Ballet Careers

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

Final stage rehearsals before opening night.

Photographed for Pointe by Taylor-Ferné Morris

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.

"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 Theatre

Houston Ballet dancers in class.

"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.

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 Mennite

Costumes await the opening night cast.

First soloist Jessica Collado getting her wig secured.

Corps member Brian Waldrep.

"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 Walsh

Viral Videos

Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop chats with Ballet West soloist Chelsea Keefer to hear about how she prepares her pointe shoes. Keefer offers lots of darning tips, and shares all of the unusual ways that she uses rosin.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

Keep reading... Show less
News
Dane Shitagi, Courtesy Chronicle Books

Earlier this year, we shared that photographer Dane Shitagi's Ballerina Project—his gorgeous, ongoing collection of dance photos that have dominated our Instagram feeds for years—would be coming to an end. But all is not lost—starting September 17, you can enjoy over 170 of these photographs in Ballerina Project, a stunning new book showcasing Shitagi's work.

Keep reading... Show less
News
From left: Kathryn Posin Dance Company members Daniel White, Claire Mazza and Momchil Mladenov in Evolution: The Letters of Charles Darwin. Nan Melville, Courtesy Posin.

Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution might not seem like a natural fit for the ballet stage. But that's exactly the topic of one of choreographer Kathryn Posin's three new ballets, scheduled to premiere at New York City's 92nd Street Y September 13-14.

Keep reading... Show less