Houston Ballet's González in the studio. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet
Houston Ballet's season opener, A Midsummer Night's Dream by John Neumeier (Sept. 4-14), marks many spectacular firsts. Not only is it the company's first Neumeier ballet, but it will be the first production of his Midsummer danced by an American company. For Pointe's biweekly newsletter, we spoke with principal Karina González about learning the role of Titania.
How have rehearsals been going?
They've been amazing. It's my first time working with Neumeier, and I'd been dreaming of working with him for so long. In our first rehearsal with him, he spent almost an hour explaining the characters and the story from beginning to end. But he said that he didn't create the ballet exactly by the book. It was more about the feeling that he had when he watched the play of Midsummer. It's very interesting to work with him because he wants to see both who you are as a dancer and who you are in your character.
How would you describe Neumeier's version of Titania?
He created two very different worlds for her. In the first act she starts as this beautiful queen, very elegant and regal and her steps are balletic and pretty. And then when she falls asleep and enters the magic world of the dream, it's like she becomes a creature. I think she's a little animalistic. In other versions, I feel like you wait for the fairies with glitter and wings, but here she is a creature in a unitard, grounded and powerful.
What has been most challenging part of the process?
I'm the kind of dancer--I'm not sure whether it's good or bad--that first needs to get the steps, the counts, the musicality before I give you feelings and character. Neumeier and the stagers want us to find the character first. In rehearsals, we have an hour to learn a pas de deux, and they tell you the story and the feeling that you need to have. And I'm like, Okay, give me a second to figure it out first, and then I can give you my everything.
What advice would you give to aspiring professionals who are learning a role for the first time?
I always say that you need to be like a sponge in the studio. In this process, I learned that you have to be really patient with yourself--you're going to need time to get the steps. I also like to do a little homework. Go home and repeat the steps in your head, and if you have videos of the ballet, watch them over and over. Then, the next day, it doesn't feel new anymore. You already have it in your body, so you can continue working on new things.
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