Stanton Welch, Artistic Director
Talented Young Dancers are Showcased in Featured Roles
In 30 Performances of Holiday Favorite
Amy Fote, Melody Herrera and Bridgett Zehr Debut as Sugar Plum Fairy
Michelle Carpenter and Erin Patak Make First Appearances as Snow Queen
Ricardo Torres and Connor Walsh Debut as Nutcracker Prince
Houston, TX – Through December 26, 2005 Houston Ballet will bring Texas its most joyous holiday gift, Ben Stevenson’s breathtaking production of The Nutcracker. The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She encounters the frightful rat king before embarking on a journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will be dazzled by the production’s many special effects, including the Christmas tree, that “grows” to forty feet, 200 pounds of “snow” falling during the snow scene, and the firing of a cannon on stage. Houston Ballet will give 30 performances of The Nutcracker in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or logging on to www.houstonballet.org.
Houston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker has been hailed by the Houston Chronicle as “the crown jewel of holiday entertainment.” Lee Williams of the Houston Press called last year’s production “Gorgeous…Desmond Heeley’s set and costumes are reason enough to see this show. The Nutcracker reminds us that the holidays have always been a time for dreams, and with productions as yummy as this, sleeping never seemed so sweet.” (December 16, 2004)
Houston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker showcases the great depth and range of the company, from the young apprentices to the principal dancers. The Nutcracker is a time when promising young dancers are given a chance to shine. This year’s casts are particularly notable for the number of young artists making their first significant role debuts. More than half of the role debuts this year will be made by members of the corps de ballet. Of special note are the following dancers: Bridgett Zehr, who will debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy; Erin Patak and Michelle Carpenter, who will perform the Snow Queen for the first time; and Connor Walsh, who will debut as the Nutcracker Prince.
Numerous other members of Houston Ballet’s next generation of talented artists will also perform principal roles in this season’s production of The Nutcracker. Dancers appearing as the Snow Queen include: Jaquel Andrews, Bridgett Zehr, and Nao Kusuzaki. Corps artists dancing the Lead Flower are Jaquel Andrews, Michelle Carpenter, Clare Miklaunus, Erin Patak, Carl Coomer, Christopher Coomer, Alexander Pandiscio and Connor Walsh. Nao Kusuzaki, Laura Richards, Cleopatra Williams, Bridgett Zehr, Robert Arold, Carl Coomer, Christopher Coomer, and James Gotesky will perform the Arabian pas de deux.
Houston Ballet has received critical acclaim for the strength and technique of all of its dancers, and the corps de ballet, who are the backbone of the company. Paul Horsley, reviewing Houston Ballet for The Kansas City Star during the company’s recent tour of the Midwestern United States, noted “Houston Ballet showed a high level of dancing and a ‘deep bench’ when it came to principals and soloists.” (October 13, 2005). Sarah Bryan Miller of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, “Welch’s troupe is notable for an almost uniformly strong technique.” (October 16, 2005) Reviewing Houston Ballet’s performance of Giselle for The Dallas Morning News, Christie Taylor said, “Throughout the ballet, the corps provided finely tuned support.”(June 14, 2005)
Dancers: Simon Ball and Mireille Hassenboehler in the Waltz of the Flowers. Photo by Jim Caldwell.
This season’s production of The Nutcracker will feature nine distinct casts which rotate in 32 different combinations. There are eight Sugar Plum Fairies, nine Snow Queens, eighteen snowflakes, eighteen party children, and 16 clowns who burst out from beneath Mother Ginger’s skirts. The production also includes more than 70 students from Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, who range in age from 10 to 19. Students in the upper levels of the academy and Houston Ballet II, the school’s pre-professional division, will appear as mice, soldiers, flowers, and snowflakes.
The opening night cast for Friday, November 25, 2005 includes Houston Ballet First Soloist Amy Fote as the Sugar Plum Fairy, partnered by principal dancer Zdenek Konvalina as the Nutcracker Prince. Ms. Fote, a new member of the company, was recently featured in the lead female role of Tatiana in the company’s September performances of Onegin. This will be her first appearance in Houston as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Corps de ballet member Jaquel Andrews will dance the role of the Snow Queen.
