Dancing Madame Butterfly at the Houston Ballet Once Again

Madame Butterfly, an earlier performance
Madame Butterfly, an earlier performance
Photo by Jim Caldwell

He discovered ballet after he accompanied a couple of friends to classes — their coach thought it would improve their baseball skills. 

She had the more traditional introduction — her parents brought her to see a performance of The Nutcracker and within a few years, she became Clara and then the Sugar Plum Fairy. 

However different their paths, both Ian Casady and Sara Webb ended up in the same place: Principal dancers with the Houston Ballet. And in the coming weeks they will reprise their lead roles in Madame Butterfly at the Wortham Theater. 

Madame Butterfly was the first full-length ballet that Stanton Welch choreographed, and he brought it with him from Australia when he came to the Houston Ballet to become its artistic director.

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Webb and Casady premiered Welch's production here in the early 2000s, have danced it several times since then, and now will be paired again in the revival scheduled to begin later this month.

Webb dances the role of Cio-Cio San, the geisha who falls in love with the American, Lieutenant Pinkerton. And Casady once again will delve through the nuances of Pinkerton, the man who betrays her.

“He's not exactly lovable, but there's more complexities to the character,” Casady says. “He's more than just being a bad guy.”

As for Webb, she says she wants to get across the incredible strength of Cio-Cio. “It is easier to sympathize with her. You have to be sure not to make her too weak.”

Both said they interpret their roles differently than when they first danced them.  "We were a lot younger in the company. It was at a time neither of us had children," Webb says. "Your interpretation changes as your own perspective changes," Casady agrees.

Subtracting the words from the wonderful music of the Puccini opera is more than made up for by the physicality of the dance, both also say.  The ballet will be paired with Welch's one-act ballet Son of Chamber Symphony.

Performances are scheduled for September 22 through October 2 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $25-$195.

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