HOUSTON BALLET ANNOUNCES 2013-2014 SEASON
World Premieres by Melissa Hough, James Kudelka,
Garrett Smith and Stanton Welch Highlight Season
Company Presents North American Premiere of
David Bintley’s Three-Act Aladdin in February 2014
Eight New Works Enter the Company’s Repertoire, including Ji•í Kylián’s Sechs Tanze and Stanton Welch’s Of Blessed Memory
Houston Ballet Celebrates Stanton Welch’s 10th Year as Artistic Director
With an All Welch Evening in March 2014
HOUSTON, TEXAS – Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch has announced the company’s 2013-2014 season. Eight new works enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire, including world premieres by James Kudelka, Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough in September 2013; the North American premiere of David Bintley’s Aladdin in February 2014; company premieres of Jirí Kylián’s Sechs Tanze, Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages and Stanton Welch’s Of Blessed Memory as well as a world premiere A Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra by Mr. Welch in March 2014.
James Jordan, president of Houston Ballet Foundation reflected, “Over the last ten years that he has served as artistic director of Houston Ballet, Stanton Welch has revitalized the company, raising it to a new level. He has greatly expanded the company’s repertoire by introducing 40 new works. He has led the company on tours to New York City, The Kennedy Center, Montreal, Ottawa, Spain and to cities large and small across the U.S. Under Stanton’s artistic leadership we have had five Academy students win prizes at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition since 2009, including one student who won the overall competition and the audience favorite prize in 2010.
“Stanton has also helped to further develop the art form of dance by commissioning new works from Julia Adam, Christopher Bruce, Nicolo Fonte, James Kudelka, Edwaard Liang, Matjash Mrozewski, Trey McIntyre and Natalie Weir. He has established an annual choreographic workshop to develop the skills of dancers within the company, with two artists (Melissa Hough and Garrett Smith) going on to receive awards from the New York Choreographic Institute. In January 2013, the Texas Medal of Arts recognized the stellar state of the company by honoring Houston Ballet with its 2013 Dance Award. We are grateful for Stanton’s artistic leadership and vision over the past ten years, and will honor his achievements throughout our 2013-14 season.”
Four Premieres Launches the 2013-2014 Season in September 2013
From September 5-15, 2013, Houston Ballet launches its 44th season with a mixed repertory program of premieres by emerging and established choreographers. Famed choreographer James Kudelka will create a new work for the company. British master and Houston Ballet’s associate choreographer Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages will have its American premiere. World premieres by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough round out the program.
Mr. Bruce’s Intimate Pages has its musical and thematic basis in the String Quartet No. 2 by the Czech composer Leoš Janáček. A victim of unrequited love, the composer wrote this delicate and finely crafted work in 1928, the last year of his life. For a little over a decade he had been corresponding with a young married woman he had met in 1917. The ballet conveys both the joy and the anguish expressed in the music. It features six dancers, and was first performed by England’s Ballet Rambert in 1983.
Mr. Bruce was born in England in 1945 and started studying dance at 11 years old. After studying at the Rambert School he joined Rambert Ballet in 1963, where he quickly became the leading male dancer. Mr. Bruce appeared in works such as Don Quixote in 1964 and Coppelia in 1966. In 1977 Mr. Bruce was appointed associate director of the company and was associate choreographer from 1979-87, where he created over twenty works for the company. Between 1986-91 he acted as associate choreographer for London Festival Ballet, later English National Ballet, and associate choreographer for Houston Ballet beginning in 1989. From 1994 – 2002, he served as artistic director of Rambert Dance Company. Often political in his work, he integrates classical ballet and modern dance, often set against popular music by artists like Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. Throughout his career, critics have praised his innovative and detailed choreography. Christopher Bruce has created four works especially for Houston Ballet: Gautama Buddha (1989), Journey (created in 1990, also performed 1993), Nature Dances (1992) and Hush (2006, also performed 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011). In addition to these four works, Houston Ballet has six other Christopher Bruce works in its repertoire: Ghost Dances (created in 1981, performed by Houston Ballet in 1988, 1990, 1994, 1995, 2003), Sergeant Early’s Dream (created in 1984, performed by Houston Ballet in 1993, 2000, 2007), Land (created in 1985, performed by Houston Ballet in 1997), Swansong (created in 1987, performed by Houston Ballet in 1991, 1993, 2008), Rooster (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 1994, 1995, 1998, 2005, 2012) and Grinning in Your Face (created in 2001, performed by Houston Ballet in 2011). Over the last 25 years, Houston Ballet has emerged as Mr. Bruce’s artistic home in America.
James Kudelka is widely acknowledged as one of North America’s most exciting and sought-after choreographers. His mastery of both classical ballet and modern/contemporary dance has earned him commissions from companies as stylistically diverse as American Ballet Theatre, Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Mr. Kudelka’s work covers an impressive range, from virtuoso pas de deux, through large-scale and always arresting adaptations of such classics as Swan Lake (1999) and The Nutcracker (1995), to boldly innovative creative collaborations with dancers, designers and musicians. Mr. Kudelka served as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1996-2005. Today he continues to undertake collaborative projects that engage and challenge him as a choreographer. Houston Ballet currently has four works by Mr. Kudelka in its repertoire: There, below (created in 1989, performed by Houston Ballet in 1992), Musings (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 1994 and 1998), The Firebird (created in 2000, performed by Houston Ballet in 2001 and 2005) and Little Dancer (2008), which he created especially for Houston Ballet.