Additional role debuts for this year’s production of The Nutcracker include soloist Melody Herrera, who will be making her first appearance as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and demi soloist Ricardo Torres, who will debut as the Nutcracker Prince.
A wonderful ballet for the entire family, The Nutcracker is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season and to introduce young children to the power and beauty of classical dance. For over one hundred years, the story of the ballet has proven irresistible to both children and adults alike. Set in nineteenth-century Germany, the ballet opens at a Christmas party at which the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer gives his little niece Clara a magical toy that takes her on an unforgettable journey. From the battle scene between the rat king and the nutcracker in the first act to the cooks who fly magically through the air in the second act, The Nutcracker is sure to enchant audiences of all ages.
Tickets are available at a discount for select performances of The Nutcracker: patrons can save up to $9 off the regular price when purchasing tickets for these shows, including evening performances on Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26; Friday, December 9; December 15, 16, 19, 20, and 26. Matinee performances will also offer the discounted tickets on the following dates: Saturday, November 26 and Sunday, November 27; and Tuesday, December 20.
The Story of The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll. One Christmas Eve, the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives at the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas party and presents Clara with a special gift: a wooden nutcracker. After the party, as the clock strikes midnight, Clara awakens to find the room filled with giant mice. The nutcracker comes to her rescue and a fierce battle ensues as the nutcracker leads the toy soldiers against the mice and their leader, King Rat. The nutcracker overcomes King Rat, and then is transformed into a handsome prince who takes Clara on a magical journey.
To the delight of Clara and the audience, the evening is filled with dance. The Snow Queen leads eighteen snowflakes in a brilliant waltz in the Land of Snow, where the trees are laden with icicles. Then the Nutcracker Prince takes Clara on a boat ride across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Sugar Plum Fairy treats Clara to sweets and entertainment provided by the inhabitants of the kingdom: chocolate, a Spanish dance; coffee, an Arabian dance; and tea, a Chinese dance. Next comes the comical Madame Bonbonaire whose huge skirt is filled with tiny clowns. Then there is the Russian dance and the Waltz of the Flowers. Finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a grand pas de deux. As the celebration draws to a close, Clara becomes sleepy. She awakens back in her bed, as the nutcracker salutes his little princess Clara.
WHAT: THE NUTCRACKER (1987)
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Choreography by Ben Stevenson
Designs by Desmond Heeley Lighting by Duane Schuler
Generously underwritten by:
Baker Botts L.L.P.
Devon Energy Corporation
Morgan Stanley & Co.
Bank of America
ABOUT THE PROGRAM:
A little girl named Clara receives a magical nutcracker on Christmas Eve,
and sets out on a wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom
of Sweets. Featuring breathtaking scenery and costumes by Desmond
Heeley, The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift: the ideal means of
introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a
delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season.
WHEN: At 7:30 pm on November 25*, 26* and
December 3, 9*, 10, 15*, 16*, 17, 18, 19*, 20*, 21, 22, 23, 26*, 2005
At 2:00 pm on November 26*, 27* and
December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20*, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 2005
* indicates discounted performances at reduced pricing
WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center
501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston
TICKETS: $17 - $125. For tickets call (713) 227 2787 or 1 800 828 ARTS.
Tickets are also available at www.houstonballet.org, the Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center and all Ticketmaster outlets, including Foley’s, Fiesta, Wherehouse Music, and For Your Entertainment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet on the World Wide Web at www.houstonballet.org
5-year old Artist Quentin Key - Tello's inspired creativity after watching The Houston Ballet's Production of the Nutcracker. Quentin (bottom right) is seen here with his mom, Georgina Key, his dad Joe Tello and his younger brother, Eli.
