 at 19:00:52 ]

SEPTEMBER 24 – OCTOBER 4 Choreographer Garrett Smith Creates Reveal for Houston Ballet

Christopher Bruce’s Haunting Ghost Dances Performed for the First Time in Over a Decade

Stanton Welch’s Spectacular Showcase Tapestry Returns

From September 24- October 4, 2015, Houston Ballet presents its Fall Mixed Repertory Program showcasing the best of contemporary choreography. British master and Houston Ballet’s Associate Choreographer Christopher Bruce’s hauntingly beautiful Ghost Dances returns after a twelve year absence from the Houston stage. Garrett Smith returns to Houston to create Reveal, his third new work for Houston Ballet. Rounding out the program is Stanton Welch’s Tapestry, a spectacular showcase for the company’s dancers.

Christopher Bruce’s Haunting Ghost Dances

Set to South American folk songs recorded by Inti-Illimani, Ghost Dances premiered in 1981 by Ballet Rambert in England. The work entered Houston Ballet's repertory in 1988. Since then, the work has become a signature piece for Houston Ballet and the company has performed it in Washington, D.C., Canada, Scotland, and Denmark. The movement vocabulary for the ballet mixes traditional South American folk dances with Mr. Bruce's own highly athletic, contemporary choreography. Kathryn Greenaway of The Montreal Gazette observed, "Houston Ballet in Christopher Bruce's Ghost Dances is stunning. And Bruce's choreography is brilliant....It's rare to see the combination of innovative and challenging choreography with technically and emotionally mature dancers. Houston Ballet has the dancers, and Bruce should be a household word." (The Montreal Gazette, January 25, 1991.)

Ghost Dances was created in part in response to the overthrow and assassination of President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. "I felt quite strongly about that particular coup and the evils that continued after the killing," commented Mr. Bruce. "I see it as a human piece. Most of my dances are about people, feelings, situations - about feeling strongly about people and situations."

Mr. Bruce was born in England in 1945 and started studying dance at 11 years old. After studying at the Rambert School he joined Rambert Ballet in 1963, where he quickly became the leading male dancer. Mr. Bruce appeared in works such as Don Quixote in 1964 and Coppelia in 1966. In 1977 Mr. Bruce was appointed associate director of the company and was associate choreographer from 1979-87, where he created over twenty works for the company. Between 1986-91 he acted as associate choreographer for London Festival Ballet, later English National Ballet, and associate choreographer for Houston Ballet beginning in 1989. From 1994 - 2002, he served as artistic director for Rambert Dance Company. Often political in his work, he integrates classical ballet and modern dance, often set against popular music by artists like Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. Throughout his career, critics have praised his innovative and detailed choreography. “What Bruce also brings to the choreography is his consummate craft, especially his gift for wrapping seamless lines of dance around vividly observed detail,” writes Judith Mackrell of The Guardian.

Christopher Bruce has created four works especially for Houston Ballet: Gautama Buddha (1989), Journey (1990, also performed 1993), Nature Dances (1992) and Hush (2006, also performed 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011). In addition to these four works, Houston Ballet has seven other Christopher Bruce works in its repertoire: Ghost Dances (created in 1981, performed by Houston Ballet in 1988, 1990, 1994, 1995, and 2003), Sergeant Early’s Dream (created in 1984, performed by Houston Ballet in 1993, 2000, and 2007), Land (created in 1985, performed by Houston Ballet in 1997), Swansong (created in 1987, performed by Houston Ballet in 1991, 1993, and 2008), Rooster (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 1994, 1995, 1998, 2005, and 2012), Grinning in Your Face (created in 2001, performed by Houston Ballet in 2011), and Intimate Pages (created in 1984 , performed by Houston Ballet in 2013). Over the last 25 years, Houston Ballet has emerged as Mr. Bruce’s artistic home in America.

Garrett Smith Creates Reveal for Houston Ballet

Garrett Smith’s world premiere Reveal is set to music by Philip Glass and will focus on the ideas of self-reflection and vulnerability. “In this work I am exploring opposite sides and the dichotomy that separates two opposing sides. There will be moments of androgyny, as well as mirrored movements as a theme,” said Mr. Smith. “The heart of this work is the challenge of truly revealing one’s self and daring to look into the mirror and accept who you are, not how others have framed you.”

Garrett Smith was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and began his ballet training at The Utah Regional Ballet at the age of 13. He was featured in the Off Broadway show Breakthrough, where he was presented with an award from Mikhail Baryshinikov. Mr. Smith later was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the highest award a high school student can receive. He was able to meet the President at The White House and perform at The Kennedy Center. He was a student at Houston Ballet Academy in 2006 and then joined Houston Ballet II, Houston Ballet's second company and part of Houston Ballet Academy, in 2007. In 2009 Mr. Smith joined Houston Ballet and danced there for three years before joining The Norwegian National Ballet in 2012.

While at Houston Ballet Academy’s Summer Intensive Program in 2007, Mr. Smith participated in a choreographic workshop that was a partnership between American Festival for the Arts (AFA) and Houston Ballet. During the summer session student choreographers teamed up with AFA student composers and, over five weeks, completed new ballets. Mr. Smith paired with composer Derek Zhao to create the ballet Found Alone (2007). Since that first creation, Mr. Smith and Mr. Zhao have collaborated two other times for Of Opposing Nature (2009) and Regarding Us (2012). In total, Houston Ballet II has four works by Mr. Smith in its repertoire: Found Alone (2007), Subtle Release (2007), Den III (2008), and Of Opposing Nature (2009).

In 2009 Mr. Smith received a Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet which he used to create Vivacious Dispositions (2010). Dance critic Nichelle Strzepek of Dance Advantage writes, “Already an accomplished performer and choreographer . . . [Smith] is clearly, on the fast-track to a bright future”.

Stanton Welch’s Tapestry a Spectacular Showcase

Mr. Welch created Tapestry, a spectacular showcase for Houston Ballet’s dancers, in 2012. The music, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 served as his inspiration for the piece. The composition is one of Mozart’s earlier efforts and is characterized by a joyous melody throughout, with pockets of warmth, serenity and depth in the Adagio movement.

The music’s rhythmical third movement, influenced by Turkish folk music, surprised and intrigued Mr. Welch. His exploration into Turkish culture led to a photograph online of a dobby loom, a large device that allows weavers to create complex patterns with many colors. Seeing a ballet company as a type of tapestry, with different styles, bodies and artists creating a picture and story, Mr. Welch capitalized on the music’s intricate blending by integrating a stunning scenic loom background.

“A ballet company is like a tapestry, with different types of dancers, bodies and artists all woven together,” comments Mr. Welch. “The depth and talent of our dancers is extraordinary, and I wanted to create a piece that would showcase this concept. Tapestry allows the dancers to display great moments of beauty and nuance.”

At its premiere, CultureMap dance critic Nichelle Strzepek enthused, “Welch has played on the strengths of his versatile dancers and woven something that, devoid of pretentiousness, feels fresh and exciting.” (March 16, 2012)

In July 2015, Houston Ballet gave the German premiere of Tapestry at the Hamburg Ballet Days Festival. The company’s performance were met with enthusiastic applause and a rousing standing ovation from audience members.

About Houston Ballet

On February 17, 1969 a troupe of 15 young dancers made its stage debut at Sam Houston State Teacher’s College in Huntsville, Texas. Since that time, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 56 dancers with a budget of $24.5 million (making it the United States’ fifth largest ballet company by number of dancers), a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center, the largest professional dance facility in America, Houston Ballet’s $46.6 million Center for Dance which opened in April 2011, and an endowment of $69.9 million (as of April 2015).

Australian choreographer Stanton Welch has served as artistic director of Houston Ballet since 2003, raising the level of the company’s classical technique and commissioning many new works from dance makers such as Christopher Bruce, Jorma Elo, James Kudelka, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte. James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, assuming the position of executive director of Houston Ballet in February 2012 after serving as the company’s general manager for over a decade.

Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Since 2000, the company has appeared in London at Sadler’s Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Ottawa, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center and The Joyce Theater, at the Théatre des Champs Elysées in Paris, in Hamburg, Germany, and in cities large and small across the United States. Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labor-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets.

Writing in Dancing Times on June 2012, dance critic Margaret Willis praised Houston Ballet and highlighted the fact that “During his own tenure, (Stanton) Welch has upped the standard and Houston Ballet now shows off a group of 55 dancers in splendid shape. With fast and tidy footwork, they are technically skillful and have strong, broad jumps and expansive, fluid movements. The dancers’ musicality shines through their work, dancing as one with elegance and refinement –and they are a handsome bunch too! . . . if ballet were an Olympic sport, see Houston Ballet well on the way to achieving gold.”

Houston Ballet Orchestra was established in the late 1970s and currently consists of 61 professional musicians who play all ballet performances at Wortham Theater Center under music director Ermanno Florio.

Houston Ballet’s Education and Outreach Program has reached approximately 33,500 Houston area students (as of the 2013-2014 season). Houston Ballet’s Academy has 950 students and has had four academy students win prizes at the prestigious international ballet competition the Prix de Lausanne, with one student winning the overall competition in 2010. For more information on Houston Ballet visit www.houstonballet.org.


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