Houston Ballet Down Under #3: Casting Changes and Jet Lag

From June 24–July 10, Houston Ballet is embarking on its biggest tour yet to Melbourne, Australia, hometown of artistic director Stanton Welch. Pointe asked demi-soloist Jacquelyn Long to keep a diary of her experiences.

June 29, 2016

The State Theatre at Arts Center of Victoria. Photo by Chunwai Chan, Courtesy Long.

We had our first day of rehearsals yesterday in the Arts Center of Victoria rehearsal room. We did a run through of Romeo and Juliet and rehearsed the Australian Ballet School children into the production. They have a beggar’s dance and are also town children in the show. The run went well, and I think everyone is excited to go onstage!

In the dance world there are some things that come with the job—and casting changes is one of them. Due to injuries or passport problems, we had some fittings during rehearsals yesterday. I have to be a ball guest now and one of Juliet's friends, so I had a few costumes to try on. I also will be dancing Katerina (a tavern sister), a role I originated when the ballet was created. And, I get to premiere Miranda, who is the main tavern sister—Mercutio's girl.

Dancers Megumi Takeda and Aoi Fujiwara exploring Melbourne. Photo by Long.

After rehearsal, I think everyone was feeling the jet lag. If you have never experienced jet lag, it feels like it’s 1:00 am when it’s only 7:30 in the evening! Some of my friends and I walked the city to get food and drinks. We lasted until 10:15 before we were home in bed. I must say though, I feel better today after forcing myself to stay awake.

This morning, we got to take class from Australian Ballet staff member Eve Lawson, a fellow American.  It was fun to have a guest teacher while on tour. The floors here are a bit slippery, but I think the boys, especially, are enjoying turning on them. If you have a chance, check out the videos on Instagram of that! Following the hashtag #hbtakesaustralia

We have a technical rehearsal first today and then a dress rehearsal later tonight. I hope all goes smoothly! I'm looking forward to letting you guys know what the stage is like.

 

Xo,

Jacquelyn

Bridget Kuhns working on her lines before rehearsal. Photo by Chunwai Chan, Courtesy Long.

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

Keep reading... Show less