Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters shoots to stardom on social media and stage

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- You may not know Harper Watters' name but he has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram who certainly do.

The Houston Ballet soloist moved when he was just a teenager to Houston for a shot at dancing on the big stage. Now, Watters is using his huge following to break through the notoriously uptight world of ballet.

His YouTube video post "Ballet Boys Workout" is a 52-second display of impressive flexibility and dance. Two men --one of them being Watters-- tromping on a treadmill, gracefully, in pink stilettos.

"Why not add a little flavor to our workout and film it and post it?" Watters said mentioning his instinct to use a friend's gift --powder-pink high heels, in a post to his YouTube channel. "And overnight it was ridiculous," he added.

That video alone has gotten more than 120,000 views. Watters says his social media videos started as a way to share his life as a dancer with the Houston Ballet, beyond the intense hours of training.

His YouTube video series "The Pre Show" takes viewers backstage. Though his posts to social media don't always get a positive review, Watters says "Either way, I have their attention."

Watters is unapologetically authentic, "I deal with labels a lot," he said. "I think everybody deals with labels. Am I African American? Yeah. Am I gay? Yes. But am I so much more? Yeah."

The 27-year-old was adopted at 2-weeks-old and grew up in New Hampshire and fell in love with dance at a young age. He came to Houston at 16 for what he thought would be a summer dance workshop and never left.

Watters plays a lead role in the current production of "Sylvia" where the Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch is known for his progressive interpretation, featuring three, strong leading ladies.

"I play the twin brother of someone who is caucasian --our director doesn't see race," Watters said. "But he knows the importance of putting different ethnicities on the stage."

As Watters has posted more and more of himself on social media, he says he has found it to have a positive impact on his dance.

"I saw such a response to me sharing myself authentically off stage and outside of the studio, I thought why don't I do that more in the studio," said Watters. "And the second I did that, my dancing became so much better and so much more authentic."

Watters' journey to the stage is not only about the artistry, but the platform it has given him.

"What you do isn't meaningful unless you're saying something with what you're doing," Watters said.

He's got a whole lot of people listening --and watching.

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