News
Costume sketches for Alexei Ratmansky's new "Harlquinade" for ABT. Courtesy ABT.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


ABT's New Harlequinade is Finally Here

The long wait for Alexei Ratmansky's Harlequinade for American Ballet Theatre is finally over. June 4-9, catch ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House in this bold and colorful tribute to the Italian commedia dell'arte traditions, based on the archival notes of Marius Petipa. If this trailer by Ezra Hurwitz is any indication, this new story ballet is sure to delight (fingers crossed that those dogs make their way to the stage).

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News
Artists of Houston Ballet in Alexander Ekman's "Cacti." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

When Hurricane Harvey badly damaged Houston Ballet's Wortham Theater Center this fall, all programming was cancelled and the fate of the company's upcoming season was unclear. Yet over the past few months, the greater performing arts community has pulled together to help the company get its fall season back on its feet. This week Houston Ballet announced new dates and venues for its Spring 2018 Season.

The spring season will continue the company's "Hometown Tour" of Houston theaters that they began for Nutcracker season, switching between the George R. Brown Convention Center's General Assembly Hall and Resilience Theatre (a fitting name, no?), Sarofim Hall at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Jones Hall, and the Moores Opera House at the University of Houston. The company is making light of the situation, titling their two mixed repertoire programs scheduled for the Brown Center "Unconventional Ballets at the Convention Center." (They've also had plenty of fun with wordplay while advertising their productions of The Nutcracker held in Sugar Land, TX, a city just south of Houston.) The season showcases the full diversity of Houston Ballet's offerings, from Alexander Ekman to Don Quixote to a world premiere by artistic director Stanton Welch celebrating Houston's resilience.

Sara Webb and Connor Walsh with Artists of Houston Ballet in "Swan Lake" choreographed by Stanton Welch. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

The company's full list of new dates and venues are listed below:

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Houston Ballet's Jared Matthews and Sara Webb in"The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Despite the devastation and pain that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left in their wake this fall, it's been encouraging to see dancers step up in aid of their communities: When the future of Houston Ballet's Nutcracker seemed uncertain, venues around the city pulled together to allow the company to produce the show on a "hometown tour." And when Florida ballet companies had to evacuate, Atlanta Ballet and Charlotte Ballet welcomed them with open arms. In addition, New York City-based studio Broadway Dance Center offered community classes in September with proceeds donated to the American Red Cross.

The next in this series of good deeds is Hearts for Houston, a benefit performance bringing dancers from seven major companies together at New York City's Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater to raise money for the United Way of Greater Houston's Harvey Relief Fund. Scheduled for Sunday, October 22, the evening will feature members of the Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, The Washington Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Hearts for Houston is imagined and produced by Houston Ballet principal dancers Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews (both formerly of ABT) and funded by patrons Phoebe and Bobby Tudor and sponsor Neiman Marcus.


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Everything Nutcracker
Houston Ballet's Sara Webb and Chun Wai Chan in "The Nutcracker." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Houston Ballet has a message for Mother Nature: Don't mess with Nutcracker.

After flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused extensive damage to the Wortham Center, Houston ballet's home theater, the company was forced to reschedule and relocate two of its programs this fall. But when the Wortham announced last month that it would be closed for repairs through mid-May, the company faced a bigger, financially scarier problem: cancelling 34 performances of its annual Nutcracker.


Melody Mennite in "Nutcracker." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

But artists are nothing if not resourceful. Yesterday, the company announced that its Nutcracker will be going on a "hometown tour," with 14 performances at the Smart Financial Center in nearby Sugar Land (December 10–23), and 14 performances at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (December 30–January 6). The production, choreographed by artistic director Stanton Welch, was new last year, and includes opulent scenic and costume designs by Tim Goodchild. Current ticket holders can click here to reschedule their performances, while tickets will go on sale to the general public on October 14.

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The Wortham Theater Center, where Houston Ballet performs, after Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Monica Guerra, Courtesy Guerra.

After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston Ballet's facilities and damaged its home theater, the Wortham Center, the company wasted no time finding temporary rehearsal space and rescheduling its first two programs of the season at the nearby Hobby Center. But today, the Texas company faced another major blow: The Wortham Center announced that it will be closed for repairs until at least mid-May. That means Houston Ballet now needs to reschedule more than half of its season—including 34 performances of Nutcracker.


A scene from Stanton Welch's "Nutcracker. Photo via Facebook.

As everyone in the dance world knows, Nutcracker is a major financial lifeline for American ballet companies. Houston's production, choreographed by artistic director Stanton Welch with sets and costumes by Tim Goodchild, was brand-new last year. (Fortunately, the company moved its sets and costumes to a safe location during the storm.) Finding space for a month-long run will surely not be easy, and the Hobby Center looks booked. While there's no news of a backup plan yet, here's hoping Houston Ballet will receive some Nutcracker magic—and be able to find a new home for this year's production. We'll keep you posted once they do.

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Miami City Ballet prepares for Hurricane Irma. Photo via Twitter.

As Hurricane Irma made its way through the Caribbean last week, Sarasota Ballet principal Ellen Overstreet was closely following the news. Tracking its progress, she made plans with fellow company members Asia Bui and Madysen Felber: "Wednesday was the most stressful day. We went to five different grocery stores. There was no gas; there was no water. Our plan was to stock up one of our apartments and sleep over all together."

By Friday night, however, the storm had shifted west, its radius enveloping Sarasota and prompting many company members (those who hadn't already booked flights out) to evacuate. In a last-minute decision, Overstreet, Bui and Felber packed up a car and drove to Tampa, where they spent the night safely. Yet the storm progressed, and in another night flight they headed for Orlando to stay with Overstreet's friend's family. The central Floridian city saw flooding damage, downed awnings, and power outages like much of the state, but Overstreet says that she was in "a strong house and felt secure" while hunkering down to wait out the storm.

Few things are more terrifying than the prospect of 170+ mile per hour winds literally chasing you upstate. But the anticipation for Irma intensified sharply in Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. Last week, we reported that the Houston Ballet Center for Dance and its home theater sustained serious flooding damage. The company's first program has been postponed, to be performed at a later date in a back-up venue.

We checked in with some of Florida's ballet companies to see how they weathered this most recent storm.

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Ballet Stars
A flooded studio at Houston Ballet in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photo Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Watching an emotionally gut-wrenching early rehearsal of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling at Houston Ballet on Aug. 17, it was clear that the Houston Ballet's fall season was going to be steeped in deep drama.

And it was, but for different reasons.

Hurricane Harvey dropped some 51 inches of rain, wreaking havoc on the entire city, with severe damage to the Downtown Theater District, including Houston Ballet's home theater Wortham Center and its landmark connected building, Center of Dance, where the first floor studios flooded.

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