To him, choosing the repertoire of a ballet company in the US is exactly that: a strategic decision. The artistic director of the Houston Ballet talks about his love for both classical ballet and contemporary style, his challenges as a choreographer and his future projects, including a new big classic to restage.

Stanton Welch with artists of Houston Ballet during rehearsal of ‘Cinderella’ © Amitava Sarkar

His voice sounds serious and its tone very professional. His pauses before answering a question are almost imperceptibly longer than usual. It looks as if Stanton Welch wants to put a distance between us, at the outset but the more we talk the more I understand I am wrong. His answers get longer and longer, and we end up laughing quite a lot during our conversation. Interviewing him is as fun as it is interesting, he talks decisively and likes to share his ideas.
Born in Melbourne, he was accepted in 1989 into the Australian Ballet, where he rose to the rank of Leading soloist: expressing at the same time a growing interest in choreography. He was soon named resident choreographer of the Australian Ballet and started to create several commissioned works developing his diverse choreographic style.
Fourteen years ago, they called him to Houston, Texas, where he was appointed artistic director of the Houston Ballet, assuming the leadership of America's fourth largest ballet company.

What do you like to reminisce most about your dancing career and your years in Australia?

I loved performing. I loved becoming a character, being someone else. While on stage I really felt I was not myself. It was a thrill to become Des Grieux in MacMillan’s “Manon” or Lensky in Cranko’s “Onegin”. But it was very fulfilling dancing Jiří Kylián and Nacho Duato creations as well – it was such an inspiration being a part of their ballets! I have always loved working, being on stage or in a studio to rehearse… as I loved morning class too. Though I must say I don’t miss it now, nor do I regret it. I am full of fantastic memories and all those experiences made me the man and the director I am today.

Stanton Welch with Students of Houston Ballet Academy © Amitava Sarkar

As a company director, what is the most important lesson that dancing has taught you?

Every experience I made as a dancer was important. Getting to know how a company life runs and evolves. But I have to say that several meetings with some masters of choreography had a great influence on me – Balanchine, Kylián, Robbins… That’s why I wanted their works to enter the repertoire of the Houston Ballet.

Stanton Welch with Artists of Houston Ballet on the set of his ‘The Nutcracker’ © Amitava Sarkar

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Interview by Alessandro Bizzotto



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