Garrett Smith was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and began his ballet training at The Utah Regional Ballet at the age of 13. He was featured in the Off Broadway show Breakthrough, where he was presented with an award from Mikhail Baryshinikov. Mr. Smith later was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the highest award a high school student can receive. He was able to meet the President at The White House and perform at The Kennedy Center. He was a student at Houston Ballet Academy in 2006 and then joined Houston Ballet II, Houston Ballet’s second company and part of Houston Ballet Academy, in 2007. In 2009 Mr. Smith joined Houston Ballet and danced there for three years before joining The Norwegian National Ballet in 2012.
While at Houston Ballet Academy’s Summer Intensive Program in 2007, Mr. Smith participated in a choreographic workshop that was a partnership between American Festival for the Arts (AFA) and Houston Ballet. During the summer session student choreographers teamed up with AFA student composers and, over five weeks, completed new ballets. Mr. Smith paired with composer Derek Zhao to create the ballet Found Alone (2007). Since that first creation, Mr. Smith and Mr. Zhao have collaborated two other times for Of Opposing Nature (2009) and Regarding Us (2012). In total, Houston Ballet II has four works by Mr. Smith in its repertoire: Found Alone (2007), Subtle Release (2007), Den III (2008), and Of Opposing Nature (2009).
In 2009 Mr. Smith received a Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet which he used to create Vivacious Dispositions (2010).
Melissa Hough will create her first commissioned piece for Houston Ballet. In 2011 she created C-Sharp Minor for Houston Ballet’s Choreographic Workshop where it caught the eye of Mr. Welch. The piece was then performed at that year’s Jubilee of Dance. The New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet, awarded Ms. Hough a Fellowship Initiative grant in 2012 to create a new work in a studio setting. That same year she created another new piece for Houston Ballet’s Choreographic Workshop, I Was Here (2012). “I’m really excited to have another opportunity to choreograph,” Ms. Hough comments. “I hope that I manage to mold the dancers’ movements into something that gets conveyed to the audience in an interesting way.”
Melissa Hough was a bronze medal winner in the 2005 Helsinki International Ballet Competition, a jury award of merit winner from the Jackson International Ballet Competition in 2002 and a senior outstanding dancer at New York City Dance Alliance in 2002. She trained with The Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. and has danced professionally with BalletMet, M & Company, and Boston Ballet, where she reached the rank of principal in 2009. She danced with Houston Ballet from 2010-2013, achieving the rank of first soloist before leaving to join The Norwegian National Ballet.
The Delightful Romantic Comedy The Merry Widow Returns September 19-29
From September 19-29, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Ronald Hynd’s comic and enchanting The Merry Widow. Adapted from Franz Lehár’s beloved operetta, the internationally-admired British choreographer Ronald Hynd adds a new layer of lavish spectacle and choreography to the original story of The Merry Widow to create an irresistibly charming and intoxicating tale of high jinks, finance, romance, and intrigue. The production features magnificent scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno.
The Merry Widow premiered by The Australian Ballet to outstanding success on November 13, 1975 at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne and immediately established itself as a classic of the twentieth century full-length ballet repertoire. Like the operetta which debuted in 1905, the ballet has proven to be very popular and has been adopted into the repertoires of many companies. Houston Ballet first performed Mr. Hynd’s The Merry Widow in 1995.
Set in Paris in 1905, The Merry Widow is the story of the fictitious Balkan state of Pontevedro and a beautiful and rich widow, Hanna Glawari. With the threat of losing Hanna and her fortune to a foreigner, the nation’s dashing Count Danilo reluctantly prepares to woo and win her – and her fortune – thus securing the country’s economic status. At the embassy ball in Paris, however, the plan is thwarted as Danilo and Hanna realize they were once young lovers. Fueled by the possibility of rekindled love, the ballet deftly intertwines the plot’s political and economic intrigue with the characters’ devious and comical undertakings.
Mr. Hynd has a long and rich history spanning three decades with Houston Ballet, having created such full length works as Papillon (1979) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1988) for the company. Born in London, England, Mr. Hynd trained with Marie Rambert and later made his performing debut with Ballet Rambert. In 1951, Mr. Hynd joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) where he rose to the rank of principal dancer performing an extensive range of classical and dramatic roles. His first ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss, was choreographed in 1967 for the Dutch National Ballet and was later taken into the repertoire of London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet). Between two directorships of the Munich Ballet, Mr. Hynd has enjoyed an international career and created many works. Many of his productions have entered the repertoires of such companies as Houston Ballet, The Royal Ballet, PACT Ballet (South Africa), Santiago Ballet of Chile and many other European and American companies to great critical acclaim.
Houston Ballet has seven works in its repertory choreographed by Ronald Hynd: The Merry Widow (created in 1975, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1999, 2007), Papillon (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1979, also performed 1980, 1981, 1984), Dvo•ák Variations (created in 1980, performed by Houston Ballet in 1980 and 1982), The Seasons (created for Houston Ballet in 1980), Rosalinda (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 1987, 1988), The Firebird choreographed with Annett Page after Michel Fokine (created for Houston Ballet in 1981) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1988).
Born in Rome, Roberta Guidi di Bagno enjoys an international reputation as a set and costume designer. She created scenery and costumes for John Cranko’s Onegin for Teatro all Scala, and her designs were later taken into the repertoires of Deutsche Oper Barlin, Teatro Colòn Buenos Aires and Opéra de Nice. For English National Ballet, she created designs for two new productions by Derek Deane: Romeo and Juliet (1998) and The Sleeping Beauty (2000) both performed at The Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2000, she also created new sets and costumes for Mr. Hynd’s productions of The Nutcracker for Teatro alla Scala and Coppélia for Deutsche Oper Berlin. In 1996, Ms. Guidi di Bagno was commissioned to create new sets and costumes for Mr. Hynd’s The Merry Widow for Teatro alla Scala, which was restaged in Seattle by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Mr. Welch has collaborated with Robert Guidi di Bagno on two of his productions: Ønsket (“The Wish”) (1998) and Ander (“The Ghost”) (1999) for Royal Danish Ballet.
Houston Ballet Lights up the Holidays with The Nutcracker
From November 29-December 29, 2013, Houston Ballet will bring Texas its most joyous holiday gift with its beloved production of Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, a Houston holiday tradition. A wonderful ballet for the entire family, The Nutcracker is the perfect way to introduce young children to the power and beauty of classical dance. Tchaikovsky’s magical score, Desmond Heeley’s fairytale scenery and Mr. Stevenson’s vibrantly theatrical staging combine to create one of the most visually stunning productions of The Nutcracker in the world today.
The Nutcracker tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She encounters the frightful rat king before embarking on a journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will experience the production’s many special effects, including the Christmas tree that “grows” to 40 feet, 200 pounds of “snow” falling during the snow scene and the firing of a canon on stage.
Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance: A One-Night-Only Extravaganza
On Friday, December 6, 2013, Houston Ballet presents its tenth annual Jubilee of Dance, a special one-night-only performance showcasing the talent and artistry of the company dancers in a program of high-energy excerpts from signature works and beloved classics. This year Houston Ballet will perform the third act of Paquita, a dazzling classical showpiece. Paquita was premiered by the Paris Opera in 1846, and Marius Petipa produced the ballet in 1847 for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg as his debut production. The ballet tells of Paquita, a Spanish gypsy, who saves the life of a French officer named Lucien. In the end, once it is revealed that she is of noble birth, Paquita and Lucien are able to marry.
David Bintley’s Aladdin: A Story of Romance, Trickery and Adventure
From February 20-March 2, 2014, Houston Ballet presents the North American Premiere of David Bintley’s Aladdin, the first work by the celebrated English choreographer to enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire. A run-in with palace guards leads young Aladdin into a whirlwind of adventure and romance, involving unbelievable riches, love at first sight, treachery, and of course a magic lamp containing a powerful genie. The three-act production boasts a stellar creative team with renowned film composer Carl Davis, famed costume designer Sue Blane and accomplished set designer Dick Bird.
The story of Aladdin and his magical lamp originated as a tale that appeared in the epic One Thousand and One Nights or Arabian Nights. This collection of stories was a compilation of tales brought together from countries in the east such as China, India, Egypt, Iraq and Iran. Although the legend of a boy receiving three magical wishes has been around since the third century, the story of Aladdin was not widely known until French scholar Antoine Galland translated the tale and introduced the collection of stories to European readers in the early 18th century. Since then, the tale of the poor boy who finds a magical lamp has enthralled and inspired audiences. In 1885 British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton published the celebrated English language translation of the book. It stood as the only complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) of the Arabian Nights until the Malcolm C. and Ursula Lyons translation in 2008.
The popularity of Aladdin led to it being performed as a pantomime for the first time at Covent Garden in London in 1788, but not in a pantomime format that audiences would recognize today. The characters were not named and the performance ran for over two hours. The pantomime was not widely acclaimed and, despite repeated attempts at revivals, the story languished until the famed pantomime author Henry J. Byron wrote Aladdin or The Wonderful Scamp, which was performed at the Strand Theater, London in 1861 to great success. It is from Mr. Byron’s version that all modern Aladdin adaptations are descended. Today, Aladdin is one of the most opulent and spectacular pantomimes to be seen. In Britain, the pantomime is a popular Christmas tradition, with productions including rich and colorful costumes and sets. Almost every production includes what is called a “specialty act” in which a magical flying carpet appears to a stunned audience. Also essential to the pantomime production is the magical lamp in which a genie appears to grant Aladdin’s wishes.
Mr. Bintley choreographed Aladdin for New National Ballet of Japan. It had its world premiere in 2008. On creating the ballet, Mr. Bintley said, “One of the most pleasurable experiences of my choreographic life was the creation of Aladdin for the dancers of the New National Theater Tokyo. I won’t go so far as to say it was one of the easiest experiences, but certainly a period of my life that I will always treasure.”
A native of Huddersfield, England, Mr. Bintley began his training at the age of four. In 1973 he joined the Royal Ballet Upper School, where he was influenced by Dame Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton. He cites Valois and Ashton as his heroes, and his love for the communicative style of English ballet that they forged springs from the training they gave him. He joined Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet in 1976, where he made his mark playing character roles such as Alain and Widow Simone in Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée and the Ugly Sister in Cinderella. At the same time, his choreographic ambition was encouraged, beginning with The Outsider in 1978 and continuing through his first major narrative ballet The Swan of Tuonela in 1982. In 1983, he became resident choreographer of Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, but left three years later to take up the same position at The Royal Ballet. Mr. Bintley resigned from the Royal Ballet in 1993 and left to work abroad. In 1995, he returned home as artistic director of his old company, now based in Birmingham and renamed Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Since his appointment, he has shaped a company where the dancers share his philosophy of continuing to preserve the classical repertory while introducing new work made in the same idiom. At the same time, he has continued to be a prolific choreographer, with a natural impulse towards story telling that has made popular hits of works such as Carmina Burana (1995), Far From the Madding Crowd (1996) and Beauty and the Beast (2003). In 2010 Mr. Bintley accepted the role of artistic director of the National Ballet of Japan, creating Aladdin (2008) and The Prince of Pagodas (2011), while simultaneously holding the position of artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
The music of Aladdin was composed by Carl Davis, who is highly acclaimed in the fields of films and musicals. Mr. Davis has written numerous ballets, TV and film scores including The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1981, for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music.
Costume designer Sue Blane created the striking costumes seen in Aladdin. She is best known for her costume designs for the iconic The Rocky Horror Show and The Rocky Horror Picture Show by Richard O’Brien. Ms. Blane was nominated for a 1997 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for her design of English National Ballet’s Alice in Wonderland and a BAFTA nomination for Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract. Set designs for Aladdin were created by Dick Bird. He has designed numerous theatre, opera, ballet, TV and film productions including for the Barbican, Opera North, English National Opera, Royal Court Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Young Vic and Crucible Theatre.
Aladdin is a co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Stanton Welch Showcases Houston Ballet Orchestra and Company in The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in March 2014
From March 6-16, 2014, Houston Ballet celebrates the tenth anniversary of Stanton Welch as artistic director with a mixed repertory program featuring three works by Mr. Welch, including a world premiere set to Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. The evening will also include Maninyas, created for San Francisco Ballet in 1996 and Of Blessed Memory, a company premiere and one of the first works Mr. Welch created for The Australian Ballet in 1991.
Benjamin Britten created his The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in 1946, and it has helped to introduce generations of children to the world of classical music. “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra marks a very significant collaboration between our dancers and the orchestra,” comments Mr. Welch.
Of Blessed Memory is a company premiere for Houston Ballet and one of the first works Mr. Welch choreographed for The Australian Ballet in 1991. He created the leading role for his mother, Marilyn Jones, OBE, one of The Australian Ballet’s greatest ballerinas of the 1960s and 1970s and a former artistic director of The Australian Ballet. The piece is a large-scale work danced to selections from Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne. The ballet was so popular and well-received that he was voted best new choreographer in 1992 by readers of the British magazine Dance & Dancers after the work was performed on tour by The Australian Ballet in London and Italy.
A mix of classical and contemporary ballet, Maninyas is a small abstract work, a series of pas de deux and pas de trois. Set to Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, a work by Australian composer Ross Edwards, the piece features five couples in delicate costumes designed by Mr. Welch who move in and out of a series of shimmering curtains or veils. “The piece is a process of unveiling,” explained Mr. Welch. “It examines how in relationships, you gradually unlayer yourself, and how scary, dark, and open it is to reveal yourself to another, without protection. The dancers are undressing themselves spiritually as well as physically.”
Originally created for San Francisco Ballet in 1996, Maninyas was Mr. Welch’s first commission outside his home company, The Australian Ballet – his first American exposure, which led to commissions with other companies. In fact, seeing Maninyas led Ben Stevenson, Houston Ballet Artistic Director Emeritus, to ask Mr. Welch to create a work for Houston Ballet.
Modern Masters Features Company Premiere of Ji•í Kylián’s Comic Sech Tanze in May 2014
From May 22 – June 1, 2014 Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program titled Modern Masters featuring the company premiere of Ji•í Kylián’s comic and delightful Sech Tanze (Six Dances), along with revivals of his playful and sexy work Petite Mort, William Forsythe’s explosive In the middle, somewhat elevated and George Balanchine’s complex and inventive The Four Temperaments.
Mr. Kylián created Sech Tanze (Six Dances) for the Nederlands Dans Theatre where it received its world premiere at the Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam on October 24, 1986. Set to Mozart’s Six German Dances, the ballet showcases speedy and slightly madcap partnering, as well as Mr. Kylián’s unique sense of humor. “Two centuries separate us from the time Mozart wrote his German Dances. A historical period shaped considerably by wars, revolutions and all sorts of upheavals. With this mind, I found it impossible to simply create different dance numbers reflecting merely the humor and musical brilliance of the composer. Instead, I have set six seemingly nonsensical acts, which obviously ignore their surroundings. They are dwarfed in face of the ever present troubled world, which most of us for some unspecified reason carry in our souls,” said Mr. Kylián.
Mr. Kylián created Petite Mort especially for the Salzburg Festival in 1991 on the second centenary of Mozart’s death. For his work, he chose the slow parts of two of Mozart’s most beautiful and popular piano concertos (the adagio section of Piano Concerto in A Major KV 488 and the andante section of the Piano Concerto in C Major KV 467). Petite Mort, which literally means ‘small death’, serves as a paraphrase for orgasm in French and Arabic. “This deliberate choice should not be seen as provocation or thoughtlessness – rather as my way to acknowledge the fact that I am living and working as part of a world where nothing is sacred, where brutality and arbitrariness are commonplace. It should convey the idea of two antique torsos, heads and limbs cut off – evidence of intended mutilation – without being able to destroy their beauty reflecting the spiritual power of their creator,” commented Mr. Kylián.
The choreography includes six men, six women and six swords. The swords function at times almost as dance partners, and, on several occasions seem more unruly and obstinate than a partner of flesh and blood. Aggression, sexuality, energy, silence, cultivated senselessness and vulnerability all play a significant part in the work.
Born in Prague, Jirí Kylián studied at Prague National Theatre, Prague Conservatory and The Royal Ballet School in London before joining Stuttgart Ballet in 1968 under the direction of John Cranko. There Mr. Cranko helped cultivate Mr. Kylián as a student and choreographer which lead to him setting his first work for Stuttgart Ballet in 1970. Mr. Kylián joined Nederlands Dans Theater in 1973 as a guest choreographer, and was appointed artistic director in 1978. After joining Nederlands Dans Theater he created and realized over 60 productions for the company, including such works as: Sinfonietta (1978), Forgotten Land (1981), Bella Figura (1995), and Last Touch (2003). In 1995 Mr. Kylián celebrated 20 years as artistic director with Nederlands Dans Theater with the large-scale production Arcimboldo as well as receiving Holland’s highest honor, Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau. In 1999 Mr. Kylián retired as artistic director, but still has an active role as resident choreographer and artistic advisor with the company.
Houston Ballet has seven works by Mr. Kylián in its repertoire, including Symphony in D (created in 1977, performed by Houston Ballet in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1994), Sinfonietta (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2013), Forgotten Land (created in 1981, performed by Houston Ballet 2005 and 2010), Svadebka (created in 1982, performed by Houston Ballet in 2007), Falling Angels (created in 1989, performed by Houston Ballet in 2009 and 2011), Soldiers’ Mass (created in 1980, performed by Houston Ballet in 2009) and Petite Mort (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 2007).
Mr. Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated first entered Houston Ballet’s repertoire in September 1999. A neoclassical tour-de-force set to electronic techno music by Mr. Forsythe’s frequent collaborator, the Dutch composer Thom Willems, the work opens on a bare, black stage with nine dancers (six women and three men) in leotards tearing through a series of fiendishly difficult classical steps with high attitude and haughty disdain. The title of the ballet refers to two golden cherries hanging “in the middle, somewhat elevated” in the Palais Garnier in Paris, where the work premiered in 1987.
“In the middle, somewhat elevated is a theme and variations in the strictest sense. Exploiting the vestiges of academic virtuosity that still signify ‘the Classical,’ it extends and accelerates these traditional figures of ballet,” explains Mr. Forsythe. “By shifting the alignment and emphasis of essentially vertical transitions, the affected enchaînements receive an unexpected force and drive that makes them appear foreign to their origins.”
Raised in New York and initially trained in Florida with Nolan Dingman and Christa Long, Mr. Forsythe danced with the Joffrey Ballet and later the Stuttgart Ballet, where he was appointed resident choreographer in 1976. Over the next seven years, he created new works for the Stuttgart ensemble and ballet companies in Munich, The Hague, London, Basel, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, New York, and San Francisco. In 1984, he began a 20-year tenure as director of the Ballet Frankfurt. Under his leadership, the Frankfurt Ballet was transformed from a capable regional troupe into one of Europe’s foremost dance ensembles.
Mr. Forsythe’s ballets have entered the repertoires of the world’s leading companies, including the New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet of London, the Nederlands Dans Theater, and the Royal Swedish Ballet. In March 2003, he received the prestigious Dance Magazine Award for his contribution to the field of dance. After the closure of the Frankfurt Ballet in 2004, Mr. Forsythe established a new, more independent ensemble, The Forsythe Company.
Houston Ballet has one other work by Mr. Forsythe in its repertoire: The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (created in 1996, performed by Houston Ballet 2009).
Balanchine created The Four Temperaments for the opening program of Ballet Society, immediate forerunner of New York City Ballet. The premiere took place on November 20th, 1946, at the Central High School of Needle Trades, New York City. It is one of his earliest experimental works, fusing classical steps with a lean and angular style. The ballet is inspired by the medieval belief that human beings are made up of four different humors that determine a person’s temperament. The Four Temperaments is set to the music of Paul Hindemith’s Theme with Four Variations (According to the Four Temperaments). The score is made of four movements titled: Melancholic, Sanguinic, Phlegmatic, and Choleric – the four temperaments of medieval medicine.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1904, George Balanchine is regarded as one of the greatest choreographers in the history of ballet and one of the 20th century’s most innovative artists. Balanchine attended the Imperial Ballet School, St. Petersburg. In 1924 he toured Europe and joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as a principal dancer and choreographer. After moving to the United States in 1933 he became director of ballet for the Metropolitan Opera House and a founder, with Lincoln Kirstein, of the School of American Ballet. In 1946 the two men founded the company that would become the New York City Ballet, and in 1948 Balanchine was named its artistic director and principal choreographer where he served in that capacity until his death in 1983.
Houston Ballet has 16 Balanchine works in its repertory: Agon (created in 1957, performed by Houston Ballet in 1996), Apollo (created in 1928, performed by Houston Ballet in 2004 and 2010), Ballo della Regina (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 2010), Ballet Imperial (created in 1941, performed by Houston Ballet in 2013), Concerto Barocco (created in 1941, performed by Houston Ballet in 1971 and 1977), The Four Temperaments (created in 1946, performed by Houston Ballet in 1988, 1997, and 2003), Jewels (Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds) (created in 1967, performed by Houston Ballet in 2010), La Valse (created in 1951, performed by Houston Ballet in 1988, 1996, and 2004), Pas de Dix (created in1955, performed by Houston Ballet in 1969 and 1970), Prodigal Son (created in 1929, performed by Houston Ballet in 1974), Raymonda Variations (created in 1961, performed by Houston Ballet in 1971), Serenade (created in 1934, performed by Houston Ballet in 1985, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2008), Symphony in C (created in 1947, performed by Houston Ballet in 1992 and 2008), Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (created in 1960, performed by Houston Ballet in 1971 and 1994), , Theme and Variations (created in 1947, performed by Houston Ballet in 1985, 1987, 1994, 1996, 2004, and 2012), Western Symphony (created in 1954, performed by Houston Ballet in 1986, 1990, 1994, and 2006).
Houston Ballet Caps the Season with Romantic Classic Swan Lake
From June 15-15, 2014, Houston Ballet revives Stanton Welch’s vibrantly theatrical staging of Swan Lake, which he created for Houston Ballet in 2006. Set to the hauntingly beautiful Tchaikovsky score, Swan Lake tells the classic tale of Odette – a beautiful maiden transformed into a swan by an evil knight – and the prince who swears his enduring love for her. It’s good and evil in black and white, danced on rich and spectacular sets by the late, great New Zealand designer Kristian Fredrikson.
One of the most famous and frequently performed works in the international repertoire, Swan Lake was first performed at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1877, with a specially commissioned score by Tchaikovsky. The production was not an overwhelming success at its premiere. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Dance, “neither the ballet nor its ballerina were well received.” On March 1, 1894, Act II of Swan Lake, featuring choreography by Lev Ivanov, was performed for a Tchaikovsky memorial. The Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov production, which became the definitive version, was performed at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 27, 1895.
Mr. Welch, who collaborated with Mr. Fredrikson on Swan Lake, was inspired by John William Waterhouse’s painting, The Lady of Shalott (1888). Waterhouse (1849-1917) was a British Neo-Classical and Pre-Raphaelite painter well-known for works featuring female characters from mythology and literature. The painting, which is based on Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem by the same title, depicts a tragic maiden afloat on a lake. Mr. Welch commented, “When I saw this painting I said, ‘This is our Odette.’ Here is a woman, a young heroine, lost in a forest by a lake, touched by tragedy.”
Inspired by Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Mr. Fredrikson’s designs feature maidens in long flowing gowns, dozens of white swans, Rothbart as a menacing dragon-like monster, four glamorous and steely black swans, sumptuously outfitted Hungarian, Neapolitan, Russian and Spanish princesses, and a royal court boasting costumes made of brocade, cut-velvet, and pearl-encrusted, sequined fabrics. There are more than 50 tutus, 45 costume designs, 31 characters, and 70 headpieces. The costume for Rothbart alone took Houston Ballet’s costume shop more than 600 hours to produce.
Mr. Fredrikson was a distinguished performing arts designer whose 40 year career encompassed ballet, opera, contemporary dance, theatre, exhibitions, film and television, Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Mr. Fredrikson started attending art classes at Wellington Polytechnic College while working as a journalist and critic in Wellington newspapers. Theatre and in particular ballet was an early interest and escape for Mr. Fredrikson, who soon became apprenticed to a local theatrical designer. In 1963 he joined the Melbourne Theatre Company as resident designer, a position he held for eight years, collaborating with distinguished directors John Sumner and George Ogilvie on over forty productions. During his lifetime Mr. Fredrikson worked on productions for Sydney Dance Company, The Australian Ballet and Opera Australia.
He collaborated with Mr. Welch on five ballets: Of Blessed Memory (1991), Cinderella (1997) and The Sleeping Beauty (2005) for The Australian Ballet; the Pecos Bill section of Tales of Texas (2004) and Swan Lake (2006) for Houston Ballet. Mr. Fredrikson’s design for Swan Lake was the final work of his long and distinguished career. He died in November 2005, and the production was dedicated to his memory.
Mr. Fredrikson’s work has been recognized through numerous awards, including four Erik Awards, six Green Room Awards, three Helpmann Awards, and in 1999 he was recognized by an Australian Dance Award for services to dance. In 1995 he was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Arts Centre Melbourne and in 2008 the Kristian Fredrikson Scholarship for Design in the Performing Arts was established.
As the first composer who produced symphonic music for ballet, Tchaikovsky created in Swan Lake something that delighted dancers and music lovers. For many, the musical melodies from Tchaikovsky’s lush score are synonymous with ballet. Houston Ballet Music Director Ermanno Florio worked with Stanton Welch to organize Tchaikovsky’s original score in such a manner that it perfectly suits Mr. Welch’s vision for the work. Commented Mr. Florio, “As we began discussing the arrangement for his Swan Lake, Stanton and I agreed that we would try to keep to the original Tchaikovsky score by using as much of the original music as possible in its original order, with few cuts within the individual musical numbers. For example, Stanton wanted the White Swan pas de deux and the Black Swan pas de deux music to be performed as is traditionally done, and we restored all of the music for the harp cadenza before the White Swan pas. Stanton organized the ballet into three acts with two intermissions. This would require combining the original Act I and Act II. As the musical numbers that end the original Act I and that start the original Act II are similar, Stanton decided to keep the Act 1 finale music (which is usually cut) and create a pas de deux on it. Also, in the ‘White Act’ (the second half of Stanton’s Act I), we decided to use the waltz three times, as in the original. Additionally, there are two wonderful pieces of music in the appendix to the musical score of Swan Lake that are rarely used in the full-length version of the ballet: the music used by Balanchine in his Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and a fabulous solo for violin called Danse Russe. Stanton is using the ‘female variation’ music from the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and all of the Danse Russe in this version of the ballet.”
Houston Ballet performed the world premiere of Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake on February 23, 2006 in the Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas.
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 55 dancers with a budget of $20.5 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 $53.7 million (as of August 2012).
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, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte. James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, assuming the position of executive director of Houston Ballet in February 2012 after serving as the company’s general manager for over a decade. Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Since 2000, 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 25,000 Houston area students (as of the 2012-2013 season). Houston Ballet’s Academy has 950 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.
HOUSTON BALLET 2013-2014 SEASON OVERVIEW
All performances listed here are in Wortham Theater Center.
FOUR PREMIERES featuring:
WORLD PREMIERE BY JAMES KUDELKA
WORLD PREMIERE BY GARRETT SMITH
WORLD PREMIERE BY MELISSA HOUGH
INTIMATE PAGES (1984)
Music by Leoš Janáček, String Quartet No. 2
Choreography by Christopher Bruce
Staged by Christopher Bruce and Steven Brett
Houston Ballet launches its 44th season in grand style with a mixed repertory program of new works by emerging and established choreographers. Christopher Bruce, associate choreographer since 1989, will set him work stunning work Intimate Pages. Canadian James Kudelka returns to Houston to stage his second commissioned work. Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough got their starts as dance makers at Houston Ballet, and went on to win prestigious awards from the New York Choreographic Institute.
At 7:30 p.m. on September 5, 7, 13, 14, 2013
At 2:00 p.m. on September 8, 15, 2013
II THE MERRY WIDOW
(created in 1975, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1999, and 2007)
Music by Franz Lehár
Musical adaptation by John Lanchbery and Alan Abbott
Choreography by Ronald Hynd
Scenery and Costume Design by Roberta Guidi di Bagno
Lighting Design by Randall G. Chiarelli
Staged by Ronald Hynd and John Meehan
Houston Ballet revives Ronald Hynd’s deliciously comic love story, The Merry Widow, featuring spectacular scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. Set in turn of the century Paris, this production has it all: lilting waltzes by Franz Lehár; saucy can-can girls, glamour and champagne; and a wonderful love story featuring an unlikely couple, separated in their youth, who rekindle their lost romance.
At 7:30 p.m. on September 19, 21, 27, 28, 2013
At 2:00 p.m. on September 22, 28, 29, 2013
Original choreography by Marius Petipa (1892)
New Staging by Ben Stevenson(1987)
Music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Choreography by Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.
Scenic and Costume Design by Desmond Heeley
Lighting Design by Duane Schuler
A wonderful ballet for the entire family, The Nutcracker is the perfect way to introduce young children to the power and beauty of classical dance. Tchaikovsky’s magical score, Desmond Heeley’s fairy-tale scenery, and Ben Stevenson’s vibrantly theatrical staging combine to create one of the most visually stunning productions of The Nutcracker in the world today. Join Clara on her unforgettable journey as she travels to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets, and marvel as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a pas de deux of crystalline beauty. It’s a perfect holiday treat!
November 29 -December 29, 2013
At 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29*, 30* and Dec. 1*, 7, 8*, 12*, 13, 14, 15*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27*, 28
At 2:00 pm on November 30 and Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29
*-Indicates discounted performance.
JUBILEE OF DANCE
Houston Ballet will present Jubilee of Dance, a one-night-only event showcasing the depth and range of the company in a program of premieres and high-energy excerpts from signature works and beloved classics. The highpoint of the evening will be the company premiere of the dazzling the third act of Paquita, the Spanish-flavored classical showpiece.
At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 6, 2013
III ALADDIN (2008)
Music by Carl Davis
Choreography by David Bintley
Scenic Design by Dick Bird
Costume Design by Sue Blane
Lighting Design by Mark Jonathan
Staged by David Bintley and Denis Boner
Houston Ballet presents the American premiere of the celebrated English choreographer David Bintley’s full-length Aladdin, a magical tale of love, trickery and triumph. A run-in with palace guards leads young tearaway Aladdin into a whirlwind of adventure and romance, involving unbelievable riches, love at first sight, treachery, and a magical lamp. Originally created for the New National Ballet of Japan in Tokyo in 2008, the production features spectacularly scenery by the celebrated English designer Dick Bird and an original score by Carl Davis, who has created numerous well-known television scores including Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, The World at War and Up Pompeii.
Aladdin is a co-production between Birmingham Royal Ballet and Houston Ballet Foundation.
At 7:30 p.m. on February 20, 22, 28, March 1, 2014
At 2:00 p.m. on February 22, 23, March 2, 2014
IV THE YOUNG PERSON’S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA featuring:
THE YOUNG PERSON’S GUIDE TO THE ORCHESTRA
Music by Benjamin Britten
Choreography by Stanton Welch
OF BLESSED MEMORY (1991)
Houston Ballet Premiere
Music by Joseph Canteloube (Chants d’Auvergne)
Choreography by Stanton Welch
MANINYAS (created in 1996, performed by Houston Ballet in 2005)
Music by Ross Edwards (Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra)
Choreography by Stanton Welch
Scenic and costume design by Stanton Welch
Lighting design by Lisa Pinkham
Houston Ballet celebrates the tenth anniversary of Stanton Welch as artistic director with a mixed repertory program featuring three works by Mr. Welch, including a world premiere set to Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra designed to showcase the company’s orchestra and dancers. Benjamin Britten created his The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in 1946, and it has helped to introduce generations of children to the world of classical music. The evening will also feature the company premiere of Of Blessed Memory, a work Mr. Welch created for The Australian Ballet in 1991 to honor his mother, the celebrated Australian ballerina Marilyn Jones, O.B.E. The program also includes a revival of Maninyas, a sensual work for five couples created in 1996 that showcases the speed and physicality of Houston Ballet’s dancers.
At 7:30 p.m. on March 6, 8, 14, 15, 2014
At 2:00 p.m. on March 9, 16, 2014
Houston Ballet Academy Spring Performance
The gifted young artists of Houston Ballet Academy cap their studies with two performances of a program featuring works tailor-made to show them at their best.
At 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 25, 2014
At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, 2014
V MODERN MASTERS featuring:
THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS
(created in 1946, performed by Houston Ballet in 1988, 1997, and 2003)
Music by Paul Hindemith
Choreography by George Balanchine
Lighting by Tony Tucci
Staged by Judy Fugate
IN THE MIDDLE, SOMEWHAT ELEVATED
(created in 1987, performed by Houston Ballet in 1999, 2003, and 2007)
Music by Thom Willems
Choreography by William Forsythe
Costume, lighting and scenic design by William Forsythe
Staged by Kathryn Bennetts
PETITE MORT (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 2007)
Music by W.A. Mozart
(Piano Concerto in A Major – Adagio, and Piano Concerto in C Major – Andante)
Choreography by Ji•í Kylián
Costume Design by Joke Visser
Lighting Design by Joop Caboort
Staged by Roslyn Anderson
SECHS TANZE (SIX DANCES) (1986)
(Houston Ballet Premiere)
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Choreography, scenery and costumes by Ji•í Kylián
Lighting by Joop Caboort
Staged by Roslyn Anderson
Modern Masters will showcase the work of three of the most influential choreographers of the twentieth century. One of George Balanchine’s masterworks, The Four Temperaments is an expression in dance and music of the ancient notion that the human organism is made up of four different humors, from which are derived the personality types: Melancholic, Sanguinic, Phlegmatic, and Choleric. In In the middle, somewhat elevated, American choreographer William Forsythe pushes thrillingly past the boundaries of classical ballet, in a work full of explosive energy, high attitude, and cool sexuality. Set to the slow movements of two of Mozart’s most beautiful and popular piano concertos, Petite Morte (which literally means ‘small death’, serves as a paraphrase for orgasm in French and Arabic) features six women and six men in a work created by Czech master Ji•í Kylián in 1991 to honor Mozart on the second centenary of his death. Highlighting the program will be the company premiere of Kylián delightfully comic short work, Sechs Tanze (Six Dances)
At 7:30 p.m. on May 22, 24, 30, 31 2014
At 2:00 p.m. on May 25, June 1, 2014
VI SWAN LAKE (created for Houston Ballet in 2006, performed again by Houston Ballet in 2009)
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Choreography by Stanton Welch, after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Scenic and Costume Designs by Kristian Fredrikson
Lighting Design by Lisa Pinkham
Houston Ballet caps its 2013-14 season with a revival of Stanton Welch’s spectacular staging of the beloved classic, Swan Lake, created for the company in 2006 and featuring sumptuous scenery and costumes by Kristian Fredrikson. One of the great love stories of classical ballet, Swan Lake tells the story of Odette – a beautiful maiden transformed into a swan by an evil knight – and the Prince who swears his eternal love for her. In his staging, Mr. Welch imbues the main characters with greater psychological complexity, and gives the work a twenty-first century pace.
At 7:30 pm on June 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 2014
At 2:00 pm on June 8, 15, 2014
At 1:30 pm on June 7, 2014
Full season subscriptions, with tickets to six productions, range in price from $93 to $1140 depending on seat location and date of performances. To subscribe, call (713) 5-BALLET (713-522-5538) or purchase online.
Single tickets go on sale Monday, August 5, 2013 and may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 (713-227 2787)