"Oh, you pretty things"

Houston Ballet Staging Company's 150th World Premiere as Part of Forged in Houston

NOTE: This event has been postponed until May due to COVID19.

By Olivia Flores Alvarez March 12, 2020

Choreographer Trey McIntyre with artists of Houston Ballet rehearsing Pretty Things.

Updated: 1:28 p.m. Mar 12 

Per an announcement from Houston Ballet, Forged in Houston has been postponed until May 21–31 due to COVID-19 fears.

Published: 10:28 a.m. Mar 12

As a teenager, renowned choreographer Trey McIntyre was on the verge of quitting dance before he came to the Houston Ballet Academy for a summer intensive workshop. That summer in Houston changed everything as he took classes and choreographed works with the other students. Then Artistic Director Ben Stevenson encouraged McIntyre and his potential, creating the position of choreographic apprentice for him when he later joined the company’s corps de ballet. 

That was 31 years ago. Now, McIntyre, who has more than 100 works to his credit—works that have been performed by worldwide—returns to the company where he started his career with ​Pretty Things. Part of the Houston Ballet’s mixed repertoire program ​Forged in Houston, which opens this week, McIntyre’s new piece is not only ​his ​seventh world premiere commission for the company, ​but it is also Houston Ballet’s 150th world premiere. 

Pretty Things ​is set to the music of David Bowie, an easy choice for the choreographer. “I’ve been listening to him a lot and it just made sense,” McIntyre says. “He’s grand, operatic. There’s a showiness and a ​'look at me' quality about his music.” 

Eight Bowie tunes are used throughout the work, including “Ashes to Ashes,” “Ziggy Stardust,” and “Oh! You Pretty Things.” McIntyre says he struggled to make sure the ​Pretty Things ​didn’t become a narrative about the singer or his songs. Instead, the work is an abstract look at narcissism in male dancers—a characteristic he says is necessary to be a good performer but one he admits he’s often felt judgmental about.

Artists of Houston Ballet rehearsing Trey McIntyre's Pretty Things.

The cast of 11 men, dressed in costumes adorned with abstract images of famous paintings that depict beautiful men, dance on a set that recalls the big bang. The dancers evolve from babies discovering themselves, the world around them, and each other, McIntyre says. “H​umans as babies are narcissists,” he explains. “There has to be some advantage to that. As ​Pretty Things evolves, the dancers evolve as well and push themselves to the front of the group. And what was revealed was that in pushing oneself forward, that puts all of us forward. I discovered that in the choreography.” 

Before the piece hit the stage, McIntyre praised the dancers he worked with in creating it. “It’s difficult movement; it’s not an easy piece,” he says. “I reference classical vocabulary but it’s pushed and pulled in a thousand different ways. The dancers, they were just quick and open.” 

Forged in Houston is part of Houston Ballet’s season celebrating its 50th anniversary. In addition to Pretty Things, the program includes Christopher Bruce’s Hush and Jorma Elo’s ONE/end/ONE, which premiered in 2011 and 2006, respectively. All three pieces were created in Houston with Houston Ballet’s dancers.

Creating a piece specifically for Houston Ballet’s golden anniversary has an extra layer of meaning for McIntyre, who worked as Houston Ballet’s choreographic associate from 1995 to 2008: "We're both 50 this year." 

 Thru Mar 22. Tickets from $25. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-523-6300. More info and tickets at ​ houstonballet.org.

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