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2016-17 season: Houston Ballet

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A friend just sent me this: http://archive.skem1.com/Campaigner/Public/t.show?9pq7h--6yyl5-1o20sud8

Another commission for Justin Peck next March 2017. And I'm curious about the Bayadere in June 2017 - no credit to Petipa. Is Welch doing all-new choreography perhaps? And another attempt at The Tempest -- with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, I suppose we'll be seeing a lot of ballets based on Shakespeare.

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I'm curious about the Bayadere in June 2017 - no credit to Petipa. Is Welch doing all-new choreography perhaps?

I've seen Welch's Bayadère, and it could be described as "(way) after Petipa." This was my reaction at the time.

Although the "Kingdom of the Shades" survives more or less intact, Stanton Welch's production makes a hash of the rest of the ballet. Nikiya loses her entrance down the temple steps, her first variation is cluttered with a lot of other temple dancers surrounding her, the second with the water jug is eliminated completely to make for a longer duet with Solor, and the pre-death variation is hacked in half, almost completely re-choreographed and similarly cluttered with excess bayaderes. (There is no offer and rejection of an antidote.) But her choreography in the "Shades" scene is pretty much all there... At the end of the scene Nikiya makes her exit by bourréeing up the shades' ramp. Now that must be painful.


Welch has even less faith in mime than the Soviets had. The High Brahmin, Rajah and Aya are all turned into dancing roles. (Is there any good reason to put Aya on pointe and in a costume practically indistinguishable from Gamzatti's?) The net effect is to flatten out all the relationships. If Nikiya and the High Brahmin perform standard pas de deux choreography instead of mime, it looks practically the same as her interactions with Solor. The confrontation between Nikiya and Gamzatti is turned into a trio in which Aya is the one who attempts to stab Nikiya, while the latter contents herself to slash Gamzatti's portrait. It's also extremely anti-climactic to place snakes into Nikiya's basket of flowers at this point. At the end of the ballet the temple comes crashing down not because of Solor's infidelity--he hadn't sworn anything over a sacred fire anyway--but because Gamzatti kills him for refusing to marry her. At least so the program notes tell me. There are a number of dancing gods in this production. In the first scene a fire god dances, unseen by everyone else, to music normally assigned to fakirs, and a dream god ushers in the "Kingdom of the Shades" (because evidently, when a man passes out on his bed after smoking opium, it is insufficiently obvious that what appears behind him is a hallucinatory dream). There is a dancer painted gold in the final scene, but he doesn't dance. But no doubt the strangest thing Welch does is to reassign the D'Jampe music to a quartet of male dancers, which just looks silly. Still, the "Shades" choreography is relatively untouched, even though I don't care for the dotted-note rhythm of the shades' descent, and the very abrupt accents they employ, especially the woodpecker bourrées. But at least Peter Farmer's designs look mostly good, and the company dances it well.

Both Solor and Gamzatti keep their engagement party variations, but his participation in the entrée is truncated, and some of his partnering is re-assigned to the Rajah.

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That's true. But at least the POB hasn't stooped to Welch's Madame Butterfly, which I attempted to watch and abandoned at intermission. Frustratingly, he attempted to put across too many details of a very talky libretto, and there was the constant and unsuccessful juxtaposition of clichéd turned-in, bent-kneed walking and ear-banging extensions à la seconde.

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Remember Houston had a long, long relationship with Ben Stevenson, who made several program-length narrative ballets for them. That audience may be jumping and clapping already.

I'm just kind of surprised at the timing of the announcement -- is this early for Houston, or do they always announce right after the first of the year?

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