Like its downtown neighbors the Houston Grand Opera and the Alley Theatre, the Houston Ballet found itself homeless in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. While the Alley took up temporary residence at the University of Houston (and was back into its space before it mounted the holiday favorite A Christmas Carol), and HGO decamped to the George R. Brown Convention Center, giving birth to the so-called Resilience Theater, the ballet took on a more nomadic existence, performing at the Smart Financial Center in Sugar Land and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
Both Houston Ballet and HGO will be back in their home, the Wortham Center, with the 2018—2019 season, but, while the opera has finished its current season, the ballet has two more to go: Play, a mixed repertory program to be be performed in the GRB, and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the end of the month.
“Houston Ballet really made the most out of this whole season,” said Oliver Halkowich, principal soloist with the organization and one of Play's choreographers. “And this is an opportunity for us to perform in a new space, which itself is interesting. It'll be a chance for audiences to see a new way to see our company.”
Play, a series of dances performed to Moby’s album, is the creation of Stanton Welch. It’s a collaboration with Houston’s Poet Laureate, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton and local performance poet, Outspoken Bean. It features a re-imagined Bolero Triptych, with dancers performing to the iconic Ravel piece; class, a new work by Welch, featuring a selection from Bach’s Goldberg Variations; and four other dances that showcase Houston’s resiliency and spirit in the aftermath of Harvey.
It’s all billed as an immersive, three-sided experience.
“The way the [convention center] hall is set up, the audience basically cascades into the stage,” says Halkowich. “It’s definitely going to be a different way of seeing dance.”
Halkowich is also quick to point out that the staging of both Play and the set-up of the space lends itself to an intimacy with the material, allowing the audience to feel closer to the dancers than they would in a more traditional theater.
“This whole year has been about resilience,” says Halkowich. “We lost our theater, so this whole season has been a whirlwind for us. But I’ve been so super impressed with this whole company in how we’ve pushed on and kept going, creating art. I think it would’ve been cool to stage this show in this way without Harvey, but the storm forced us to innovate.”
He hopes that audiences will see that resiliency writ large with Play.
Play, June 8–10. Tickets from $40. Resilience Theater at George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. More info and tickets at houstonballet.org.