A Real Christmas Ballerina
Interview with Bridgett Zehr
Sugar Plum Fairy
The Nutcracker at the Houston Ballet
December 7, 2005
By Theresa Pisulatheresa@houstontheatre.com
A Real Christmas Ballerina: Bridgett Zehr in the Houston Ballet's 2005 Production of The Nutcracker. Photo by Pam Francis.
Once upon a time, on Christmas Day December twenty-fifth, there is a beautiful baby girl named Bridgett Zehr that was born into this cold, cruel world. One day she will become the real Christmas ballerina. This Christmas Day, 2005, Bridgett Zehr will be turning 21 years old.
When I met her for the interview, she talks like the typical young lady. But unlike the normally confused young people of this generation, she knows exactly what she wants. Her discipline and focus will train her to become the most graceful ballerina. I sat down with this lithe, young beauty in between performances of the Nutcracker season at the Houston Ballet.
Theresa: You’re very, very pretty.
Bridgett: Oh, thanks! (laughs)
Theresa: And very skinny, which I’m sure a lot of ballerinas have to be, right?
Bridgett: Well, you just have to be in good shape. I don’t know if it’s so much by being too skinny or anything. But just – able to be picked up and able to move around easily.
Theresa: Do you have to be a certain weight?
Bridgett: No. But people are all different. There are so many different heights of the ballerinas. And in this company, there are really short girls and really tall girls. So, no, there’s not a certain weight you have to be.
Theresa: How long have you been a ballet dancer?
Bridgett: I started when I was 7 and I’m 21 now.
Theresa: Did your mom influence you?
Bridgett: My mom, Ann McGelligot - Zehr was a ballet dancer for 10 years. She grew up in Buffalo (NY) and she trained for 10 years in a school. All the girls (there were 3 girls on my mom’s side of the family) and they all took ballet and all the boys had to play football. But she was actually really good.
Theresa: Since your mom was a ballerina as well, she encouraged you…..
Bridgett: Yeah, she’s always loved it. But she had a bad back and her vertebrae are too close together so they told her she could either teach or get surgery. And so when she heard that, she was like, “Ok………” she just stopped. But she regrets that. She wanted to dance. But my sister and I both dance.
Theresa: An older sister?
Bridgett: Yeah, 2 years older.
Theresa: Does she dance for the Houston Ballet?
Bridgett: No, she stopped (when I was 14) and she was 16. She quit when she was 16 years old.
Theresa: How’s your back doing?
Bridgett: My back’s fine (laughs). Luckily. I don’t know why my mom wasn’t that flexible….
Theresa: You’re doing great…..no problems so far?
Bridgett: Little things here and there, but nothing big or huge.
Theresa: I found out that you were born on Christmas day?
Bridgett: Yeah. My sister was born on the 21st of December and I was born on Christmas day. I don’t know how that worked out. It’s okay, I don’t know anything different. When I was a little girl, when I was at home, I would celebrate my birthday with my sister and then Christmas day would be Christmas and I’d get an extra present, or something. But that doesn’t happen anymore. So, it’s just one big day.
Theresa: You’re actually turning 21 this Christmas……how wonderful! But ballet is actually something you’ve been doing since you were 7 years old.
Bridgett: After my first year doing ballet, I knew. I was obsessed with it.
Theresa: Really? Was your room always decorated with ballet stuff?
Bridgett: It wasn’t so much as pink ballerinas and things, but I would go home and watch videos. I was really young and I would just do that all the time. I don’t know, it’s more than LOVE, it’s like a NEED.
Theresa: Is your schedule very strenuous as far as ballet practice?
Bridgett: Yeah, it’s always been pretty strenuous. Not so much at 7 years old. At that age, you start with 2 classes a week and every year you progress another day a week. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was doing it 5 days a week. But that wasn’t so hard. It was harder for my mom to drive back and forth. Like, I took night classes.
Theresa: Really? It wasn’t hard for you at all?
Bridgett: No. The more I danced ballet, the better. And then when I was 14, I went to a boarding school for ballet in Boca Raton, Florida. It’s called the Harid Conservatory. I actually lived there. I was there from 14 to 17 years old.
