Dance

Houston Ballet Packs its Toe Shoes for New York City

Soloist Tyler Donatelli (center) with soloist Bridget Kuhns and artists of the Houston Bellet in Justin Peck's Reflections.
Soloist Tyler Donatelli (center) with soloist Bridget Kuhns and artists of the Houston Bellet in Justin Peck's Reflections. Photo by Amitava Sarkar/ Courtesy of the Houston Ballet

Houston ballet dancers are heading to New York City this week to perform a contemporary program at the New York City Center as part of the Houston company's 50th Anniversary celebrations.

From October 24-26, the country's fifth largest ballet company will be performing The Letter V by Mark Morris, Reflections by Justin Peck and Come in by Aszure Barton — "originally created in 2006 for Mikhail Baryshnikov and 12 young men as part of his Hell's Kitchen Dance project," according to the Houston Ballet.

Soloist Tyler Donatelli is one of the dancers making the trip. Although the company will be presenting the New York premiere of the Houston Ballet-commissioned The Letter V and Reflections — both of which she's danced before — she says the New York audience is well acquainted with works by these choreographers.

And, she says, the ballets being performed will show off the wide range of styles of the Houston Ballet dancers. "And they're all group pieces so you can see the camaraderie that the company has and all of the energy that we like to put out.

"Reflections is Justin Peck’s piece and it’s a classic Justin Peck ballet with lots of neo classical moments. It’s a lot of fun," she says. "You can put the classical technique with the style of his work and then try to mold something into your own to make it look fun."

Asked if it was difficult to learn, Donatelli says: "No, we actually learned the whole ballet in about a week and a half. He had his ideas ready to go."

She performed Morris' The Letter V when she was an apprentice, says Donatelli who joined the corps in 2014 and was promoted to soloist in 2017. "His style is not to overdo anything and to keep it simple and to the point. It's kind of an opposite from Justin Peck's work going to the extreme. Mark Morris is a little bit more reserved, but I like working on that that too; showing two different sides of my dancing. "

Her mother put Donatelli in dance when she was just three years old and initially she was taking jazz dance classes as well. But she dropped that, deciding to concentrate on ballet. "I liked the challenge of working on something to make it better and I just found enjoyment in improving."

This is the company's largest engagement in New York since 2013 and their first at City Center since 1986.

Performances are scheduled for October 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday  at the New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street. For information, call 212-581-1212 or  visit MYCityCenter.org. $35 and up.

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