Houston Ballet Brings Back Taming of the Shrew For its Season Finale

Dancers Connor Walsh and Melody Mennite
Dancers Connor Walsh and Melody Mennite
Photo by Amitava Sarkar

In keeping with its Shakespearean theme of this season, Houston Ballet is closing out with The Taming of the Shrew in all its politically incorrect – by modern day standards – glory. Complete with comedy,epic battles and splendid lifts, the production gives principals Connor Walsh and Melody Mennite the chance to reprise their roles from their 2011 Houston premiere of John Cranko's work.

Walsh dances the part of Petruchio, the man who drinks too much and is persuaded to marry Katherina, the so-called shrew, for money. “If you take Kate out of this play and put her in modern day society” Walsh says, “she’s actually just a modern day feminist, she's way ahead of her time. She's in a man's world and she's rejecting it. She lives at a time that she does not get to run her own life and she's rebelling against that. Which now we applaud. But she lived in a period where that was an outrageous idea.”

At the same time, he points out, Kate is really disagreeable when we first meet her. “She is quite awful in the beginning. The more awful she is, the less of a victim she is. It's more of her getting a taste of her own medicine.” Walsh thinks the point of the work is really about selflessness, especially when the two start to get along and are willing to do things for each other.

His own character goes through a progression as well, Walsh says. “It seems that he really does fall in love with Kate. He’s sort of doing these things for money and for love but in the end he also becomes very unselfish. He seems to be very happy with Kate. And less drunk.”

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“As dancers, we love revisiting a role when you start working on it you're skipping the process of learning the material, learning the technical aspects of the partnering with the difficult steps and turns. You have to work a little bit to get that back but you’re a step ahead and you can dive straight into interpretation,” says Walsh adding, “II'm using the same inspirations. I'm just trying to take it to another level trying to make our characters more cohesive and more believable.”

“It is a fantastic ballet. it’s in a lot of company’s repertoire. when we’re doing a Shakespeare themed season it’s a perfect way to finish. We're finishing the season on a high note it’s masterfully crafted in the way the story is told and the way the humor is delivered.”

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays. June 11- 21. at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas. Visit houstonballet.org or call 713-227-2787. $20-$165. 


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