OK there's a dragon, some of the names are a little different and Aladdin is Chinese but other than that, the ballet Aladdinthat the Houston Ballet has planned tracks along the same lines as the story most people came to know growing up, says Connor Walsh, principal dancer for the Houston Ballet, who'll be performing the title role.
"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 prepares to play the character who will keep him on stage for almost all the three acts of this full-length story ballet, he says he looked forward to the challenge. "It's really great for a dancer to have that much time on stage. The less time we spend in the wings the more honest the character feels and the story feels to us as performers."
Walsh says the ballet was originally choreographed by the National Ballet of Japan but 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 English choreographer David Bintley who put his special touch on what will be this American premiere. Walsh says he felt honored to play the title role not the least because "Aladdin is a movie especially of my generation, a lot of people's favorite Disney movie," although, he adds, this production is not the Disney cartoon come to life.
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"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.
And here's some backstage info about Walsh and the other ballet dancers: There's a big soccer fan contingent among Houston Ballet's dancers. Walsh is a fan of Chelsea, a British soccer club. "I try not to miss a game. There's a lot of soccer fans at work. We try not to share the scores until after work because the games usually happen while we're at work."
"We're an international group. One reason a few of us got into soccer is because we had two guys from Liverpool who were in the company. They were obviously big Liverpool football club fans. So that sort of had an effect. One of our coaches is from Estonia, another guy's from Japan. So we all sort of feed off of each other. "
Performances of Aladdin are scheduled for February 20 to March 2 at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For information call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $60-$160.