Theresa: Did they have academic classes?
Bridgett: Yeah. We went to public school for 4 hours a day and then, we’d come home. When all the other kids in the high school had lunch, we’d get on the bus and go back to the studios and our dorms. And we’d dance from 12:20pm to 6:00 in the evening. And then I’d have homework after that. It was dinner, homework, it was really strict so, we had bedtimes and alarms and all this crazy stuff. But it was good. That taught me really good discipline and work ethic.
A Real Christmas Ballerina: Bridgett Zehr as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Houston Ballet's 2005 Production of The Nutcracker. Photo by Pam Francis
Theresa: Where were you born?
Bridgett: I was born in Sarasota, Florida. I grew up in Florida and at 14 years old, I moved to Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, which is about 4 hours away. And my parents liked that, because it was close enough. If they wanted to, they could come over easily. They wouldn’t have to get a flight or something.
Theresa: Until you were about 17 and then you moved to Houston….
Theresa: Did you ever go to public school in Houston?
Bridgett: I never went to public school here. I had one year when I was in the Houston Ballet Academy and they did all their schooling through correspondence. ‘Cause we started class here at 9:00am and we’d go till………forever (laughs) it seems like. So, correspondence was how they did the schooling here.
Theresa: So, you can have more ballet training.
Bridgett: Yeah, definitely.
Theresa: Where did you live here in Houston?
Bridgett: I started living at the dormitory that they provided. There are a few dancers, I think, 6 girls and 6 boys that got accepted into the dorms. It’s just right around the corner on West Gray at the Academy and so I stayed there for about a year. Luckily, I had a car. My dad drove over with a car for me.
Theresa: While your family lived in Florida?
Bridgett: Yes, in Florida. So, after that first year in the dorms, I got a job with the Company. And I was able to get my own apartment.
Theresa: And you’ve been with the Houston Ballet ever since…..
Bridgett: I’ve been dancing in the company – this is my third season. And I’m getting paid now. This is my full time job.
Bridgett: Yes, I know (smiles).
Theresa: Tell us about the part you’re playing in this production of the Nutcracker for the Houston Ballet.
Bridgett: I’m doing pretty much every part (laughs). I go from doing the Grandma in the party scene to the Sugar Plum Fairy and everything in between.
Theresa: So, you do costume changes throughout the whole production?
Bridgett: Yeah. With Grandma – I do the make-up as an old person. I do it myself for the first act. I go over the lines. And then I get to take it all off for Snowflake. I have to go to the second act and do the Spanish or Arabian.
Theresa: So, from the first act as Grandma, you change to……
Bridgett: I change real quick to do Snow Flake, which is the chorus part of the ballet. I’m one of 18 snowflakes.
Theresa: I remember the Snowflake scene with the sleigh….it’s so beautiful.
Bridgett: Yeah. Unfortunately, I never get to see it. Because I’m always in it (laughs). And then when I’m not the Snowflake corps, I’m doing the Snow Queen, which is the principal part for that scene. After that, the second act starts where I get to do Sugar Plum Fairy this year.
Theresa: That’s your fourth role in the production.
Bridgett: Yeah, that’s a big part though. That’s the best female part in the Nutcracker Ballet. And when I’m not doing Sugar Plum Fairy, I’m doing either Spanish, Arabian, flowers or any of the other roles. When I’m doing the Sugar Plum Fairy, I don’t have to do those other roles.
Theresa: Do you know what you’re supposed to do on certain nights?
Bridgett: Yeah, we have a casting list and it tells you what you’re doing that day. And then sometimes, when people go out and get injured, then everything changes. You just kinda have to stay up on it.
Theresa: So you already know what you’re going to play each day unless they tell you any different…..
Theresa: Do you ever play the other characters such as the ones with the fighting swords?
Bridgett: No, that’s just the guys. The Rat King and the Nutcracker……
Theresa: And it’s all ballet dancing. That’s amazing.
