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Stanton Welch's "Velocity"Washington, DC, 6/11/08


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#1 Mike Gunther

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 01:03 PM

First of all, I hope this is the right forum to raise this topic! Feel free to move it, if not.

Houston Ballet danced Stanton Welch's "Velocity" (2003, music by Michael Torke) as part of the June 2008 "Ballet Across America Festival." It was danced exceptionally well, which might color my perceptions. The audience loved it. Cheers, and standing ovations, like you wouldn't believe. Two major critics, however, trashed the choreography (although not the company; see reviews by Sarah Kaufman and Clive Barnes at Links). They accused the work of superficiality, incoherence, and lack of pattern.

Speaking personally, I saw a _lot_ of structure in it, although it was more a "Jackson Pollock" kind of fractal pattern -- order in chaos, or patterned chaos -- than the typical lines/circles that we more often see in (even contemporary) choreography. So I wonder:

1) Do you think the patterns that I intuited were really set there by Welch, or was I just seeing things? If you put enough people on stage, or indeed enough of anybody doing whatever, you are bound to see emergent "patterns" whether they are really there or not.

2) "Velocity" was premiered in Melbourne, 2003, by the Australian Ballet; the Houston Ballet premiered it in 2006. What was its performance history and critical/audience reception between those two places?

3) Is it as innovative as I think it is, or are other choreographers perhaps creating in a similar style? I'd really love to see more of this kind of thing, if it's by Welch or by whomever.

4) Has the audience/critical reaction always been as split as it was in D.C. last week? Or has it been different in other performances/venues of this work?


Obviously this piece has got me really excited (last week in D.C. was the first time I saw it), so I'm just looking for some feedback here, be it audience or critical or professional (and no, I have no connection whatsoever with Houston, Welch, or Torke!)


Mike G.

#2 Natalia

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 02:08 PM

I totally agree with you, Mike. Velocity was a real revelation and, boy, did it have 'story' and 'structure'! I saw it as a poem or even a meditation of the theme of Swan Lake - those lovely white swans and the handsome hunters in black. There is even a cute segment in which four cygnets find a sleeping hunter and do some 'mime' (Who is this sleeping hunter? Do you know? etc.) And let's not forget the intial 'monologue' by the Odette-like ballerina, with the lovely swan arms (in a modern way).

The greatness in this work lies in its pulse, which is magnified in the final 5 minutes or so when the piano is added to the orchestra - the pulsations. WOW! It is hard to describe but the total work of art is uplifting, as well as touching. To me, it is clear that whoever conceived this work truly adores ballet. it is an homage to Swan Lake and all things balletic and beautiful.

The occasional 'surprise' acrobatic tricks -- such as a number of moves taken from pairs figure skating, e.g., those two 'throw double axels' from one hunter tothe other, performed by the main ballerina early on -- were just the cherry on top of the sundae!

Velocity is one of the greatest ballets I've seen in forty-plus years of following the art.


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