Ben Stevenson's version of The Nutcracker makes its final bow with the Houston Ballet as it returns for its final 34 performances on November 27th. The magical story follows curious Clara after she’s gifted with a very special Nutcracker on Christmas Eve. As the story unfolds, young Clara is amazed to find that her Nutcracker has come to life in the night and takes her on a wondrous journey through the Land of the Sweets.
Throughout the dream-like performance, we learn more about The Nutcracker's main character. Much more than a naive girl, Clara's relationships with each character in the story define her, and it is this pivotal role which keeps the audience captivated until the end. Emily Bowen, one of the Houston Ballet’s most prized performers, has proudly danced the role of Clara in The Nutcracker for the last decade. A dedicated dancer since the age of five, Bowen captures the mood of the show's lead character in a profound way. "Throughout the years I've been performing this role, I've learned how integral Clara is to the production," Bowen explains, "She's a real character, and a storyteller."
A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Bowen moved to Houston at age 14 to attend the Houston Ballet Summer Intensive after which she was invited to join Houston Ballet II. “I begged but my parents thought it would be better to wait a year,” she recalls. After her second summer with the Intensive, the intensely focused dancer was given the humbling honor of being the first in the Houston Ballet ever sent to compete in the Prix De Lausanne ballet completion in Lausanne, Switzerland. “I was not a prize winner, but the experience and knowledge and what I learned about myself are still with me to this day.”
Bowen no doubt holds a special place for Clara in her heart and her years of experience in the ballet allow her to capture the character’s many layers of complexities in a very distinct way. “As a dancer, I always thought it was every little girl’s dream to be the Sugar Plum Fairy. I still am honored and floored at how many girls tell me it is their dream to be Clara. That is so absolutely special to me.”
The most notable difference between The Nutcracker and other productions produced by the Houston Ballet is the whopping number of shows that the team puts on. At 34 shows from November 27–December 27, the dancers strive to perform each show like it’s the first. Bowen boasts of the dancers, “We have to keep in mind that although we may be on show number 27, every person in the audience is seeing it for the first time that holiday season. It has to be equally as magical for them every single time.”
Though 2016 will mark the beginning of a new era for The Nutcracker in Houston, unveiling the premiere of a new version commissioned by Artistic Director Stanton Welch with updated sets and costumes, the beloved show will surely be celebrated this year as the traditional festive favorite concludes its long run.
November 27–December 27. $44–149. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-227-2787. houstonballet.org