Refining the Romantic at Houston Ballet

Principal dancer Yuriko Kajiya rehearses the role of Giselle (photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)

With his new production of Giselle, Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch continues his charge through history, updating the classical warhorses for modern audiences. He has already completed versions of Paquita, La Bayadère and, most recently, 2015’s Romeo and Juliet, which he restructured to closely follow the play.

Giselle, which premiered June 9, is deeply connected to Houston Ballet’s history. In 1967, the Houston Ballet Foundation, which was a school and pre-professional company, brought in Carla Fracci and Erik Bruhn as guest artists for a production of Giselle. The enthusiasm that followed their performance helped launch Houston Ballet.

When Welch tackles the classics, he strives to create the narrative cohesion that is sometimes lacking in earlier versions. In Giselle, he plans to bring back sections of the music that have been cut from most productions, and tie the first and second acts together by giving the gorgeous but sinister clan of Wilis an earlier, eerie presence. “We’ll see the Wilis in the first act, through a window in one of the town homes, a foreshadowing of the second act,” says Welch. “It is a ghost story.” —Nancy Wozny

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