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A Tempest in a Tough Spot

Can Shakespeare dance? That's up to the Houston Ballet.

By Scott Vogel May 24, 2017

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Artists of the Birmingham Royal Ballet in the company's production of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

There is a word for artists with the temerity to adapt Shakespeare’s works for another medium—lots of them, actually. Cojones comes to mind, along with daring and boldness, among the few approving terms. Those with a distaste for such experiments have a much longer noun list at their disposal, of which hubris, pretension, insolence, pomposity and, yes, cojones are just the start. Nevertheless, interdisciplinary bardolatry has remained an ever-present temptation among the creative class, especially lately, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death having provided further impetus. Now more than ever, all the world’s a stage (for him, that is), and all the men and women merely trying to discern good Bard from bad.

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Jenna Roberts as Miranda and Joseph Caley as Ferdinand in the Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Shakespeare's The Tempest

Given its location—a 40-minute car ride from Stratford-upon-Avon—the Birmingham Royal Ballet was in no position to plead the Fifth re: the quatercentenary. Still, the company went all in, commissioning its artistic director, David Bintley, to create a full-length ballet based on The Tempest.

The work, which is being given its North American premiere by the Houston Ballet beginning Thursday, features original music (by British composer Sally Beamish) in a production designed by Rae Smith, of War Horse fame. And while reviews across the pond were decidedly mixed, many praised the ballet’s wordless take on the work of a genius wordsmith, along with its dazzling stagecraft, and sweeping score. Our advice: judge for yourself, preferably with an open mind and a ready forgiveness. After all, isn’t that what The Tempest is all about?

May 25-June 4. From $25. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-227-2787,    

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