Bridgett: Yeah, it’s a lot!
Theresa: It must keep you really busy…..
Bridgett: I’m just trying to stay healthy.
Theresa: Is this something you’ve always wanted since you were a little girl?
Theresa: So, you started playing in the Nutcracker productions since you were seven…
Bridgett: Yeah, I did. I started out as a little party girl just like the ones here. And then, after that year, in my second year of ballet, I got chosen to do Clara. In that production as a little girl, so I did that for four years. And then later on, when I grew up a little bit more, I got to dance a little bit with the Sarasota Ballet and do an Arabian thing. And then when I went to Harid Conservatory, they only do the second act, which is with the Sugar Plum Fairies, without all the snow scenes and the party scene. But then, I got to be Sugar Plum for 2 years. I was already about 15 years old.
Theresa: So, this has been a career for you every year. Every Christmas, you already know you’re going to be in the Nutcracker.
Bridgett: It wouldn’t be Christmas without the Nutcracker (smiles). I love this time of year. I kinda get lost in it. But it’s fun though, I love it.
Theresa: At least you’re not spending your childhood getting in trouble or giving into peer pressure. At least you have the discipline and the good work ethic to work at something you love to do. But, you never really had a high school experience, where you actually went to public school and……
Bridgett: I went to a public school but we had to leave so early. I never really made good friends in school. I did go to prom, I went to homecoming, never went to dates.
Theresa: (laughs) But you’re so pretty…….
Bridgett: (laughs) I never had a boyfriend or anything.
Theresa: Compared to a lot of other high school teenagers and what they’re going through, you’re so disciplined…..I guess you just have to be………
Bridgett: I think it’s different when you know what you want to do for the rest of your life, and when you don’t. It keeps you really focused. So the other stuff just doesn’t…….like I should have paid more attention in school, but I was so focused on ballet. So, I stayed out of trouble that way too. And I didn’t realize there was so much trouble going on……
Theresa: There is, and there is. There are a lot of negative influences that can affect a teenager. And it’s amazing because when I was going to high school, it was already pretty overwhelming. But I heard nowadays, it’s even worse. I don’t know how regular kids are able to keep up. But it’s better if you’re surrounded with ballerinas and have the discipline to go to ballet practice every day.
Bridgett: Yes. I had to go back to the dorm every day.
Theresa: Who influenced you the most?
Bridgett: My teachers. There are a lot and I take a little bit from everybody. At Harid Conservatory, I had really good teachers. That’s what they’re known for, their teaching and how they train dancers. One of my female teachers is Vicky Schneider, whose husband is Jurgen Schneider, who is a very famous ballet dancer. And Olivier Pardina, he’s a French male trainer. And when I got to the highest level, I had Svetlana Osiyeva and her training is very Russian. And having that technique helps so much with everything. It makes you very clean, I think. And it’s very important to have a really strong technique before you go into the Company because there they don’t really teach you as much. It’s not just about the classics, it’s about how you perform and what you do onstage. So, you have to have really good technique as in your schooling. It carries on and you’ll have it forever.
Theresa: I’ve heard horror stories about how some ballerinas will break their heel bones to get the right form. Have you ever heard of that?
Bridgett: I’ve heard that people do that. I don’t know how much of that stuff is true. But I’m never ever going to break a bone just to make myself look better.
Theresa: But you’ve heard about it?
Bridgett: I don’t know if it’s possible. Like people will break their feet so they’ll arch more? Sometimes it looks like people have done that. But sometimes, their feet just look like that and they just got lucky.
Theresa: Have you ever had to do anything to the extreme, as part of your strict training?
Bridgett: I mean, like, stretching is very important and just working really hard. I try to do what they say and get it in your body and understand why they want it. Once you understand why they want it and what it should look like, that’s when you start making changes and improving within yourself
Theresa:..…and constant practice…..
