|Houston Ballet's Centre for Dance|
Author Marshall Strabala
Licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
Although I sympathize with everybody in the USA who has been bereaved, injured, displaced, inconvenienced or in any way affected adversely by Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding, I have a particular concern for Houston Ballet, its dancers and other staff. There are two reasons for my concern: the first is that this is an important company with close links to this country through its former artistic director Ben Stevenson; and, secondly, one of my favourite young dancers, Emilie Tassinari, has recently joined the company's corps de ballet.
The pictures and press reports from Houston are horrendous. According to the Houston Press, Houston's theatre district had taken a serious hit from the hurricane (see Natalie de la Garza Houston's Theater District Takes Serious Hit From Harvey 29 Aug 2017 Houston Press). One of the photos to Ms de la Garza's report shows flood waters lapping the walls of the company's studios. I see from the company's website that the company suffered a power outage and water damage and that its offices will be closed until after Labour Day which is a public holiday that falls on the first Monday of September and that it has had to cancel its opening performances of Poetry in Motion that was scheduled to start the new ballet season (see Hurricane Update, a message from Jim Nelson and Staunton Welch).
Although we have been spared weather as intemperate as Hurricane Harvey, we in Yorkshire know the damage that water can do to a ballet company's costumes and properties. On 26 Dec 2015, the River Aire burst its banks and flooded the warehouse where our regional ballet company, Northern Ballet, stored many of its sets and costumes (see Northern Ballet's press release Flood Update 21 Jan 2016). Northern Ballet is a company to which I am particularly close as it was formed in Manchester, my home town, and is now based in Leeds which is my nearest big city. I have followed its productions for many years and support both the company and the academy (of which I am an adult ballet student) financially. Many of the productions were salvaged but some were lost, including Peter Pan which I enjoyed very much (see Not too sure about Fairies but I certainly believe in Rachael Gillespie 21 Dec 2014).
Happily, Messrs Nelson and Welch have reported that the dancers, artists, and staff are safe, although many have been displaced and otherwise affected by this terrible storm. I was in touch with Emilie through Facebook on Sunday morning. She replied that her district was unaffected and that she was safe and well. She responded very quickly indicating that she still had electricity and access to the internet. I wondered whether that was still the case but I am very glad to report that she marked herself safe on Facebook 21 minutes ago.
Northern Ballet recovered from the flood and is now as strong as ever. This year it will have created three new ballets including Kenneth Tindall's excellent Casanova (see Casanova - "it has been a long time since I enjoyed a show by Northern Ballet as much as I enjoyed Casanova last night" 12 March 2017). I am sure Houston Ballet will do the same. They will probably need a little bit of extra help from ballet fans around the world. If you want to lend them a hand they have a donations page though it is not open yet. I am sure it will be very soon.