World Premieres by Aszure Barton in September 2012 and Edwaard Liang in March 2013 Highlight Season.
Stanton Welch Stages New Production of The Rite of Spring in March 2013 to Mark Centennial of Landmark Work.
Company Premieres of George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial, Mark Morris’s Pacific, and Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations. Trey McIntyre’s Full-Length Peter Pan Returns to the Repertoire in June 2013. Cullen Series Returns with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal in February 2013.
Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch has announced the company’s 2012-2013 season. Six new works enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire, including world premieres by Aszure Barton in September 2012 and Edwaard Liang in March 2013; company premieres of George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial, Mark Morris’s Pacific, and Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations; as well as a new staging of The Rite of Spring by Mr. Welchin March 2013.
“This season’s repertory is truly exciting with two new works by Aszure Barton and Edwaard Liang, who are both young, talented, and in demand choreographers. I personally am looking forward to creating my own version of The Rite of Spring in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of the premiere of this milestone work,” comments Mr. Welch. “Peter Pan and La Bayadère are works that were created especially for Houston Ballet over the last decade, and our audiences will be able to see the growth of the company as the dancers return to these pieces. Iam very excited that Jim Nelson has accepted the position of executive director. As a former dancer, he brings a special understanding of the creative process, and he also has a deep knowledge of the company’s operations from his decade of service as general manager.”
The 2012-2013 season will mark the first full season under the new leadership of executive director James Nelson, who takes the helm on February 15, 2012. A native of Portland, Oregon he has spent his career in the dance world moving from professional dancer to administrative leader. “Jim Nelson is known as one of the rising stars among young managers in the dance field. It is highly unusual, and desirable, to find a chief executive for a ballet company with Jim’s unique combination of experience as a ballet student, dancer, and successful administrator. The fact that all that experience has happened at Houston Ballet makes him an ideal choice to partner with Stanton in leading the company,” states San Francisco Ballet Executive Director Glenn McCoy.
Madame Butterfly, One of the World’s Great Love Stories, Launches the 2012-2013 Season in September 2012.
From September 6-16, 2012, Houston Ballet will revive artistic director Stanton Welch’s signature work Madame Butterfly on a program with his one-act ballet Clear. Set to Puccini’s memorable score, in an arrangement by John Lanchbery, Madame Butterfly chronicles the love story of the beautiful geisha Cio-Cio San who is betrothed to marry the handsome American, Lieutenant Pinkerton. The production unfolds dramatically on Peter Farmer’s picturesque sets, which beautifully evoke the mystery and languor of 19th century Japan. Opening the program is Mr. Welch’s explosive and sensual work Clear, set to music by Bach.
Premiered by The Australian Ballet in 1995, Madame Butterfly was Mr. Welch’s first full-length ballet. The two-act work tells the story of the beautiful geisha Cio-Cio San who renounces her faith and her family to wed Lieutenant Pinkerton, the handsome American naval officer who is betrothed to another. The centerpiece of the work is a ravishing wedding night pas de deux for Pinkerton and Cio-Cio San, which closes the first act.
Since its premiere, Madame Butterfly has become Mr. Welch’s international signature piece, having entered the repertoires of Houston Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Boston Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Ballet West, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
“Madame Butterfly is a wonderful and famous love story, along the lines of Romeo and Juliet,” says Mr. Welch. “Returning to this ballet, Houston audiences will be able to see the maturity of our dancers as they return to roles and bring new levels of richness to the story. It will also be exciting to watch new casts of young company members who are quickly making a name for themselves in the dance world.”
At the ballet’s Houston premiere, Marene Gustin of the Houston Press wrote, “Houston Ballet needs more story ballets like this one…the company really danced, flowing through the choreography and shining in the storytelling.” (September 26, 2002) Houston Ballet last performed Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly in 2007.
Mr. Welch’s Clear is an abstract work, for seven men and one woman, showcasing Houston Ballet’s male dancers and set to music by Bach. Noted fashion designer Michael Kors created the costumes for Clear. Sleek and sexy, Mr. Kors’s flesh-toned designs focus the attention on the dancers, emphasizing the emotional impact of Mr. Welch’s choreography. Mr. Kors, who lives near the Joffrey Ballet School in Chicago, was inspired by the students he sees every day in their layers, which influenced designs for some of his collections.
From September 20-30, 2012, Houston Ballet presents Women@Art featuring a world premiere by Aszure Barton, the company premiere of Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms/Haydn Variations, and the return of Julia Adam’s Ketubah on a program of all female choreographers. With this program, Houston Ballet becomes one of the only American ballet companies to devote an entire program to the work of three living female choreographers. Houston Ballet is proud to nurture and support the careers of female dance makers. “It’s rare and exciting for a major ballet company to curate a program featuring the works of three women,” states Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. “In many respects, ballet choreography can be a very male dominated field.”