Bridgett: And progression. When I came here to the Company, the staff is really great here. And we had a teacher, her name is Maina Gielgud, she used to be with the Houston Ballet. But there are just some people in your life that inspire you to do certain things. To me, she was definitely that person. And it’s great working for Stanton Welch, the artistic director for the Houston Ballet. He’s the boss man.
Theresa: How much does he get involved?
Bridgett: Very involved. He gets down on the ground. He doesn’t just sit around. He’s a choreographer and he’s very involved with the dancers, which is so nice.
Theresa: He has taken over since Ben Stevenson left the Houston Ballet. Is he in there during rehearsals too?
Bridgett: Oh yeah, because we do so many of his ballets too. And he coaches the ballerinas and he teaches class. So, he’s very involved.
Theresa: Even at the Academy?
Bridgett: Even with the Academy, yeah, he sets people with the Academy. Whenever they have a show, he’s there to see it.
Theresa: I mentioned Clara Cravey, whom I did an interview in 1998 when she was the principal of the Houston Ballet Academy. You call her Mama Cravey…..
Bridgett: Mama Cravey (smiles), I had her for a year and what was nice about her was she made all the girls look like girls. Because the Houston Ballet Academy is so good for boys, I think it’s probably the best school in the U.S. for boys. It’s really, really good training for the boys. It’s like Cuban training, where they can do anything (laughs). And the boys are attracted to that and they want to get better and they see that there is actually a Company that can do these things. But for the girls, it was hard because we kinda got left out a little bit, or felt like a boy sometimes. And so because of how strenuous the training was for the boys. Not that it was bad for the girls, though. But Ms. Cravey totally made us look feminine such as doing pointe work. She really worked with us just like the male teachers worked with the guys.
Theresa: I remember the flying bakers in the Nutcracker. The bakers that fly around…
Bridgett: The cooks.
Theresa: Is that part of ballet training? Do you get to fly?
Bridgett: No, those are girls that are in the Academy.
Theresa: Oh, they’re not boys?
Bridgett: No, those are all little girls.
Theresa: Have you ever done a production where they hoist you up in the air….?
Bridgett: I’ve never ever done that. I really want to, that sounds like fun.
Theresa: How do you prepare for the Nutcracker?
Bridgett: Rehearse. We rehearse a lot.
Theresa: What’s your schedule like?
Bridgett: Actually, we don’t have a lot of time to prepare for it. We had two weeks before it opened that we learned all the stuff and all the kids came in. We already know the ballet, but it’s good to re-learn, get clean and make sure everyone’s arms are the same. It’s also kind of tiring when you already know it and you still have to go to all the rehearsals and things like that. But it’s just part of the job.
Theresa: When you first came to Houston, was it hard to find friends?
Bridgett: Actually, the ballet world is so small. It really is, like, someone knows everybody. It’s very close.
Theresa: So you already knew people.
Bridgett: I knew people from when I went to Harid. There are people in the Company from that boarding school that I went to, some people I knew all along.
Theresa: Besides the Nutcracker, what other productions have you done for the Houston Ballet?
Bridgett: A lot. We’ve done a lot of contemporary work and a lot of teachers like Stanton Welch, like Divergence – where I get to dance a lot. I love that Ballet. I got to dance a lot in Divergence. It’s such a big Ballet and it has such a big cast, that there’s not one main role. But it’s so busy and truly exciting. Even if you’re not one of the main dancers, you’re still dancing a lot in it, which is always something that you want to do.
My apprentice here was really exciting. When I got to do In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe and this was when I first got into the Company, it’s just really cool movement, really contemporary, like whack your legs and do all kinds of crazy stuff. That was awesome. And then I got to do Apollo, which is a piece by George Ballanchine. And that was so awesome, it’s just 3 girls and one boy and it’s very famous. I felt so lucky to be able to do that.
Theresa: Did you ever get to work with Ben Stevenson before he left?
