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.

Madeline Skelly and Natalie Varnum at the Bloch store.

July 3, 2016

Hey everyone, I hope you have been enjoying my posts! We had three shows and a tech rehearsal since my last one and we just enjoyed a nice day off.

A lot of us have been shopping at some of the local Australian shops in our time off and updating our dance wardrobe. For instance, we've been frequenting the Bloch store, which is based in Australia! The most popular purchases have been their booties and warm ups. Also, dancers of the Australian Ballet have a line called Keto Dancewear that many of us have been quick to purchase! Below I am pictured with a group of us sporting our new leos and tights.

Sporting our new leos (from left): myself, Katherine Precourt, Melody Mennite, Kaleigh Courts, Jordan Veit, Emily Seymour and Natalie Varnum.

 

Nao Kusuzaki. Photo by Chunwei Chan, Courtesy Long.

We had a birthday on our day off: Nao Kusuzaki! Nao is another dancer who will be ending her career here in Australia. She joined the Houston Ballet from Boston Ballet in 2004 and was promoted to soloist in 2008. Nao dances with a grace that will be missed. She will be studying to achieve a business degree.

Well, Happy Independence Day to everyone in America! It feels strange to not be home to see any fireworks, but we have another show tonight. It is the premiere of the third cast of leads, so I'm sure that will be exciting!

 

XO,

Jacquelyn

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

 

 

Kusuzaki in Tsuru at the Asia Society. Photo by Lynn Lane, Courtesy Kusuzaki.

Houston Ballet soloist Nao Kusuzaki's expansive port de bras spreads across the stage like a pair of wings, fitting for a story of a bird who transforms into a woman. Kusuzaki not only danced the lead role in Tsuru, a piece based on the Japanese folktale The Crane Wife, but also conceived and produced the entire project, which was a partnership between Asia Society Texas Center and Houston Ballet. Drawing a range of audiences, it was the go-to event of the dance theater season last June.

Now in her 11th season with the company, Kusuzaki is known for her lyricism, her gentle presence both onstage and off, and her entrepreneurial streak. She says, “In many ways, a ballet career prepares us to have skills useful in entrepreneurship: clear long-term goal setting and laser focus, the resiliency to keep going when the outlook is not as we expect, and self-reliance." Leaving Japan at age 10 for the U.S. gave her a chance to train seriously in ballet, but also left her missing her home and tradition—which informs the work she chooses to produce now. “I want to do projects that allow for a deepening understanding of Japanese culture," she says.

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