Final stage rehearsals before opening night. Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

Romeo, Juliet and an 18-Hour Flight: Breaking Down Houston Ballet's Tour to Australia

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of Pointe.

What does it take to bring a major production on tour? In July, Houston Ballet mounted a 12-show run of artistic director Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet in Melbourne, Australia. The tour was the company's Australian debut, and a homecoming for Welch, who is from there. The ballet premiered in Houston the previous year, and while it was well received, it was untested by time and tradition. “We had only performed it 9 or 10 times before," says Welch.

Touring a full-length production halfway around the world is a bit of a “beast," says Welch, involving serious logistical planning. Flights were booked the previous September, while set pieces, costumes and theater cases were shipped—by boat—two months before the opening. (The elaborate sets, designed by Roberta Guidi di Bagno, include 10 onstage towers.) Ballet master Steven Woodgate traveled to Melbourne several weeks in advance to rehearse the cast of children from The Australian Ballet School. In addition to 64 dancers, Houston Ballet brought all of its own staff and crew—a total of 91 people!


Once in Melbourne, the company had to adjust to a 15-hour time difference. Principal Melody Mennite tried not to fight her jet lag. “If I was up at 3 am, I would read for an hour before I went back to sleep," she says. “It's when I would get frustrated about it that it didn't work out so well."

Despite the jet lag, the company pulled off a successful, sold-out run. When asked if he'd do it again, Welch responds, “in a heartbeat."

Connor Walsh and Karina González perform the balcony pas de deux.Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

"The biggest challenge was doing so many shows in such a short period of time. You have to stay engaged and focused." —Connor Walsh

Arts Centre Melbourne State TheatrePhotographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

Houston Ballet dancers in class.Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

"I was really amazed at how strong everyone looked from the first day. That last Saturday night, people had bags under their eyes, but it didn't show in the performances." —Stanton Welch

Jared Matthews as Mercutio.Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

TOUR FACTS & FIGURES

• Distance between Houston and Melbourne: 9,373 miles

• Total flight time: 18 hours, 3 minutes

• Because they crossed the International Date Line, the dancers actually gained a day.

• It was a chilly trip. Australia is in the southern hemisphere, so Melbourne's winter is Houston's summer.

• In addition to dancers, HB artistic staff, a conductor, a physical therapist and 17 crew members made the journey.

Melody Mennite and Ian Casady rehearse the bedroom scene. "If I'm feeling a little tired, I try to be more involved with my co-workers to create more energy and camaraderie onstage." —Melody MennitePhotographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

Costumes await the opening night cast.Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

First soloist Jessica Collado getting her wig secured.Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

Corps member Brian Waldrep.Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

"It's so nice to travel with the company. We're all so close, which makes all the flying and time in the airport much more enjoyable." —Connor WalshPhotographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

Latest Posts


Courtesy Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck's Top 10 Tips for Training at Home

On March 15, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck announced to her 172,000-plus Instagram followers that she'd be teaching a live class from her family's home in Bakersfield, California, where she's currently waiting out COVID-19. Little did she know that she'd receive such a viral response. Since then, Peck has offered daily Instagram LIVE classes Monday through Friday at 10 am PST/1 pm EST, plus an occasional Saturday class and Sunday stretch/Pilates combo. "The reaction was just so overwhelming," she says. "These classes are keeping me sane, and giving me something to look forward to."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Miranda Weese and Damian Woetzel in "Swan Lake" (1999)

This February, New York City Ballet presented Peter Martin's two-act version of Swan Lake. In her New York Times review, Gia Kourlas reminisced about some of NYCB's past Odette/Odiles, pointing to a masterful, and high stakes, 1999 "Live From Lincoln Center" performance starring Miranda Weese and Damian Woetzel. With just an hour's notice, Weese stepped in to dance the Swan Queen for an injured Darci Kistler. The live television broadcast was Weese and Woetzel's first time dancing these roles together, though you'd never know; in this clip of the White Swan pas de deux the pair looks connected and utterly captivating.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
An instructor from The Hive in Chicago leads class over Zoom (courtesy The Hive)

The Dance Student's Guide to Making the Best—and the Most—of At-Home Training

If you're social distancing to do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19, you've inevitably realized that training safely and successfully at home poses a significant challenge. We talked to dance experts to find out how you can make the best of this less-than-ideal scenario—and about the unexpected ways it can help you grow as a dancer and artist.

Keep reading SHOW LESS