Art out loud

Chicago’s Ballet 5:8 Is Coming to Houston

A stirring project on human trafficking.

By Shelby Stewart September 28, 2021

Chicago's 5:8 Ballet is bringing Reckless to Houston this fall.

Image: Lana Kozol.

THE Non-profit ballet company, Ballet 5:8 of Chicago, is bringing boldness to Houston with their latest work, Reckless. Helmed by artistic director and choreographer Julianna Rubio Slager, the full-length production details a story on the objectification of women and the vicious cycle of sex trafficking. 

Reckless tells the biblical story of the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer. 

Image: Lana Kozol.

The production marks Ballet 5:8’s 10th anniversary and a return to in-person performances after a year of virtual theater. First debuted in Chicago and soon to premiere in Houston at The Hobby Center, Reckless is a twenty-first-century interpretation of the biblical parable of the prophet Hosea, and his wife Gomer. The story shows the audacious love Hosea has for his wife, as Gomer falls victim to sex trafficking and is rescued from the merciless lifestyle, only to willingly return to it. Taking place in modern-day Chicago, Reckless is a performance that explores Gomer’s perception in three parts, the physical body, the subconscious, and the intellect. The characters "work together to portray Gomer in order to visually depict the nuance and interplay between her real-time experiences, her conscious and subconscious thoughts," Slager tells Houstonia. 

While there has been growing conversation about the ethos of sex work and sex trafficking today, Slager notes that in developing the ballet, it was important to showcase the real and raw story of Gomer. “After hours and hours of listening to survivor testimony it became very clear that Gomer’s story was not going to be neat and tidy,” Slager explains. Bringing Reckless to Houston was critical, as Houston is known to be one of the top cities in the nation for human trafficking. The art director says, "While Gomer is a fictional character, her story represents hundreds of real women who have been through the systemic, sex-trafficking system in America. Too often women's voices are written and directed by men, often flattening their character's experiences into a cliche."

With a goal to "neither glorify nor downplay the trauma experienced by women in the sex trafficking industry," Slager adds to the complexity of the storyline by utilizing vivid imagery to set the scene, and the corps de ballet as a Greek Chorus, to narrate Gomer’s journey.

Reckless is poised to abolish the stereotypes and reveal the tragic and often misunderstood realities surrounding sex work and human trafficking. "The story dutifully, compassionately, and truthfully brings the voice of survivors to the stage through the characters of Gomer. No other agenda could compete with my desire to tell those stories with tenderness and nuance," Slager says.

In developing her work, Slager realized that Reckless doesn’t just tell the story, but also empowers the audience to enter into the journey of self-acceptance, healing, and forgiveness, similar to the road Gomer must travel. "The unconditional love displayed in the work brings hope to each of us as we navigate our own places of trauma," Slager concludes. 

Reckless at The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. Saturday, October 30 at 8:00 p.m. For tickets to Ballet 5:8’s Houston show, visit the website.

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