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Houston Ballet’s ‘Peter Pan’ Soars with Imagination

The classic tale gets new wings under choreographer Trey McIntyre.

Trey McIntyre (Photo by Guzman Rosado; Courtesy of Houston Ballet)

Houstonians wanting to zip away to Neverland need only head downtown to Wortham Center this month for Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan, presented by the Houston Ballet.

McIntyre, the openly gay artist whom audiences will remember from his most recent work on the David Bowie-inspired Pretty Things, choreographed the show. Now in its fourth iteration on the ballet’s main season since its debut in 2002, Peter Pan is full of multigenerational charm.

Based on the popular children’s story by Sir James M. Barrie, Peter Pan follows Wendy, John, Michael, and Peter’s escape to Neverland. Told through the eyes of a child, McIntyre’s current interpretation features elaborate flying sequences, swashbuckling sword fights, giant puppets, and costumes inspired by punk fashion.

“It was important to me that the show appeal to not only children but also to the adults who are there with them,” McIntyre notes. “I think it’s a show with themes that are so universal, from the perspective of both children and adults—what it means to grow up and move away from how you experience life as a child. It’s so full of creativity. The show delights the parts of ourselves that are connected to the imagination.” 

While the main thrust of the story has stayed the same with each Houston Ballet staging, the production becomes more meaningful for McIntyre each time he works on it. “I’m really proud to say that each time I re-approach it, it becomes so much more about deepening the understanding of the narrative and how I might communicate with dancers and [bring new] ideas, because I’ve learned so much about life in the time between each staging,” he says.

McIntyre has also taken a few creative liberties to update the show by introducing new beast-like characters, costumes, and choreography in the second act. That creative inspiration came from an unlikely source: giant moths.

“I’ve gotten pretty fascinated recently with slow-motion, close-up videos of moths to examine these incredibly beautiful creatures. They really do look like little beasts when you see them up close,” he explains.

The show’s most famous airborne creature, though, is its namesake character, and McIntyre is uniquely qualified to take the production’s trademark aerial element to new levels. He previously worked in a show led by Michael Curry—known for The Lion King on Broadway, the Olympics opening ceremonies, the Met Opera, Cirque du Soleil, and other worldwide spectacles—that gave McIntyre the hands-on experience he needed for this Houston production.

Trey McIntyre’s ‘Peter Pan,’ presented by the Houston Ballet.

“I was in an extended flying sequence that we spent eight months choreographing. I was up in the air for a really long time working with the team and really learning what was possible,” he recalls.

“There are several big flying sequences. There’s a bombastic, showy solo that Peter Pan does, and there is also a very lyrical, contemplative, and sweet adagio that all the characters participate in. There’s a lot of different dynamics explored in the flying,” he adds.

McIntyre hopes this month’s Peter Pan will fuel everyone’s sense of youthful wonder. “I hope people reconnect with that magic sense of boundaryless, unlimited possibility that comes with seeing the world from a child’s perspective.”

For more info, visit houstonballet.org.

See the OutSmart story on Trey McIntyre and Pretty Things here

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Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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