Local Choreographer Depicts Two Iconic Houston Landmarks Through Dance

The project involved extensive research of the Ship Channel and NASA.


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It started with a simple conversation.

"I was talking to an astronaut by the name of Steve Bowen," says Houston-based choreographer Karen Stokes. "I thought, ‘Wow, these are incredible stories. How can I share this with the public?'"

That led to Stokes' idea to tell the story of Houston's Ship Channel and NASA program through dance. The exploration – which began four years ago – has involved interviewing Ship Channel pilots, visiting historical sites, and even getting a special tour of NASA. Some of the choreography is inspired by the way the astronauts move underwater at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

Michigan-based Bill Ryan was enlisted to write the score.

"The space music is very ethereal," Ryan says. "I really tried to capture the incredible vastness of space ... the endless vastness."

Ryan incorporates electronic sounds in the section representing the Ship Channel, such as old recordings of radio transmissions from ships.

Stokes says she wants the audience to leave the performance with a sense of hope.

"This is a project about human ingenuity, human endeavor, what we can do when we work together," she says.

Karen Stokes Dance presents DEEP: Seaspace Thursday through Saturday at Houston's Hobby Center.

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