Aszure Barton has been called a “brilliant” and “audacious” choreographer by the world’s leading dance critics. Britain’s Globe & Mail remarked, “The brilliant New York-based Barton produces delectable works that are quirky, deep, cheeky, and poignant. Her quicksilver, unpredictable movement always astonishes the eye.” Ms. Barton’s premiere for Houston Balletwill mark the first time she has choreographed on the company.
“Aszure’s work is European contemporary, very much about dance theater instead of dance in general,” comments Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. “Her choreography is funnywith an edge to the work. For her world premiere with Houston Ballet she is planning on using the full company.”
Ms. Barton was born and raised in Canada. She received her formal training at National Ballet School in Toronto where she helped originate the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Showcase. She has created works for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Hell’s Kitchen Dance, The National Ballet of Canada, Nederlands Dans Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (Resident Choreographer 2005–2008), Sydney Dance Company, The Juilliard School, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Martha Graham Dance Company, among others. In 2006 Ms. Barton choreographed the Broadway revival production of The Threepenny Opera directed by Scott Elliott. She is the founder and director of Aszure Barton & Artists, a New York based international dance project and her works continue to tour nationally and internationally. She is an artist in residence at The Banff Centre in Canada and Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City, and was proclaimed the Ambassador of Contemporary Choreography in Alberta, Canada.
Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations will have its Houston Ballet premiere. The work was originally premiered in 2000 by American Ballet Theatre and subsequently toured to Washington D.C. and Berlin, Germany. Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post remarked “It is a marvel of musicality, soaring flight, understated wit and seamless design.” (March 22, 2000)Time Out New York critic Gia Kourlas raved “As she railed against the composers completely unreasonable symmetry, frequently mimicking a mad conductor in order to help the audience follow the score, Tharp delivered the performance of a lifetime.” (May 2000)
“Twyla is the world’s most famous living American female choreographer. She took ballet mainstream and made it popular,” states Mr. Welch. “She has become a household name because of her success in all aspects of dance in the arts: Broadway, film, and operas.”
After graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Ms. Tharp founded her dance company, Twyla Tharp Dance in 1965. A leading choreographer of modern dance and ballet, Ms. Tharp rose to prominence during the dance boom of the 1960s and 1970s. In the mid-1970s, she began to cross over into ballet choreography. Her American Ballet Theatre debut, Push Comes to Shove, wasvery popular with audiences, and became a signature work for Mikhail Baryshnikov. Ms. Tharp went on to create several ballets for Baryshnikov, including The Little Ballet, Once More Frank, and the choreography for Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in the film White Nights. Her dance style is a combination of modern dance and ballet, and is set to a variety of music types, including classical and popular. In addition to choreographing for her own company and ABT, she has created works for other companies including The Joffrey Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, Martha Graham Dance Company, Miami City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Houston Ballet has one other work by Ms. Tharp in its repertory, In the Upper Room, which had its company premier in 2010.
Julia Adam’s Ketubah was the first work by the celebrated young choreographer to enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire in 2004. Set to live klezmer music by The Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas, Ms. Adam’s work is inspired by the rituals of a traditional Jewish wedding, following one couple from first glance to wedding night.
Ketubah is a Hebrew term referring to the marriage contract signed by the bride and groom on their wedding day. A work involving 16 dancers – eight women and eight men – the ballet features movement that is a mixture of several styles. “I’m classically trained,” Ms. Adam explains, “so I’m taking from that world, but there are contemporary and folk elements in the ballet. I’m also pulling shapes from Jewish folk dance.”
The piece begins with a lighthearted game of “musical chairs” that serves to introduce the bride and groom, and then flows through the elements of a Jewish wedding, including a ritual bath, the groom’s party, the unveiling of the bride, the ceremony under the chuppah – the wedding canopy – and finally ending with a celebration. Ms. Adam uses a single design element throughout the piece to unify and emphasize the underlying theme.
Comments Ms. Adam, “I take a piece of fabric that morphs from the mikvah – the bath where the bride immerses herself to cleanse her hands, feet, and body – and becomes her veil. Bedecken, the unveiling, is when the groom looks at the bride and sees that it is the woman he’s supposed tomarry. The veil then turns into the chuppah, and the chuppah becomes the sheet that was historically used in the marriage bed. The ballet ends with festivities, and the last song is ‘Mazel Tov.’”
