Although the pandemic has replaced social interactions with an endless Zoom and phone calls, The Houston Ballet has found yet another way to bring us together in a not-so-totally new but interesting way. For eight weeks, the ballet will publish its new dance film, In Good Company, on its social media channels for Houstonians to enjoy.
“It is different from our other material because we filmed this in our Black Box rather than in our homes,” says Stanton Welch AM, the Houston Ballet’s artistic director “And we really tried to make the camera and the dancer have a relationship with each other.”
In Good Company premiered on March 10, and Houston Ballet plans on publishing one new video each week until the end of April. The show, underwritten by Leticia Loya, is inspired by corroboree, an Aboriginal dance ceremony from Australia. According to the press release, the performances are intended to be as lively and familiar as a family gathering and they pull the audience through a journey of filming techniques, choreography, and varying emotional stories.
“The sense of community I think comes from the choreography and the songs,” Welch says, “it’s about human issues and the faults and triumphs we all share. I tried to make the choreography pedestrian and connectable to the public, so it feels and looks like something we can all do together.”
The music for the show will include 11 songs by gritty folk band The Dead South, including “Achilles,” “Ballad for Janoski,” and “Banjo Odyssey” from the group’s new album, Good Company.
The band consists of singer Nate Hilts with his gnarled baritone; Scott Pringle, who plays the mandolin; whistling cellist Danny Kenyon; and Colton Crawford on banjo. Their song “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company” has also been featured on Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. “I just love the music, the rhythm, and the Americana of it. It makes me want to move, and it makes me feel,” says Welch.
The Houston Ballet took extra Covid-19 precautions while filming In Good Company. There was a micro-sized crew that included Welch, Lisa J. Pinkham, lighting design; David Rivera, associate director of Audio/Visual Services; Nicole Foreman; and one ballet master to ensure minimum exposure. The dancers were filmed separately, too. Additionally, the Margaret Alkek Williams Dance Lab at the Houston Ballet Center was disinfected, and the air went through a purification process between dancers. “We’ve never made a ballet in a pandemic before,” Welch says “To create it all one dancer at a time and then share it with all of them was a very, very unique experience.”