With Houston’s new arts season off to a blistering-hot start, Houston Ballet is delivering the goods with the world-premiere of Arthur Pita’s Good Vibrations, which opens September 22 and runs through October 2. Two other pieces, Red Earth and The Letter V, are also on the program.
Choreographer Arthur Pita explains that the Good Vibrations story revolves around two characters, Ryan and Blossom. Ryan is living his last days and remembering his former flame.
“It’s a story of a man who is reuniting with his lover from the past. Ryan is dying, and he’s having memories of Blossom, going back to 1966 until he reunites with her in the afterlife,” Pita says. “This woman is an immense beauty, and she is giving him excitations. I wanted to put the song in a different context that would make the audience experience it in a different way.”
The show’s title stems from the popular Beach Boys song, which will be featured during the 25-minute dance piece. It’s a tune that has always stuck in Pita’s memory.
“I saw a documentary about the making of the song with the Beach Boys in a recording studio. I was so fascinated by all the layers of what instruments were used in the song and its structure. I always remembered [the fun I had listening to the song]—it was always a kind of go-to song,” Pita recalls.
The production also features classical compositions, which presents an interesting counterpoint to the ’60s grooves of Good Vibrations and an opportunity for the choreographer to flex his artistic muscles.
“You can still be playful with music and with the language of ballet. It’s very adaptable. You can really do anything to it. I like to think that the rule is that there are no rules,” he says.
As thrilled as Pita is to present this to Houston audiences, Good Vibrations is the ballet that nearly wasn’t. It was originally scheduled to premiere in 2020 but was canceled due to COVID. But the pandemic shutdown didn’t stop the dancemaker from seeing his vision come to fruition. It’s also given him time to fine-tune small details.
“It’s kind of amazing, because no matter how much time you have to make something, you’re still trying to do last-minute touches and you still have last-minute thoughts. There are still things we’re talking about today. [The creative process] is always an evolving work. It’s never finished. Ideas can always keep evolving,” he notes.
“That’s the fascination of it. I love having a long time to think about creating. Good Vibrations has certainly evolved from its original concept to what it is now, and I still think there’s room for more. Once you have a narrative, you can really indulge in it.”
The cast includes many of the Houston Ballet’s male company members.
“We have many beautiful men who are the “surf spirits.” We took a lot of inspiration from the ocean and the movement of waves. We created this troupe of characters who manipulate a surfboard, but at the same time, they are also moving as the ocean. They are the spirit of the ocean. The ocean can be a very dangerous space, so you have to keep a respect for it. The surf spirits can be quite menacing, as well as being a lovely fluid, seductive element,” he says.
Pita wants audiences to keep an eye out for some special costuming magic, as well. “The costumes are designed by Marco Marco, who has created a lot of costumes for the queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race. He’s worked with Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and all sorts of other people,” Pita adds. “He just won an Emmy Award, and the collaboration with him has been really delightful.”
For information, visit houstonballet.org.