We've had several magical experiences courtesy of Stanton Welch and the Houston Ballet. We count his Marie, Madam Butterfly, the recent La Bayadère and the current production of The Rite of Spring as some of the best performances we've had the pleasure to witness. Not just dance performances, mind you. Performances, period. We're convinced Welch can do just about anything, and like readers eagerly waiting for a new book from their favorite author, we're always anxious to see what he does next.
We don't doubt Welch has plenty of his own ideas for ballets, but we've got a wish list for new work we'd like to see him create, starting with Fantine, the story of the Les Misérables character played so perfectly for the 2012 movie by Anne Hathaway. The film was very much a vehicle for Hugh Jackman, and we didn't mind that, but we would have loved to seen more of Fantine's backstory. Hollywood wasn't going to add to the two-and-a-half hour film and let's face it, very, very few of us are going to dig through Victor Hugo's almost 1,500 page epic novel for bits of her story. Enter Welch and the Houston Ballet. Physically, Fantine was frail and strong at the same time, which sounds just like a ballerina to us. We'd love to see Fantine as a young woman in love, happy - for a time - with her lover and to see her with Cosette before being forced to leave the child with the wretched Thenardiers. What a wonderfully dramatic story arc, taking Fantine from a beautiful and happy young woman to a desperate, hopeless prostitute, all the while she's clinging to her virtue and hoping for a better life for her child. And what a death scene!
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Please, Stanton, give us Fantine.
There's another woman on our wish list - Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Her's is a tale of beauty and power, fear and hope, all the emotional elements of a great ballet. Those around her feared and respected her in equal measure as she worked to make voodoo acceptable to the larger community. Think of it, the wild celebrations on Congo Square, the glorious costumes, and at the center of it all a powerful woman who supposedly holds the power of life and death in her hands.
Our third suggestion for a new ballet by Stanton Welch is the story of the Niños Héroes (boy heroes) from the Mexican-American war . For those of you not up on your Mexican military history, the Niños Héroes were six teenage cadets who died defending Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle. The Mexican troops had been ordered to retreat, but the six boys refused and instead fought to the death. Legend is that the last cadet, not wanting the Mexican flag to fall to the enemy, wrapped himself in the flag and jumped to his death from the castle's roof. It's a story of courage and the bravado of youth, and would lend itself beautifully to being interpreted as a ballet. (We'd suggest female dancers in trouser roles as the six boys who ranged in age from 13 to 19.)
We'd also like to see a Welch interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing . The chance to contrast the witty battles between Benedick and Beatrice, and the innocent love of Claudio and Hero should be enticing enough for any choreographer, but there's also the the noble Don Pedro and his evil half-brother, the black-heart John, not to mention the bumbling Constable Dogberry. And Hero's fake wake processional along with the party scenes would give the corps de ballet plenty to do.