She was a queen, and she was a victim. She was a snob, and she was an object of ridicule. She was the stuff of legend and, it seems, perfect fodder for a full-length ballet. Marie, based on the life of French queen Marie Antoinette, isn’t the “Let them eat cake” version of the monarch. Instead, choreographer Stanton Welch focuses on the personal struggles of the woman who became a symbol of excess and debauchery. “In this ballet, you get to see a complete arc of [Marie’s] character, starting as a young girl,” Amy Fote, principal dancer for the Houston Ballet, tells us. “She goes from innocent to…well, we know the tragic ending.” Fote does double duty in this production, appearing as Madame du Barry, the King’s mistress, and also dancing as Marie Antoinette in some performances. (Melody Herrera also appears as Marie.)

According to Fote, working on Marie has been a wild emotional ride for everyone involved. Dancing the role of Marie is especially exhausting, both physically and emotionally. The story follows Marie from age 15 to 37, showing the extreme ups and downs of her personal life, including her loveless marriage and her strained relationship with a vicious royal court. One especially harrowing scene is the death of one of Marie’s confidants. “There’s something we call the rape scene,” says Fote. “It’s something we don’t like to watch in rehearsal. It’s quite full-on.” In the scene Marie’s friend is gang raped, then beheaded, after which her head is impaled on a stick and paraded outside Marie’s prison window. “She saw her friend’s head on a stick. That makes my stomach roll, turn inside out.” 7:30 p.m. February 24 and 26, March 4 and 5; 2 p.m. February 27 and March 6. Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit $18 to $168.
Fridays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 25. Continues through March 6, 2011

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Olivia Flores Alvarez