Bridgett: A little bit. He came and worked a lot with the Academy when I was there. That was the year he was leaving. After that year, he worked a lot with the Academy just because, I think, he tried to distance himself from the Company. But that meant that we got him a lot, which was awesome. The year of my graduation from the Academy, we did a tribute to him where we danced all of his ballets, which was awesome. I graduated from the Academy when I was 17, 18.
Theresa: Do you still live in the dorms?
Bridgett: I’ve moved 2 places since then. I finally have my own place now. I’ve always had a roommate, but now I have my own garage apartment.
Theresa: Who are your most favorite dancers, the ones you admire the most?
Bridgett: When I was littler, I would just watch everybody. I love Julie Kent, who’s in American Ballet Theater. She’s beautiful and subtle, just beautifully clean and pure. I think there are so many dancers who have amazing qualities. Natalia Makarova, the very grand Russian dancer, she’s older now. Another one is Sylvie Guillem. And Susan Ferrell, I love because I had one Ballanchine video that I would watch every night. That was George Ballanchine’s muse, Susan Ferrell.
Theresa: What qualities do you look for in a ballerina?
Bridgett: The important thing in ballet is that you have to have certain lines. It’s all about your body and how it moves and how it’s shaped. Like, you can’t talk, so you speak with your body. So I look for that, the physical look of a dancer.
I used to look a lot at that, but when I got into this Company, there are so many dancers that are so good theatrically and artistically. And so then, I look at that more because if you don’t bring anything as an artist, then it’s just kinda boring. So, to have the mix of those 2 things, then you have something amazing. And the ability to do a lot of things, like, you can do a really simple classical ballet or you can do something really dramatic and tragic, or funny.
Theresa: Do you prefer classical or contemporary ballet?
Bridgett: It’s hard to say. I love classical ballet. I feel like my body, it’s easy for my body to do it. Contemporary ballet is really challenging for me. I’m so used to like, placing my body.
Theresa: Because you’re so trained in Classical ballet….
Bridgett: It’s hard for me to kinda let loose. If I feel like I’m getting better, I work at it. And it actually helps the ballet, too, because it’s nice to be able to move when you dance. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is definitely not classical. It’s very contemporary and that was so much fun. That kind of movement, I love, very fluid and moving your legs like water.
Theresa: So, as far as ballet, you’ve actually gone farther than your sister and your mom.
Theresa: That’s great. Kids in high school right now are so distracted, they get so rebellious.
Bridgett: The distractions would just ruin everything. If you always know what you want, you’ll know what you’d lose if you give into the negative influences. Even kids in college don’t know what they want to do yet. I can’t imagine how hard that would be – not to know what you want to do. For me it’s easy. I don’t have that problem.
Theresa: How is it living in Houston, away from your family?
Bridgett: It’s hard. It comes and goes, in ways. Lately, I’ve been missing them a lot. But I’m still fine, everything’s fine. I think it’s ‘cause I’m living on my own now, but not having my roommates, or contact with a lot of people, makes me want my family more. But it’s been fine. And I get to go home and I talk to them on the phone. The last time I went home was last Christmas. So, it’s been about a year. I think my mom came to visit me last season.
Theresa: But you’re here the whole year, doing productions for the Houston Ballet.
Bridgett: Yeah. We get a little time off after the Nutcracker and we had a summer break. I didn’t go home for the summer I stayed here, so that was kind of hard. I had to get my own place and get everything settled. But I’ll go home this Christmas.
Theresa: What would you like to say to the Houston Theatre going audience?
Bridgett: Come to the theater and watch the ballet.
Theresa: People are going to enjoy the Nutcracker at the Houston Ballet. There are so many evil things out there, even just watching the evening news. But the Houston Ballet and the Nutcracker will make Christmas so special for everyone in the family. And there are so many different characters in the show.
Bridgett: Yeah, it’s a really fun show.
And so, if you watch out for Bridgett Zehr at the Houston Ballet, you will know that she is the real Christmas ballerina, whose greatest Christmas gift of all is to be able to dance ballet in the Nutcracker every year. And she lived happily ever after……………..
BRIDGETT ZEHR. Photo by Pam Francis.