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BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating

Related: Houston, Ballet, Dance, Houston Ballet, Stanton Welch, Mixed Repertory, BEATAE MEMORIAE (OF BLESSED MEMORY), BEATAE MEMORIAE, MANINYAS, THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA
BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE
ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch.
Dancer(s): Nao Kusuzaki. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

In celebration of Stanton Welch's tenth anniversary as Artistic Director at Houston Ballet, the company is presenting a mixed repertory program that showcases his work as a choreographer. Across the three acts, audiences are treated to stunningly beautiful stage pictures, fascinating movement, and breathtaking feats of agility and poise. With their THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA program, Houston Ballet splendidly illustrates why Houston is truly to lucky to have Stanton Welch in our city.

The opening act, BEATAE MEMORIAE (OF BLESSED MEMORY) is a Houston Ballet Premiere. The gorgeous and evocative dance is set to Joseph Canteloube's "Chants d'Auvergne." Dedicated to his mother, Stanton Welch's goal for this ballet is to capture the theme of mother and child, illuminating the journey that they take together through life. The piece opens in startling silence, with Guest Artist Barbara Bears moving through bodies that awaken at her presence. As the stage comes to life with intriguing movement, the audience is pulled into this sumptuous and emotional lyrical dance.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: OF BLESSED MEMORY. Choreographer:
Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Barbara Bears and Artists
of Houston Ballet. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

From childhood games to first romance and heartbreak, we experience the joys, triumphs, and pains that accompany motherhood through Stanton Welch's sweeping choreography. Utilizing 21 dancers, BEATAE MEMORIAE (OF BLESSED MEMORY) is a true feast for the eyes, especially with the use of dramatic, gravity defying lifts. Every dancer on the stage in the piece mesmerizes and awes; however, my favorite moments come from the lushly romantic and show stealing dance delivered by Karina Gonzalez and Connor Walsh.

Stanton Welch's Costume Design, which is realized by Laura Lynch, gives BEATAE MEMORIAE (OF BLESSED MEMORY) a pastoral feel, utilizing gold body suits and flowing drapes in different tints. Lisa J. Pinkham's Lighting Design opens the show with a visual breath of life as a small white line on the upstage wall grows into an expressive cyclorama window that is atmospherically lit for the rest of the piece. Soprano Nicole Heaston sings the vocal melody with precision as well, adding another layer of pristine beauty to the performance.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: MANINYAS. Choreographer: Stanton Welch.
Dancer(s): Ian Casady and Nozomi Iijima. Photo:
Amitava Sarkar.

The second piece in the program is the breathtaking MANINYAS, which inspired Ben Stevenson to initially bring Stanton Welch's work to Houston Ballet in the first place. This arresting and sensual ballet is set to Ross Edwards "Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra," and represents how we peel back our layers as we get know people more and more closely through a series of pas de deux and pas de trios for ten dancers.

The alluring MANINYAS is darkly haunting, giving it that edginess that is usually associated with contemporary ballet. The emotions presented on the stage by the dancers are raw and primal. Sweeping arms, arched legs, hovering bodies, pointe work, and mind-bending agility all mix together in this piece to leave the audience entirely breathless. The dance shared by Karina Gonzalez and Ian Casady is explosive and seductive. As their dance ends, the female cast crosses the stage in a deep squat, appearing almost like spiders, transitioning Ian Casady's dance partner from Karina Gonzalez to Sara Webb. This feat of human balance and dexterity is visually shocking and impressive all at once. Moreover, the following dance with Sara Webb is wholly enthralling as well.

Stanton Welch's Costume Design for MANINYAS allows the women to own the piece, by visually claiming power. Their long skirts can be manipulated to show the musculature of their legs as they slap the ground with the material. The color choices pair well within the color partnering and when the colored pairs mix, giving the audience the idea of fluidity between human pairings and partnering. Lisa J. Pinkham's Lighting Design appears simplistic, lighting the veils on the back wall and using circle spots for key moments of the dance; however, her understated work keeps the eyes of the audience glued to certain areas of the stage throughout the piece. Jonathan Godfrey on the violin plays with affective passion, adding resonating emotionality to the performance.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE
ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch.
Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet. Photo: Amitava
Sarkar.

The final act is the World Premiere of THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Set to Benjamin Britten's "Concerto for Piano in D, Op. 61a - First movement" and narrated by the incomparable Jaston Williams of GREATER TUNA fame, this grand piece takes audiences through the various instruments in the orchestra pit in a delightfully entertaining way.

Stanton Welch uses 35 dancers for THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA, and has split them into the four families of instrument: woodwinds, strings, brass, and percussion. Each family is given its own distinct dance style, allowing the audience to see the individualized personalities of the instrumentation come to life on stage while the orchestra in the pit plays. The woodwinds use airy and light gestures. The strings use soft, sweeping legato movements. The brass use bold, masculine dance language like leaps. A frenetic energy and constant bodily movement are utilized to define the percussion. Standout performances are offered by Derek Dunn as Piccolo, Sara Webb and Simon Ball as Violas, Lauren Strongin and Ian Casady as Cellos, Katharine Precourt as Harp, William Newton and Brian Waldrep as Trombones, Aaron Robison as Tuba, Oliver Halkowich as Timpani, and Megumi Takeda as Triangle.

Holly Hynes' Costume Design puts the dancers in tuxedos, causing them to look like the musicians in an orchestra. Additionally, her use of gloves for the final segment of the performance is an inspired touch and brings more attention to Stanton Welch's full body choreography by highlighting how he attends to every detail, including the position of the dancers' fingers. Lisa J. Pinkham's Lighting Design is imaginative, giving each family of instrument its own color patterns. For the piece, Katherine Burkwall-Ciscon plays the piano flawlessly.

Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA mixed repertory program is a captivating and charming evening of contemporary ballet that truly celebrates Stanton Welch's unique style and incredible work ethic. Each piece shows a different side of the man as artist, giving Houston audiences an unparalleled glimpse into his craft and skill. As usual, Houston Ballet is delivering must-see ballet at it's finest.

Running Time: Approximate 2 hours and 40 minutes with two intermissions.

THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA, produced by Houston Ballet, runs in the Brown Theater at the Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas Avenue, Houston, 77002 now through March 16, 2014. Performances are Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m., and Friday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://houstonballet.org or call (800) 828-2787.

Photos by Amitava Sarkar. Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

high res photos

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: OF BLESSED MEMORY. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Barbara Bears and Derek Dunn. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: OF BLESSED MEMORY. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Barbara Bears and Artists of Houston Ballet. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: MANINYAS. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Karina Gonzalez and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: MANINYAS. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Christopher Gray and Nozomi Iijima. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: MANINYAS. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Ian Casady and Nozomi Iijima. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Nao Kusuzaki. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Connor Walsh and Melody Mennite. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Charles-Louis Yoshiyama. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Harper Watters (right) and Rhys Kosakowski (left). Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Aaron Robison (center) with Brian Waldrep and William Newton. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

BWW Reviews: Houston Ballet's THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA is Captivating
Ballet: THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA. Choreographer: Stanton Welch. Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.

high res photos

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined BroadwayWorld.com running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.



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