BWW Interview: Houston Ballet First Soloist Jessica Collado and Corps Member Bridget Kuhns CELEBRATE FORSYTHE in L.A.
The outside world thinks that Houstonians ride around on horses shooting coyotes. And we do. But there's so much more to our great metropolis. The Houston Ballet has proved that time and time again. And this weekend, being a time, they'll prove it again. From October 21 to 23, the company will be in Los Angeles, CA for CELEBRATE FORSYTHE, a program that celebrates three works from celebrated choreographer William Forsythe.
Along with the San Francisco Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, Forsythe personally selected the Houston Ballet to reprise his frenetic composition ARTIFACT SUITE at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A.'s The Music Center. As such, I am holding the ballet company personally responsible for dispelling every negative stereotypes those Golden State losers have about Texas.
So naturally, when I got the chance to talk to Houston Ballet First Soloist Jessica Collado, a lead dancer in one of the piece's pas de deuxs, and Houston Ballet corps member Bridget Kuhns, leader of the corp, I held the dancers' four feet to the fire.
Can they shoulder the weight of my crushing expectations?
"It feels amazing to be representing Houston as a city of art," says Kuhns. Collado is just as excited. "It's a huge honor to be asked to participate in this wonderful event," the First Soloist exclaims. "I think we have a great group of diverse dancers, that are super hard working and very versatile. I'm excited not only to celebrate Bill [William Forsythe], but to also have the opportunity to share our talents on this tour."
Okay. But the piece must be very demanding -- "Forsythe has to be one of the most inspiring people I've worked with in my career," says Collado. "He has developed a language of movement that has transcended dance for years. And when you work with him in the studio, not only is he the most humble man, but the ideals and images he provides you, leaves you with endless possibilities on how to approach his choreography. [Pauses] It's overwhelming but super motivating!"
Though Kuhn's role is mostly improvisation ("with some guidelines," she says), she's looking forward to a repeat performance. "It has really forced me to open up and do what comes naturally. It has also helped me to block out other distractions while I'm dancing and to stay focused on everything I'm doing."
"There are multiple sections in the ballet that are improvisational," says Collado. "Although we have themes and some direction as guidance, having the ability to be free and make up something new every show was very liberating -- daunting at times -- but definitely a creative experience."
Kuhn's admiration knows no bounds. Forsythe's In the Middle cracks Kuhn's top five dance works. "It's just stunning! I could watch it everyday and never get sick of it," she ways. "In The Middle makes you listen and interpret music with a different mindset. Plus the passion you get from the dancers is just breathtaking!"
"His movement all stems from classical ballet, but he takes it to the utmost extreme position," says Collado. "[ARTIFACT SUITE] is an extremely demanding piece. The pas de deux work in the first movement is very physical. It's all about counterbalance with your partner, testing each others extremes." She adds with a laugh, "Stamina is a big part of making it through alive. You have to pace yourself and be able to push through at the end. [Pauses] The end is so fulfilling!
The dancers tell me that they are both encouraged by their successful run in Houston. Collado says, "I felt that with each show, we were able to push each other more and more."
So there's no fear of the future? Nothing to dread?
They both laugh at the question. "I'm really looking forward to being on a program with two other wonderful companies," says Collado. "I'm interested to see how each of us interprets Forsythe's choreography differently and similarly as well. I also think it will be really interesting to see three works all choreographed in different decades by Forsythe, and to see the transition of his choreography over time. There's not a lot to dread about dancing Forsythe and going to L.A. (Laughs) Traveling and dancing never feels great.Working through some inflight swelling and stiffness will be the biggest challenge."
"There is nothing to dread," Kuhn says with a laugh. "I can't wait to see the other pieces and companies. It's so rare I feel to have three big companies and so many artists together in one place, there will be a lot to learn and take in. Also it will be my first time to California, so that makes it all the more fun!"