Tonight, Houston Ballet performs Rooster, Associate Choreographer Christopher Bruce's dance interpretations of eight Rolling Stones songs including "Little Red Rooster," "Paint It Black" and "Sympathy for the Devil." If that sounds a little lowbrow for the ballet, the program also includes two works by the company's Artistic Director, Stanton Welch: Divergence, which uses the music of Georges Bizet, and Tapestry, an adaptation of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5.
Rooster draws heavily from Stones front man Mick Jagger's cock-like dance moves, which some have compared to ballet itself over the years; Bruce has said the ballet is based on the "sexual war" he witnessed as a young man in the 1960s. Rooster premiered in Geneva in 1991, so choreographers using pop and rock music in ballet is nothing new. But it's still pretty unusual, so Rocks Off started thinking about other bands whose music would work on the ballet stage as well as Rooster has.
Our first thought was Radiohead, just because we saw them last weekend and they're an "arty" sort of band. We can imagine some Radiohead fans having Houston Ballet subscriptions. Then we realized Radiohead uses such complicated meters in some of its music that most companies would stage a mutiny against the choreographer. These others make a little bit more sense.
5. The Cure: Unless you're Mick Jagger and can strut your way to ballet credibility, it seems to us that the best kind of band to choreograph would be gloomy and abstract, lush and slower than a crawl. Something you can really challenge the lighting director with. Then hit the audience with short bursts of sunny uptempo pop like "In Between Days" and "Just Like Heaven" when their minds start to wander. Just, please, nothing from The Top.
4. The White Stripes: Visuals are a crucial part of a successful ballet, and the White Stripes' color scheme of red, white and black seems like a perfect fit. Some of the best ballets ever made are based on fairy tales (Cinderella, The Nutcracker), and Jack and Meg's music has that same kind of childlike innocence with a distinct edge of darkness. Finally, it would be really fun to watch a bunch of dancers practice their headbanging skills to "Black Math" and "Fell In Love With a Girl."
3. Pink Floyd: Pink Floyd/Roger Waters has already written one opera and another album that might as well be one (Dark Side of the Moon), so translating Floyd's musical mind games to the ballet stage doesn't seem like much of a stretch at all. As a matter of fact, the Eugene Ballet Company in Oregon has already tried this. "This one seemed almost low-key due to its lack of lasers," one reviewer wrote.
2. Prince: This one should be easy. Prince's music offers the opportunity for show-stopping stage props ("Little Red Corvette"), moves as steamy as the choreographer can make them ("Kiss"), a tender pas de deux ("The Most Beautiful Girl In the World") and a burn-down-the-house finale ("Let's Go Crazy"). It's really just a matter of getting the order right.
1. KISS: Again, the costumes, the makeup, the potential for big production numbers for "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Detroit Rock City" and "Love Gun." But more importantly, KISS fans have shown that they will lick up absolutely anything and everything with the band's name plastered on it, so why not a ballet?
7:30 p.m. tonight, Saturday, March 16 & 17; 2 p.m. Sunday & March 18, at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas, www.houstonballet.org.
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