What he does: It seems Australian choreographer Stanton Welch has been on the fast track from the very beginning. He started formal training in 1986 at age 17, joined the Australian Ballet in 1989 and was given his first choreographic commission just a year later. He created his first work for the Houston Ballet in 1999 (Indigo) and joined the company as Artistic Director in 2003. Over the last 11 years, he's created more than 30 works for HB, including the landmark Marie.
Welch sees his dual roles as Artistic Director and resident choreographer for the Houston Ballet as complementary. "My objective here is to give Houston the ability to see a great variety of the greatest ballets and dances I can find, from the most contemporary to the most classical," he tells Art Attack.
He considers his work with the company's dancers among his most important -- and rewarding -- tasks. "It's my job to keep them energized and keep them wanting to be here. What I love is to be able to have these dancers who have been working here...to help them see through their entire career. That's exciting. That to me is like parenting. You feel like you get to shape and form someone's experience in this art form, both for dancers and audiences."
While Stanton is accomplished both as a dancer and a choreographer, he feels he's still in his infancy as an artist. "I feel like I'm at the beginning. I really do. I think it's a dancer thing -- you're trained at a very young age to never feel "there." You're always in a state of wanting it to be better; your body can always make a better line, you can always do another turn, your balance can always be longer. There's a sort of mentality of perfection, but perfection is kept in front of you like a carrot on a string."
Why he likes it: "I think the arts are important," he says. "We are in this really special job where we get to do what we love for people who love it. It's like everything I wanted as a kid has just continued. I get to play games, to make up ballets. I get to do what I love, and sadly, not many people get to do that."
What inspires him: Welch says much of his inspiration comes from everyday interactions and situations. "Life stuff inspires me. Sitting in an airport and watching two people say goodbye and how different one goodbye is from another and what's the story behind that, what does that mean.
"It's also got very much to do with the city; Houston is a very good city for the arts. There's a lot of support...I love that this city is raw and not intimidated by something new. Also, it's not arrogant enough that it discards anything that's not what it's had. There's a trustingness and a sense of adventure here. That's not the case when you travel to London or New York or Paris, or an older city where the history of what they were almost weighs down what they could be. Here, it's all about what we're going to be and what we can be. That's inspiring, especially for artists."
If not this, then what: Welch admits to having worked in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant as a youth, but says the fast food industry never really appealed to him. "I'd like to think that I'd have written plays or movies, being a screenwriter or something like that if I wasn't in dance. But if I have to leave the arts, I think I'd like to be outside. I love nature and animals. Maybe I'd work at a national park, but apparently that's a very hard job to get."
If not here, then where: Welch traveled with his family a great deal while growing up; his parents were both well-known dancers in Australia. But of all the places he's been, none seems to call out to him. "I learned from a very young age, that wherever I lay my hat is my home. I've always been like that. I loved living in Ohio, I loved living in San Francisco, I love living in New York. I think it would be in America or Canada or Australia. There's something about those countries that makes me feel inspired, but I don't have a special city."
What's next: "Next I have a new ballet, Trapestry, that we open...in February. And of course, we've got [the Houston Ballet's Executive Director Cecil C. Conner Jr's farewell gala coming up and that's very exciting.
For more information about the Houston Ballet and its upcoming performances, visit www.houstonballet.org or call 713-227-2787.
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