Calling on more than 60 dancers and crew members, visiting 19 iconic spots across the Houston area, Houston Ballet has put together Restoration, a world premiere choreographed by Artistic Director Stanton Welch to the song "Black Lung" by The Dead South.
Due to be released on November 10, the video was filmed at sites ranging from the Hermann Park Pond, to Discovery Green, Minute Maid Field to the Galveston beach.
"Everybody in the company was involved in the filming," said Soloist Hayden Stark by phone. Two separate groups were established and he was happy to be in the first group to get back into the studio. He was able to get in two live rehearsals but the rest on his own with the aid of lessons virtually.
As far as the actual recording of the performance, it helped, he said, that the dancers were already accustomed to being filmed during rehearsals.
"We use studio filming for archival purposes and if we need to go back to how things were originally choreographed," Stark said. "Using film in the studios is something that we are used to but this definitely was a lot more intricate and detailed with the angles and everything that we're putting into it." Adding to that were all the new safety measures and protocols they had to follow, he said.
"The biggest shot that we have is everyone in the company in this like pretty amazing field. All of us are like eight to ten feet apart. It's like the entire company en masse."
Not all dancers went to each site. Stark's participation called for him to perform at eight locations. Not having an audience meant some of the energy dancers usually draw on for performances was missing, he said. "A lot of the dancers we are comfortable in front of the camera. It’s you and the director and it's like 'OK that’s a wrap' instead of applause or an encore."
As far as costumes went, dancers were just told to wear something they'd feel comfortable and confident dancing in as long as there were no logos, images or brand names on the clothing, Stark said. He described the dancing that accompanies the "catchy and addicting" sound of the music as "much more contemporary than it is ballet."
Footing was occasionally a problem. "We're on cement in sneakers versus our usual marley-sprung floor and a point shoe or ballet shoe. So the only challenge that was a little bit different was once we got on site, we had to just doublecheck that the floor or whatever we were dancing on that day was safe.
"There was one shoot we had to delay because it was raining and we were on a wooden pier. Rain on a pier, that's a slippery nightmare."
There was no couples dancing with the exception of people who already live together, Stark said. Houston Ballet has been working very closely with Houston Methodist to follow best health practices, he said. "I actually feel very safe going back into the studio with the expectation of responsibility that Houston Methodist and the company has been asking of every dancer. I'm more scared going to the grocery store."
"What I’m hoping people will get out of it is the idea that Houston Ballet is still very much alive and we’ve still being creative in this difficult time. We would love to be putting on shows as quickly as possible, but the last thing we want to do is put anybody at risk. We want people to still have a connection to Houston Ballet and to the arts in general.
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