Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stanton Welch on Elements

Christopher Coomer in Stanton Welch's Elements
photo by Pam Francis

September 18, 2009

Stanton Welch unveils his fifteenth work for Houston Ballet with Elements, set to Paul Hindemith’s symphony Mathis der Maler, as part of the mixed rep program, “Without Boundaries.” The piece features Connor Walsh as fire, Joseph Walsh as air, Christopher Coomer as earth, Ian Casady as water and Mireille Hassenboehler as the mother of the universe. Welch brings us into Elements.

Dance Source Houston: Which came first, the music or the idea?

Stanton Welch: They came simultaneously about 20 years ago. Sometimes you hear a piece of music and you know what you need to do. There were four sections and they sounded like the elements.

DSH: You let the idea cook for twenty years?

SW: Choreography was my hobby back when I was dancing. I'm revising some of my old ideas. Coming off of Marie, The Core, and The Four Seasons, I was ready to go in the opposite direction by creating a more minimalistic ballet.

DSH: What boundaries are you going without?

SW: All three pieces are minimalist, Jirí Kylián uses Steve Reich's “Drumming,” Twyla Tharp, the queen of that style, uses Phillip Glass. So we have three different choreographers all working in the same genre.

DSH: Talk about the lone female figure danced by Hassenboehler.

SW: She's the beginning of everything, the birth of the universe, who bears four sons, earth, air, fire and water.

DSH: Is there an environmental message?

SW: Not necessarily. I see it as a broader message. Only when these four work together will the world survive.

DSH: You are often inspired by the dancers in front of you. Was Connor Walsh looking fiery one day and it seemed time to do the piece?

SW: I knew I had a collection of dancers who would suit this ballet. I wanted people who are very different, but could work well in unison. Each of the sons/elements has their own personality.

DSH: Hassenboehler mentioned that the Earth needed help.

SW: Earth is the sad one, the earth's power is slower at revealing itself, it takes millions of years to get a Mount Everest.

DSH: Are you a mythology wonk?

SW: I was when I was young.

DSH: Thoughts on Houston Ballet's first go at Tharp?

SW: Here we go..... It's a big complex, dynamic and exhausting dance. Tharp is huge and it would be wrong of us as a major American arts institution if we didn't do her work. Once I saw the piece, I knew we needed to do it. The audience always goes bananas.

Houston Ballet presents “Without Boundaries” on September 24, 26 and October 2, 3, 2009 at 7:30 PM, and September 27 and October 4, 2009 at 2:00 PM Call 713-227-2787 or visit

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston.