Meet Houston Ballet Soloist Eric Best

April 18, 2024

Watching Eric Best navigate the sensuous curves of Stanton Welch’s Tapestry, during Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance [in December 2023], the dancer’s flow and exactitude merged into a seamless whole. His generous port de bras caressed the space, drawing out Welch’s nuanced choreographic lines. With his crisp technique, subtle swagger, and beguiling fluidity, Best catapulted from the corps de ballet to soloist at the opening of the season, and audiences cannot get enough of him.

Company: Houston Ballet

Age: 21

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Training: Dance Creations Academy, Houston Ballet Academy, Houston Ballet II

Destination Houston: Best bonded with Houston Ballet during his first summer intensive there in 2018. “I improved so much and made so many friends. I felt this is a place where I can grow and learn,” he says. During his next summer, in Los Angeles at a Debbie Allen Dance Academy intensive, he met guest teacher Lauren Anderson, who is Houston Ballet Academy’s associate director of education and community engagement. “She said, ‘Oh, you need to get back to Houston, like, right away.’ So I did.”

Quick rise: After joining Houston Ballet II in 2021, Best apprenticed with the main company in 2022, and sailed into the corps in 2023. After a flurry of lead roles, he was promoted to soloist at the beginning of the season, a time he describes as “taking that leap of faith and going along for the ride. I’ve surprised myself with what I was actually capable of doing and because of Stanton [Welch] and Julie [Kent]’s support and faith in me.”

Midsummer doubleheader: Houston audiences got to know just how much Best was capable of when he landed major roles—Lysander and Puck—in both casts of John Neumeier’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the start of this season.

What the co-artistic directors are saying: “Eric has such physical intelligence, his mind–body connection is extraordinary,” says Julie Kent. “There’s a divine quality to his dancing. Also, he looks great at every angle.” Stanton Welch shares that “Eric is a phenomenal talent. He is so musical, and brings such detail to my ballets. I get to choreograph without limit, and he makes me want to be a better choreographer.”

Speaking the same language: Best’s affinity for Welch’s intricate choreography comes through in the growing list of Welch’s ballets he’s performed thus far. “Now I can go into his new works knowing what he’s going to bring and what he’s looking for,” says Best. “I just try to come in with the same energy, ready to work.” Clear, originally created after 9/11, made a profound impact on Best. “Every time I watch this ballet or I perform it or rehearse it, I always find something new that ties to the narrative of it.”

Beyond dancing: Best loves drawing and sketching. “Mostly self-portraits, people, sometimes superheroes. I’m very passionate about art and would like to take more classes,” he says. “I always want to make sure that I keep doing the things that interest me besides dance.”