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The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

Stanton Welch Showcases Houston Ballet Orchestra and Company in
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra in March 2014

From March 6-16, 2014, Houston Ballet celebrates the tenth anniversary of Stanton Welch as artistic director with a mixed repertory program featuring three works by Mr. Welch, including a world premiere set to Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.  The evening will also include Maninyas, created for San Francisco Ballet in 1996 and Of Blessed Memory, a company premiere and one of the first works Mr. Welch created for The Australian Ballet in 1991.

Benjamin Britten created his The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra in 1946, and it has helped to introduce generations of children to the world of classical music. "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra marks a very significant collaboration between our dancers and the orchestra," comments Mr. Welch.

Of Blessed Memory is a company premiere for Houston Ballet and one of the first works Mr. Welch choreographed for The Australian Ballet in 1991. He created the leading role for his mother, Marilyn Jones, OBE, one of The Australian Ballet's greatest ballerinas of the 1960s and 1970s and a former artistic director of The Australian Ballet. The piece is a large-scale work danced to selections from Joseph Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne.  The ballet was so popular and well-received that he was voted best new choreographer in 1992 by readers of the British magazine Dance & Dancers after the work was performed on tour by The Australian Ballet in London and Italy.

Daniel Gesmer, critic for The New York Times called the ballet, "A neo-Classical centerpiece, Stanton Welch's first major ballet, Of Blessed Memory, is an abstract, intensely romantic exploration of youth, motherhood and the transition families endure when children grow up and leave home." (January 20, 2000).

A mix of classical and contemporary ballet, Maninyas is a small abstract work, a series of pas de deux and pas de trois. Set to Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, a work by Australian composer Ross Edwards, the piece features five couples in delicate costumes designed by Mr. Welch who move in and out of a series of shimmering curtains or veils.
 
"The piece is a process of unveiling," explained Mr. Welch.  "It examines how in relationships, you gradually unlayer yourself, and how scary, dark, and open it is to reveal yourself to another, without protection.  The dancers are undressing themselves spiritually as well as physically."

Originally created for San Francisco Ballet in 1996, Maninyas was Mr. Welch's first commission outside his home company, The Australian Ballet – his first American exposure, which led to commissions with other companies. In fact, seeing Maninyas led Ben Stevenson, Houston Ballet Artistic Director Emeritus, to ask Mr. Welch to create a work for Houston Ballet.  When Houston Ballet had its company premiere of the ballet in 2005 Wendy Perron of Dance Magazine wrote:

It started with a single dancer taking a spectacular billowy entrance that looked, under Lisa J. Pinkham's lighting, like some unidentifiable act of nature – a flood, a volcano? In a haunting mix of abandon and despair, the dancers thrust both arms upward on a diagonal, snapping their elbow until their hands flopped. Swishing their long skirts with their hands, the women were separate but equal, strong and feminine. Inventive, circular partnering brought Kylián to mind . . . .

An exquisite duet in blue, with wild lifts and sudden swirling falls, highlighted this beautifully crafted work. (October 2005).