Arts & Culture

Houston Ballet Celebrates The City’s Resilience After Harvey

The company has created a program of dance and poetry inspired by Houston’s survival from the storm, including its own.

From disaster can come creativity and rebirth.

“It sort of inspired us, I think, in a way,” said Artistic Director, Stanton Welch, of Houston Ballet’s experience after Harvey

“Instead of reacting to something that had been a problem for us, we were now creating something which was going to be unique and special and have a life of its own.”

The production, Play, addresses the city’s shared experience of recovering from the devastating storm.

This final mixed repertory program of its season will feature three new works inspired by Harvey – including What We Keep, co-choreographed by Houston Ballet’s Oliver Halkowich, Melody Mennite, and Connor Walsh, and two dances set to poems by Houston Poet Laureate Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton and poet Outspoken Bean.

“I think both poems give you a sense of survival and pride,” said Welch. “And that is something that has always drawn me to this city and to Texas … there is really a very strong sense of resolve and community and getting back up and surviving, and I think there’s a lot to be said of that.”

Outspoken Bean’s spoken-word piece, to which Welch choreographed, is entitled What the H Stands For.

MORE: Outspoken Bean Discusses What the H Stands For on Houston Matters

“At the end of the poem, he says what it doesn’t stand for is Harvey, and … it’s powerful. It’s like, ‘This is not going to define us. It didn’t even stop us.’ ”

Additionally, Play will feature Bolero Triptych, the World Premiere of class, and the program’s title piece – all works by Welch. They contain themes of strength in community that will resonate with the evening’s overall theme, and were also chosen for their ability to be staged and translate well in the immersive space of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

That location offers a unique “thrust-style” theater, where audiences can be seated around three sides of the stage.

“Ballet can sometimes be architectural … and it’s beautiful from many directions, so it’s kind of exciting. It’s like sculpture, moving sculpture,” said Welch.

During Harvey, Houston Ballet experienced flooding at its Center for Dance and about 61% of its one-act ballet costumes were damaged, according to Welch. “It’ll be a process. I mean, it’s really going to be three or four years before there’s not something we’re still repairing or fixing from Harvey.”

Despite being flooded out of its Wortham Center home for the entire season, the company managed to reschedule and relocate all of its productions.

“We got every rep on stage … and I’m very proud of that, and I think that there aren’t many ballet companies that could have done that … We had started literally planning our shifts the day after the rain … how easy it would have been to say, ‘We’re just going to take six months off and regroup.’ But it wasn’t right for the city. The city needed to feel like we were all alive and well and, you know, we’re going to get through this. And part of that is supporting each other with that determination.”

Performances of Play are June 8 – 10, 2018 at the GRB’s General Assembly Hall.

Listen to the complete interview with Stanton Welch below:

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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