Created in 1994, the abstract and vibrant Divergence has become a trademark work for The Australian Ballet, where Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch has served as resident choreographer since 1995. Set to Georges Bizet’s L’ Arlésienne, Suites No. 1 & 2 and featuring twenty dancers clad in Vanessa Leyonhjelm’s provocative industrial strength costumes, Divergence is classical dance with a punch.
The work, which had its Houston premiere in 2004, was a critical and audience favorite. Molly Glentzer, dance critic for the Houston Chronicle, exclaimed, “Wow. Am I just giddy with love at first sight, or is Divergence the coolest thing Houston Ballet has ever done? If this is 21st century ballet, bring it on.” (February 28, 2004)
Mr. Welch comments, “For years I had heard that classical ballet was dying; staggering along like some prehistoric creature, tiredly dragging its old and limited repertoire around. I have never believed this. I was raised on the beauty of classical ballet and have never seen its limitations – it was my breast milk.
“I wanted to take classical ballet, and diverge from it. The first image in the work is what one would consider very traditional classical ballet. From then on, I kept branching off into different paths. I wanted to show the women working as hard as the men. I wanted to show the inside of ballet, to make it look difficult and athletic. I wanted to show the pain and the strength and the difficulty behind what the dancers were doing, rather than hide it.”
Music by Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
L’ Arlésienne, Suites No. 1 & 2
Choreography by Stanton Welch
Costumes by Vanessa Leyonhjelm
Lighting by Francis Croese
Houston Ballet Premiere on February 26, 2004, by Houston Ballet in the Brown Theater at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas.
Dancers: Julie Gumbinner and Andrew Murphy
Photo: Drew Donovan
Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet
Photo: Jim Caldwell
Dancer: Erin Patak
Photo: Jim Caldwell