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Red Earth

Music by Peter Sculthorpe
Nourlangie
Choreography and Costumes by Stanton Welch
Scenic Designs by Kevin "Pro" Hart
Costumes Designs by Cassandra Schultz
Lighting by John Rayment

An abstract work for seven couples, Red Earth explores issues early immigrants in Australia faced when arriving in a new and foreign land.  Coming from cooler and greener countries in Europe, settlers faced adversity when struggling to till the arid red soil of the Australian outback.  The dancers are dressed in distressed work clothes splattered with mud, focusing attention on their struggle with the new soil of Australia.  The American premiere of Red Earth in March 2007 will be sure to remind audiences of the similar struggles early American pioneers faced in Texas and the arid American Southwest region.

Red Earth is about finding beauty in a foreign, arid landscape,” explained Mr. Welch.  “It’s about struggling with drought and learning to make a new land your own.”

Red Earth was created for The Australian Ballet in 1996 as part of a program celebrating Australian artistry, a theme that Mr. Welch carried through the entire piece.  The score, Nourlangie, was created by Peter Sculthorpe, one of Australia’s pre-eminent composers, and the ballet’s scenery was designed by the acclaimed contemporary Australian artist Kevin "Pro" Hart. 

Peter Sculthorpe’s music is closely identified with Australia – particularly the landscapes of the outback, the remote and semi-arid interior region of the country.  The composer was inspired to create the piece after visiting northern Australia.  The piece’s name, Nourlangie, is taken from a sacred place, a large rock monolith in Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory.  A professor emeritus at the University of Sydney, Mr. Sculthorpe’s works are performed and recorded around the world.

Kevin “Pro” Hart painted the Red Earth backdrop in boldly colored acrylics.  A household name in Australia, Pro Hart’s work is associated with the outback mining town of Broken Hill.  The vastness of the country’s outback, its harsh landscapes and deep silence are reflected in his artwork.  Cities around the world have exhibited Mr. Hart’s work, from Dusseldorf to Los Angeles, New York, London, and Hong Kong.

At the ballet’s premiere, Jaqueline Pascoe of Dance Australia wrote, “Red Earth is magnificent, as a study in the colours and moods of the Australian outback landscape it is a gem.  Choreographer Stanton Welch has used movement that is bold, stylish, intricate and gymnastic.”  (October/November 1996)

Houston Ballet Premiere on March 8, 2007, by Houston Ballet in the Brown Theater at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas.