March 10, 2012

Press Releases


Nicolo Fonte Creates a World Premiere with Original Score Composed by Anna Clyne

Houston Ballet Premiere of Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes


HOUSTON, TEXAS – From May 24 – June 3, 2012, Houston Ballet presents its spring mixed repertory program titled Made in America featuring a world premiere by Nicolo Fonte, a company premiere of Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, and a revival of George Balanchine’s tribute to Imperial Russian Ballet, Theme and Variations.   

Houston Ballet will give six performances of Made in America at Wortham Theater Center at 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting Houston Ballet’s website.

Theme and Variations  George Balanchine  Katharine Precourt and Jun Shuang Huang  Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Theme and Variations George Balanchine Katharine Precourt and Jun Shuang Huang Photo: Amitava Sarkar

“I am excited for Made in America because all three works will truly be made in America.  We are looking forward to having Mark Morris in Houston and we have built up our Balanchine repertoire significantly over the years so it will be nice to return to Theme and Variations.  The piece was one of the first Balanchine works we performed after I became artistic director. We look forward to continue our greater understanding of Balanchine’s works,” remarks Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch.

Nicolo Fonte Creates a World Premiere with Original Score Composed by Anna Clyne

Nicolo Fonte will create his first piece for Houston Ballet. Mr. Fonte is known for his daring and original approach to dance, noted by critics for a unique movement language as well as a highly developed fusion of ideas, dance and design. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Fonte started dancing at the age of 14. He studied at The Joffrey Ballet School in New York, San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet Schools while completing a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts at SUNY Purchase. After graduation, Mr. Fonte danced with Peridance in New York City, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal and Nacho Duato’s Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid. In 2000 Mr. Fonte retired from performing and has gone on to choreograph for numerous international companies including The Dutch National Ballet and The Australian Ballet. He received a Choo San Goh Award for his 2002 collaboration with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Almost Tango.

“Fonte is an exhilarating choreographer, and I have enjoyed the works I have seen by him. His works are typically very challenging for the male dancers and will be very stylistically challenging for all our artists,” states Mr. Welch.

Houston Ballet has commissioned composer Anna Clyne to create a new score for his piece.  Ms. Clyne is a London-born composer who specializes in acoustic and electro-acoustic works.  Her work has been described by Time Out New York as “dazzlingly inventive.”   She currently serves as Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Mead Composer-in-Residence through 2012.

“I love Anna’s music.  It is incredibly rhythmic and contemporary sounding,” says Mr. Fonte.  “Her work creates a very specific atmosphere.  And most importantly, it’s very danceable.”

Mr. Fonte first discovered Ms. Clyne’s music when he was invited by New York-based Boosey & Hawkes, a classical music publishing company, to listen to a selection of new works from their label.  He was instantly drawn to her music, which he describes as an “industrial collage.”  He would later use the exact piece he heard, a work for strings and electronics titled Paint Box, for his ballet Made Man, which was premiered by the Royal Ballet of Flanders (2010).

Following Made Man’s success, Mr. Fonte decided to contact Ms. Clyne about a possible meeting.  In a coincidental twist, she was living in a Brooklyn neighborhood adjacent to Mr. Fonte’s.  They met for coffee, and the rest, as they say, was history.  Mr. Fonte mentioned he had a world premiere in the works with Houston Ballet and asked if she would be interested in writing a new score for it.  Ms. Clyne readily agreed.  This project will be her first original score for ballet.

Mr. Fonte, who has commissioned a new ballet score only once before, is both excited and nervous about the project.  Part of this excitement is the freedom to make changes to the music on the fly.  “The really satisfying part of it is being able to tell the composer what works and what doesn’t.  You have more control, and you’re able to manipulate the music to fit your needs.”

“This is a much scarier and riskier venture than setting a ballet on music that already exists.  When you choreograph on existing music, in some way the music dictates the movement and mood,” comments Mr. Fonte.  “With this project, Anna and I create everything from the ground up.  It is genuine creation; it came from nothing.  That is very fascinating to me.”


Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes has its Company Premiere

Inspired by the poem A Song to Celia, by Ben Jonson, Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes is a work for 12 dancers set to 13 etudes for piano by Virgil Thomson.  It was commissioned by Mikhail Baryshnikov as Mark Morris’s third work for American Ballet Theatre in 1988.

The dancers are dressed in white and perform Mr. Morris’s choreography in small groups, solos and pas de deuxs that form together an unpredictable, yet mesmerizing piece.

Mr. Morris’s creativity began flourishing when he formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980. From 1988-1991 he was the director of dance at La Monnaie, Brussels and in 1990 he founded the White Oak Dance Project with Mikhail Baryshnikov.  He has choreographed works for San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet, among others.  His work is currently in the repertory of Houston Ballet, Ballet West, Dutch National Ballet, New Zealand Ballet, English National Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Washington Ballet. His opera credits include directing and choreographing productions for The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, English National Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera and the Royal Opera, London. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, and the subject of a biography by Joan Acocella (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). In 2001, he opened the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, New York, his company’s first permanent headquarters in the U.S.  Houston Ballet currently has one other work by Mr. Morris in its repertoire, Sandpaper Ballet (1999).  In March 2013, Houston Ballet will perform Mr. Morris’s work Pacific for the first time.

George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations Returns

Rounding out the program is George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, the grandest tribute to his alma mater, the Imperial Russian Ballet, which Houston Ballet last performed in 2004.  Balanchine originally created the work for American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancers Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch, and it premiered on November 26, 1947 at the City Center in New York City.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. Balanchine served as ballet master and principal choreographer for New York City Ballet from 1948 until his death in 1983. Balanchine’s more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), The Nutcracker (1954), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), and Mozartiana (1981).

Although Balanchine once said, “I am more American than Russian,” he still turned to the music of the great Russian composers, notably Stravinksy and Tchaikovsky, for his ballets.  My teachers were people who knew Tchaikovsky, who talked with him….My first time on stage was in a Tchaikovsky ballet….Thanks to The Sleeping Beauty, I fell in love with ballet. [Tchaikovsky] is like a father to me.  In everything that I did to Tchaikovsky’s music, I sensed his help.”

Set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3, in G, Theme and Variations explores classic ballet training, focusing on preparatory movements that were developed to train and warm-up the dancer’s body. Taking these steps further, Balanchine produced some very challenging choreography.

Themes and Variations was intended, as Balanchine wrote, “to evoke that great period in classical dancing when Russian ballet flourished with the aid of Tchaikovsky’s music.”  The final movement of the composer’s third orchestral suite consists of 12 variations. The ballet opens to reveal a corps of 12 women and a principal couple. As the ballet moves from variation to variation, the solo performances of the ballerina and her cavalier are interspersed among the corps performances.

About Houston Ballet

On February 17, 1969 a troupe of 15 young dancers made its stage debut at Sam Houston State Teacher’s College in Huntsville, Texas.  Since that time, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 51 dancers with a budget of $19.2 million (making it the United States’ fourth largest ballet company by number of dancers), a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center, the largest professional dance facility in America, Houston Ballet’s $46.6 million Center for Dance which opened in April 2011,   and an endowment of just over $57.6 million (as of May 2011).

Australian choreographer Stanton Welch has served as artistic director of Houston Ballet since 2003, raising the level of the company’s classical technique and commissioning many new works from dance makers such as Christopher Bruce, Jorma Elo, James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte.  Executive director James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, a position he assumed in February 2012 after serving as the company’s general manager for over a decade.

Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally.  Over the last decade, the company has appeared in London at Sadler’s Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Ottawa, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center and The Joyce Theater, and in cities large and small across the United States.  Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labor-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets.

Houston Ballet Orchestra was established in the late 1970s and currently consists of 61 professional musicians who play all ballet performances at Wortham Theater Center under music director Ermanno Florio.

Houston Ballet’s Education and Outreach Program has reached over 22,000 Houston area students (as of the 2010-2011 season).  Houston Ballet’s Academy has 509 students and has had four academy students win prizes at the prestigious international ballet competition the Prix de Lausanne, with one student winning the overall competition in 2010.  For more information on Houston Ballet visit www.houstonballet.org.



World Premiere by Nicolo Fonte             Music Composed by Anna Clyne

Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (1988)

Houston Ballet Premiere Music by Virgil Thompson, Katherine Burkwall-Ciscon, Pianist, Choreography by Mark Morris, Costume Design by Santo Loquasto

Theme and Variations (1947)

Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Suite No. 3 for Orchestra in G major, Op. 55

Choreography by George Balanchine (1904-1983)

Costume Designs after Karinska

Lighting Design by Tony Tucci


Houston Ballet Orchestra conducted by music director Ermanno Florio.

Generously underwritten by: Riviana Foods, Inc.



Balanchine. Morris. Fonte. All three have created ballets for companies around the world. This program, however, was made entirely in America. Mark Morris’s breezy Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes was commissioned by Mikhail Baryshnikov for American Ballet Theatre. George Balanchine created Theme and Variations, his grand tribute to the Imperial Russian Ballet, for the same company. Nicolo Fonte, a Brooklyn native who danced with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and the Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid, will premiere a new work, choreographed specifically for Houston Ballet to a commissioned score by the English composer Anna Clyne.

WHEN:                      At 7:30 p.m. on May 24, 26 and June 1, 2, 2012  At 2 p.m. on May 27 and June 3, 2012

WHERE:                    Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston

TICKETS:                  Start at $18.  Call (713) 227 ARTS or 1 800 828 ARTS.

Also available at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center downtown at 501 Texas at Smith Street

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