Houston Ballet Opens its Season With Crowd Pleaser Manon

Aaron Robison and artists of Houston Ballet in Etudes
Aaron Robison and artists of Houston Ballet in Etudes
Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy of Houston Ballet

She is a beautiful young woman on her way to a convent in 18th Century Paris when she meets an impoverished student in a park and love ensues while they dance their way into each others hearts.

Alas, any hopes of a happy-ever-after are soon dashed when she is prevailed upon to ditch the student who wants to marry her, in favor of becoming the mistress of an extremely wealthy man.

The classic ballet Manon, choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, who had been artistic director of the Royal Ballet, will open the 2015-16 season for the Houston Ballet. And Aaron Robison who was promoted to first soloist this year, will be one of the company members dancing the role of student and poet Des Grieux.

While he is especially thrilled to be making his debut with this role, (“I'm from the Royal Ballet School and it's a ballet that's been on my wish list”) it presents some challenges. “He's almost kind of a wimpy kind of soft guy,” Robison says. “Naturally my physique, I'm very tall, I'm a quite big, muscly guy. I need to make myself look more vulnerable looking. I have to change my natural posture to do this type of role.”

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By the time Manon has been disgraced and sentenced to a Louisiana prison, Des Grieux has undergone several changes of his own. “By the end of the ballet he's murdered people and cheated at poker games. It's very challenging and also very exciting.”

Look to Act II for some light-hearted moments, but realize that although Manon and Des Grieux are reconciled at the end, the reunion isn't long or happy. Known for its beautiful costumes and music as well as its several dramatic pas de deux especially the final swan pas de deux , MacMillan's version of Manon has been performed successfully all over the world and now Houston Ballet has brought it back for six performances.

Performances are scheduled for September 10-20 at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Saturdays and Friday and 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $20-$168.

By the way, Robison is also a model for So Danca so we'd thought we'd share this video of him in action.

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