Okay, there’s a Chinese dragon, some of the names are a little different and Aladdin himself is Chinese, but other than that, the ballet Aladdin that the Houston Ballet has planned tracks along the same lines as the story most people came to know growing up, said Connor Walsh, principal dancer for the company, who’ll be sharing the title role with Joseph Walsh and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama.

“Aladdin being a poor boy who steals food and is always getting into trouble ends up meeting this guy who asks him to go into the cave to get the lamp, and then he gets the lamp and there’s a genie.”

As Walsh prepared to play the character who will keep him onstage for almost all the three acts of this full-length story ballet, he said he looked forward to the challenge. “It’s really great for a dancer to have that much time onstage. The less time we spend in the wings, the more honest the character feels and the story feels to us as performers.”

Walsh said the ballet was originally choreographed by the National Ballet of Japan, but added that their production “wasn’t very tour-friendly, meaning the size of the production and the way they made the sets, so we did a co-production of a new set with Birmingham Royal Ballet.”

They’ve brought along British choreographer David Bintley, who put his special touch on this American premiere. Walsh said he felt honored to play the title role, not least because “Aladdin is a movie especially of my generation, a lot of people’s favorite Disney movie,” although, he added, this production is not the Disney cartoon come to life.

“It’s completely different music, and all of the characters have slightly different personalities.” Houston Ballet will take Aladdin to Chicago shortly after it finishes performances here, and Walsh said they expect to do a lot of touring with this show.

7:30 p.m. February 20, 22, 28 and March 1, 2 p.m. February 22, 23, March 1 and 2 at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit $60 to $160.
Thu., Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 22, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 23, 2 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., March 1, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 2, 2 p.m., 2014

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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