With music by Benjamin Britten and choreographed by Houston Ballet's Artistic Director Stanton Welch, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is one of those pieces both illuminating and just plain fun to experience.
Now, student dancers in the Houston Ballet Academy will have a chance to show how they negotiate it as part of their Spring Showcase which this year will feature four Stanton Welch creations, said to be the most in any Spring Showcase.
Simon Ball, principal dancer with the Houston Ballet, was put in charge of setting the orchestra guide piece which involves 29 dancers. "There are five lines of people dancing at the same time, doing completely different things, all to the same music," he says, adding that although he danced the Viola role in the professional performance in 2014, he checked out the videotape over and over again to make sure he was getting everyone where they should be, noting that Welch is known for his preciseness.
"It's a really neat piece because you have not only the dancing going on but the narration going through each section - woodwinds, strings, brass and percussion so as a n audience member you get to not only see the movement depicted but have the orchestra broken down. Especially for young audiences, when it's dissected and deconstructed for you and then it comes back together at the end you really appreciate what goes into the dance, the music and the sensory experience."
As for the dancers ranging in age from 13-18, Ball says he worked with them to master the technical parts, to work together as a company, to make things look as smooth as possible, but not to try so hard to emulate the professional company that they looked beyond their years and appear unrealistic.
"These are very talented students. Most of them are taking themselves very, very seriously," Ball says. "It's the same steps, the same musicality but I want for them to be a little more joyous a little more innocent and a little more true to their age. As an audience member you have to understand they're doing what's appropriate."
Besides the opportunity to perform before audiences at the Wortham, the student dancers get a good education in "what makes a good dancer a usable dancer, what company life is," Ball says. "You work as a corp and also have your solo moments. That's what makes you so valuable -- to be reliable, know your material learn quickly ,be clear when you do perform that'll get you the job. After that it's up to you."
Performances of the Spring Showcase are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday April 24 and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25 at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas, For information call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $41-$51.