Houston Ballet's Stanton Welch Choreographs Dances to the Music of The Dead South

Houston Ballet Corps de Ballet dancer Gretel Batista in Stanton Welch’s In Good Company
Houston Ballet Corps de Ballet dancer Gretel Batista in Stanton Welch’s In Good Company Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2021), Courtesy of Houston Ballet
Beginning this Wednesday, Houston Ballet will start unveiling a series of filmed dances choreographed by Artistic Director Stanton Welch to music by the Canadian folk-bluegrass group The Dead South.               

Corps de Ballet dancer Gretel Batista is in five of the 11 songs in the program entitled In Good Company  — her favorite is the group's "Honey You."  "A lot of them are looking into the camera and more like 'fear,' a grand look, very intense. In "Honey You" it started like that, very intense,  but then you got to be yourself and relax and smile, which was nice to have."

The dancers' outfits were inspired by the singular black and white look The Dead South presents in its recordings. "Very simple," she says.

Batista was born in Cuba and began taking dance lessons at the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana when she was 3 years old. She continued there all the way until she was 12 and she and her family moved to the United States in 2013 where she continued her studies in Florida. Despite her mother's dreams of her becoming a flamenco dancer, Batista says that from a young age it was ballet that interested her.

In 2019 she sent a video to Houston Ballet, was invited to company auditions and was offered a contract.  She is in her second season here now. Like other dancers who've made the transition to filming instead of live performance during the pandemic, Batista says she has learned to perform differently.

"Filming is definitely very different from a live performance. In the filming you look into the camera, past the camera as if you were talking to someone. It's very natural, very subtle. For live performance you have to act more and all the gestures are much bigger and you have to look up and higher, trying to reach every single person from the front row to the very top balcony."

Audiences will find this production very relatable, she says. "It's very emotional and everthing they may be experiencing at this moment they can go on this journey with us"

The 11 songs from The Death South’s album “Good Company” that will be performed by Houston Ballet:

“Ballad for Janoski”
“Banjo Odyssey”
“Down That Road”
“Honey You”
“In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company”
“Long Gone”
“Manly Way”
“That Bastard Son”
“The Dead South”
“The Recap”

In Good Company, generously underwritten by Leticia Loya, begins Wednesday, March 10 with a new video released every week. The videos will be premiered for free on Houston Ballet's social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.
Contact: Margaret Downing