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Houston Ballet Concludes Emotional First In Person Performance In More Than A Year


The Houston Ballet recently performed in person for the first time in over a year. Free tickets had run out within minutes online. And at that Friday night show at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, the hill overlooking the stage was also filled with people. They picnicked in the warm weather while watching the dancers. Reporter Catherine Lu of Houston Public Media was also there.

CATHERINE LU, BYLINE: Ballet dancer Allison Miller didn't expect to get teary-eyed on the way there.

ALLISON MILLER: I actually got a bit emotional driving up to the theater for the first time, which sort of caught me off guard.

LU: She started off a bit anxious.

MILLER: You know, as a dancer in the studio, you have all these things going through your head. Am I going to slip and fall on stage? Can I get through it anymore? It's been 14 months since we had a performance. And then driving up to the theater and seeing everybody just getting together - it was like, that doesn't matter. Nobody cares if I make a mistake. It's about being up there and the connection with the audience again.


LU: It was a return to live dance but with key differences - prerecorded music, COVID testing throughout the week and masks backstage.

MILLER: You know, that moment right before your music starts, and they say, OK, we'll take your mask now is just so exciting.


MILLER: And then you get to go on stage and do your thing. And the audience was so there with us. It was just wonderful.

LU: Miller performed a duet called "Flower Festival" by choreographer August Bournonville on a program that included only solos and duets and some dance films. It also featured only 10 dancers from the 61-member company. Sherry Cheng was in the audience that night.

SHERRY CHENG: Every leap, every turn, every single element they executed - just the heart of it is what's so wonderful.

LU: For Cheng, the joy on stage was palpable.

CHENG: You know, they were just being cheered on the whole night. It wasn't just clapping. It was, like, literally whooping and hollering. And I actually loved doing that.


LU: After a year defined by isolation, Cheng says she was moved by the sight of bodies touching, lifting and embracing each other in dance. For NPR News, I'm Catherine Lu in Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Catherine Lu