Houston Ballet’s Melody Mennite Takes Us Inside the Epic World Premiere of “Floreciente”

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There’s one word to describe Melody Mennite’s latest world premiere for Houston Ballet: epic.

‘Floreciente’, which means to flourish or flourish, isn’t the dance veteran’s first choreographic endeavor in 20 years, though it’s her most ambitious work to date — and maybe right. , a personal record. The piece, which is part of the “Originals” program, is thrilling, intelligent and breathtaking. It’s the kind of ballet that even non-classical dance obsessives can not only appreciate, but appreciate.

The cast of “Floreciente” includes eight men and eight women. The music is made up of live and recorded selections from composers René Aubry, Ezio Bosso and Max Richter. You’ll want to hit the “replay” button the moment the stage fades to black.

Mennite knows that this work is a crowning achievement. It also serves as a stepping stone to a major goal on his career bucket list. Here she takes us into the world of “Floreciente” – triumphs, challenges and all.

Q: Congratulations on 20 years with Houston Ballet. When did you start choreographing?

A: I started choreographing when I was really, really young – when I was 14 years old. I was telling this story to my husband last week, which I remember as the first thing I ever choreographed and showed my dance team coach when I was four. About 10 years ago, when Stanton (Welch) started choreography workshops at the Black Box Theater, I took over choreography. Since then, I have been constantly creating works, here in town, for other professional companies and for the cinema. In terms of actual ballets, this would be my 11th.

Q: What is the difference between your previous work and “Floreciente”, which seems particularly grandiose?

“Originals”, with “Floreciente”

When: until June 12

Where: Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas

Details: $25 and more; www.houstonballet.org, 713-227-2787


A: This production is much, much larger. I have a diverse collection of work now, but I haven’t done a full ballet. It is a step in that direction. It’s an itch and a bucket list item. Stanton said, “You have a one-act ballet. Get the lighting you want, get the designer you want.” So it’s bigger than anything I’ve done before.”

Q: What was your main inspiration for this piece, if any?

A: This commission stayed in my head for three years. I feel like in a way, it’s kind of stuffed because of that, because I sat with that idea and that inspiration for so long. In that original commission, what was in my heart and mind was my own connection to nature. I’m from northern California where there are redwoods and the ocean all around. I am challenged in Texas to find myself in nature where I can rest and feel at peace. I was curious if people had similar links to missing the natural world; it made me want to explore the concept and the seed was planted. The play grew from there.

Q: What do you mean when you say “stuffed”?

A: So many things have happened to us as a species. Technology, industrialization… which created a cycle of chaos. How to become alive again in nature and find this harmony?

Q: What kind of themes and storytelling devices did you use with “Floreciente”?

A: It’s more conceptual and symbolic than a deliberate script. The themes would be the strength and joy that is (found) in connection and harmony when we can find those spaces. These natural ebbs and flows – connections and loss became a theme as I wrote the piece. I wanted to create a universe and an atmosphere that would make you travel. This arch resonates with people.

Q: How was your process? Where to start ?

A: Well, I got to meet Olga (Saldivar, costume designer and set designer.) I love her work – it has come and gone from my life by chance over the past 15 years. Now I’m a fan girl. I contacted her first to ask her if she wanted to go on this wild ride with me. We have similar ways of talking about creative processes. Basically we sat and listened to the music and I told him what was in my brain – this track came first. Then we gave life to these representations of the feeling of the work.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge?

A: Working with projections was by far the biggest challenge for me. Everything is hand painted by her. These scalable animations bloom for the piece. I have never seen a ballet that worked with this level of projections. I had no idea in my head how to manage the timing and the lighting so that the dancers didn’t get swallowed up.

Q: What was your favorite part of working on “Floreciente?”

A: I have quite a few favorite moments, but I’m touched and most grateful for all the time and work put into the projection and animation. To see how well the work supported the environment I was trying to create; I really felt like they had become secondary characters. And I wouldn’t have known, until I was on stage, that this would be the case. I am also very proud of the vulnerability and authenticity both groups of dancers have shown through injury and illness. Each person showed up every day with their authentic self. And that made me proud.

Q: And what do you hope audiences take away from the play?

A: Curiosity. I really hope that people can be curious to know what they felt or what touched them or what marked them. Even if the thread is not clear. I want to make art that touches people and makes them feel something after they leave the theatre.

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