Houston Ballet announces new season starting in September
Houston Ballet directors Yuriko Kajiya and Connor Walsh in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly.
Photo: Courtesy of TK / Courtesy of TK
The curtain rises at the Wortham Theater Center as the Houston Ballet announces its 2021-2022 season. The long-awaited return of live entertainment is becoming a reality this fall, starting with the Margaret Alkek Williams Dance Jubilee on September 30.
The new season update follows a half-return of sorts – after a 14-month hiatus, the company’s dancers will tour the Miller Outdoor Stage on May 7-8 for “Houston Ballet Reignited,” a live pas de deux multimedia experience. mixed with dance films produced during the pandemic.
Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Ballet to cancel part of its 2019-2020 season, and its entire 2020-2021 season, the upcoming lineup is at full speed. There are currently eight programs on the calendar, including the Spring Showcase Academy.
Artistic Director Stanton Welch will present interpretations of “Madame Butterfly”, “The Nutcracker” and “Sylvia” in addition to an original work, “Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra”.
The guest choreographers also lend their talents, George Balanchine associating “Jewels: Emeralds, Rubis, Diamonds” with the music of Gabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Jorma Elo, Christopher Bruce and Trey McIntyre tackle “Pretty Things” with works by Wolgang Amadeus Mozart, Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma and David Bowie.
Sep 30-Oct 3: Margaret Alkek Williams ‘Dance Jubilee’
February 24-March 6, 2022: ‘Jewelry: emeralds, rubies and diamonds’
March 10-March 20, 2022: ‘Madame Butterfly’
May 20-May 29, 2022: ‘Pretty things’
June 2-June 12, 2022: ‘Originals’
June 16-June 26, 2022: “Sylvia”
26 Nov-Dec 26, 2022: ‘Nutcracker’
April 29 to April 30, 2022: Spring Academy showcase
On the home front, lead dancers Melody Mennite and Connor Walsh each have world premieres on the bill. For Mennite, who turns 20 with the Houston Ballet this summer, the time is right. She likened the announcement of the new season to the light at the end of a long tunnel.
“July 1 will mark my 20th birthday, that’s what I’m going to do next season,” she said. “I was kind of – to be honest – preparing for what my 20-year-old (would be) absorbed into (the coronavirus). So, I am delighted to come back and play.
Mennite will not appear on “Reignited” at Miller Outdoor, although audiences can expect to see her on stage again in September.
Like many Houstonians, she spent much of the pandemic outside in her backyard. “It’s the most beautiful place on Earth now, I’ve planted a lot and maintained the little space I have in town. In the Houston Ballet film projects, you will see my heart a bit.
To the company’s credit, dancers and artistic staff got creative and embraced digital platforms during the downtime induced by COVID-19. Welch produced “In Good Company,” a series of dance films set to music by The Dead South. At one point, the Houston Ballet hosted over 60 episodes of #HBatHome, a collection of short videos that took clients to the homes of dancers and staff as they practiced, cooked meals, gave performances. online classes and were working on the choreography during the lockdown.
“I spent my time continuing to dance all over my house and garage,” Mennite said. “Then we finally set up a semi-permanent space in my spare bedroom with a camera pointed in a certain direction so I could be seen during class.”
Even the Houston Ballet’s golden goose, “The Nutcracker,” which contributes more than half of the company’s annual ticket revenue, has been redesigned into web-friendly pieces. “Nutcracker Sweets,” the Ballet’s on-demand virtual vacation program features 237 fantastic characters imagined by Welch.
And while the Ballet’s artistic director is grateful for adding another skill set to his repertoire, he’s ready to return to his natural habitats: the Wortham stage.
“I like to think that digital stays with us forever, everything we’ve learned and the audience we’ve created online,” Welch said. “A blessing of COVID is that it has taught us about the capabilities of the internet. But… I’m ready to focus on the live broadcasts a bit.
The Houston Ballet isn’t abandoning digital media anytime soon.
“We had our auditions digitally, some rehearsals on Zoom and future choreography for the coming season will start on Zoom,” he added.
Starting May 2, full season passes for the 2021-2022 season will be available for purchase online. Packages start at $ 95 for new subscribers and include “Jewels”, “Madame Butterfly”, “Pretty Things”, “Sylvia” and original works. Those who purchase season tickets will also be able to add additional ballet performances and take advantage of the priority season for “The Nutcracker” and Academy Spring Showcase before single ticket buyers.
It remains to be seen exactly how many seats will be available. The Houston Ballet plans to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the City of Houston for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t know if we’re going to fill Wortham to capacity. This decision has not yet been made in concrete terms, ”Welch said.
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