Ketubah is set to klezmer music, a uniquely evocative style integral to the once vibrant Eastern European Jewish culture, which is frequently played at Jewish weddings. Ms. Adam choreographed her ballet to music recorded by a Houston-based group, The Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas, which will perform live. The band embraces the past by drawing upon the musical influences of the Yiddish-speaking culture of old-world Europe, and melding them with the infectious rhythms of America’s jazz age. The 11 piece ensemble is known for its spirited performances of Jewish folk songs and traditional wedding dances, haunting, lyric melodies of East European Jews, fiery virtuosic Gypsy showpieces, and dazzling theater music, all infused with an electrifying world-beat.
Of her inspiration for Ketubah, Ms. Adam says, “I began with the idea of this wedding. I’m pulling from Eastern European Jewish Ashkenazi ritual. Pulling from ritual and tradition makes good theater.” She looked to her own family and roots when creating the ballet. “I’m Jewish, so it’s coming from my background,” she said. “I’m visiting a part of my life. I married a non-Jew, but had a Jewish wedding: a rabbi, the chuppah, the whole thing.”
Ms. Adam, a former principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, began her choreographic career in 1993. She has created numerous pieces for San Francisco Ballet including: The Medium is the Message (1993), Once is Enough (1994), Night (2000), and Imaginal Disc(2003). Night has become a signature work for the San Francisco troupe, and the company has performed it at London’s Royal Opera House, at the Palais Garnier in Paris and at New York’s City Center. Reviewing Night for Dance Magazine, Janice Ross wrote, “Adam’s brilliance inNight resides in the way she can generate and sustain a very complicated stage picture, one that starts deep in the physical actions of each of her eleven dancers.”
Houston Ballet Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Ben Stevenson’s dazzling production of The Nutcracker
From November 23-December 30, 2012, Houston Ballet celebrates the silver anniversary of Ben Stevenson’s beloved production of The Nutcracker, featuring visually stunning scenery and costumes by the legendary English designer Desmond Heeley. A Houston holiday tradition seen by more than one million people since its debut in 1987, the Stevenson/Heeley production ofThe Nutcracker is the perfect way to introduce young children to the power and beauty of classical dance.
2012 also marks the 40th anniversary of Houston Ballet performances of The Nutcracker. Houston Ballet first presented The Nutcracker on December 28, 1972 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in downtown Houston. It was the company’s first full-length production, and featured choreography by Frederic Franklin and designs by Peter Farmer. The company gave six performances in 1972. That number has increased to thirty-six in 2012, with performances running from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. The Nutcracker also plays a key role in Houston Ballet’s financial picture, generating $3.74 million in ticket sales revenues in 2011.
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. Molly Glentzer, dance critic for the Houston Chronicle, wrote, “You’d have to be a Scrooge not to surrender to the spirit.”
Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance: A One-Night-Only Extravaganza
On Friday, November 30, 2012, Houston Ballet presents its ninth 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. Houston Chronicle dance critic Molly Glentzer called the 2006 Jubilee of Dance “the event of the season,” noting, “the audience gave it a rousing standing ovation.”
Cullen Series Returns with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s Cantata and Four Seasons in February 2013
On Friday, February 1 and Saturday, February 2, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal as part of the Cullen Series. One of the missions of the Cullen Series is to introduce the city to exciting contemporary dance makers. Under the artistic direction of Gradimir Pankov, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal will perform Cantataand Four Seasons by Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti. The Four Seasons is set to Antonio Vivaldi’s score of the same name. The twelve-movement ballet highlights classical technique with contemporary motion. Cantata features live traditional Southern Italian music by Gruppo Musicale Assurd, a quartet of female singers from Italy.
“We are very proud to be bringing back Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal with two very fresh and imaginative works, Four Seasons and Cantata,” remarks Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. Cantata, a 40-minute work, is an exploration of the multiple facets of relations shared between men and women, from seduction to jealousy to lovers’ quarrels. Cantata pays homage to Italian culture and musical traditions, and highlights the integral relationship between music and dance. Featuring a musical score that includes Italian serenades and lullabies, Montreal’s Le Devoircalls Cantata “a hymn to rugged Mediterranean beauty, Italian culture, and its musical and popular tradition.” Mr. Welch comments, “Cantata is the complete experience of Italy, which we are looking forward to sharing with our Houston audience.”
Featuring a cast of 20 dancers, Four Seasons, another 40-minute ballet, is structured in 12scenes to match the 12 movements in Vivaldi’s score. In describing his decision to choreograph to such a well-known piece of music, Mr. Bigonzetti has said that he wanted to “take on this challenge whose grandeur lies in the possibility to express – once again – something different, new, despite the familiarity of this work known to all.” He continues, “After so many centuries, these notes can still stir the heart of human beings.” Montréal’s La Presse states that Four Seasons is “a graceful jewel carved of extreme choreographic difficulty, dizzying performancespeed, and fine attention to every detail…It’s stunning and remarkable.”
Choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti began his dance training at Rome Opera Ballet School at the age of 11, and became a full-time company member eight years later. He danced there for four years before joining Aterballetto, a modern dance company in northern Italy. There he performed in works by George Balanchine, Léonide Massine, Alvin Ailey, and William Forsythe, before becoming a freelance choreographer in 1990. He has since choreographed for companies all over the world, including in Italy, England, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Turkey, France, and Canada. Some of his most recent works include In Vento for New York City Ballet, Romeo and Juliet for Aterballetto, Caravaggio for Staatsballett Berlin, and Festa Barocca for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Until 2007, he was artistic director of Aterballetto. He remains their resident choreographer.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal was formed in 1957 by Ludmilla Chiriaeff, a former ballerina who is credited with helping introduce the art form to Canadian audiences. The company made its U.S. debut at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 1959. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal is often described as a diverse and adventurous company rooted in classical ballet traditions. Its repertory includes full-length classical ballets, but also works by some of today’s leading contemporary choreographers, including Jiří Kylián, Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Mauro Bigonzetti, and Nacho Duato. In 2000, Gradimir Pankov was named artistic director of the company, after directing several renowned international dance companies, including Nederlands Dans Theater II, National Ballet of Finland, Cullberg Ballet, and Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève. The New York Times’ John Rockwell has praised Pankov’s contributions to the company, saying that his “revolution at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal continues, with breathtaking results.”
Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère:A Story of Love, Mystery, Fate, Vengeance and Justice
From February 21-March 3, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère, a historic classic newly staged by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch and set in royalIndia of the past. La Bayadère is a dramatic ballet of eternal love, mystery, fate, vengeance and justice intertwined to tell the story of Nikiya, a temple dancer, her lover Solor, and the vengeance that keeps them apart, at least in this life.
La Bayadère’s third act, the famous Kingdom of the Shades section, showcases 24 female dancers in white tutus, executing 38 synchronized and seamless arabesques while descending onto the stage, and is one of the purest forms of ballet-blanc, or white tutu ballet. “The Kingdom of the Shades is a challenging segment because it requires such control and precision from the corps de ballet women,” says Mr. Welch. “There are few works in the classical repertoire that require more precision from the corps de ballet.” The Kingdom of the Shades is so popular it is often performed on its own. Houston Ballet first performed The Kingdom of the Shades scene, staged by Ben Stevenson after Marius Petipa, in March 1994 and revived it in 1998.
Mr. Welch choreographed La Bayadère on Houston Ballet in 2010. The piece was his second staging of a 19th century classic for Houston Ballet, after Swan Lake in 2006. He has choreographed a number of full-length story ballets for The Australian Ballet, including Madame Butterfly (1995), Cinderella (1997) and The Sleeping Beauty (2005); as well as two original evening-length works for Houston Ballet, Tales of Texas (2004) and Marie (2009).
English designer Peter Farmer, who has a long and rich history with Houston Ballet, created the spectacular scenery and costumes for La Bayadère. Mr. Farmer created a total of nine full-length productions for Houston Ballet since 1972 and is one of the few designers to have worked with three of the company’s directors: Nina Popova, Ben Stevenson and Stanton Welch.
The costume designs are reminiscent of brightly colored traditional Indian attire, such as harem pants and saris, for the first and second acts. “Peter’s scenic design is not a realistic depiction of India. It’s like looking through an old picture book from western culture with a view of romanticized India,” comments Mr. Welch. “The production has a very painterly look, almost reminiscent of Monet that will give it dreaminess and romance.” The lavish production includes 121 costumes, comprised of 568 items. This also includes 26 handmade white tutus for The Kingdom of the Shades scene.
The Rite of Spring Features Stanton Welch’s World Premiere of The Rite of Spring, a World Premiere by Edwaard Liang, plus the Company Premiere of Mark Morris’s Pacific.
From March 7-17, 2013, Houston Ballet will present Rites of Passage, a program of premieres featuring three exciting 21st century choreographers. The company will unveil the world premiere of Stanton Welch’s The Rite of Spring. A world premiere by internationally renowned choreographer Edwaard Liang and a Houston Ballet premiere of Mark Morris’s Pacific roundout the program.
Hailed by The Oxford Dictionary of Dance as “a seminal moment in modernism,” the premiere of The Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913, at Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, shocked its audience. The ballet nearly started a riot among audience members with its unconventional music, modern choreography, and provocative storyline about a young woman chosen by her tribe as a sacrifice.
“The impact of Stravinsky’s magnificent score and the ballet’s universal theme of the cycle of life, death and rebirth has gone far beyond 1913,” writes Jody Leader in The International Dictionary of Ballet. “The Rite of Spring became a touchstone of orchestral virtuosity in the latter half of the twentieth century, as well as a continuing challenge to choreographers.”Stravinsky’s landmark score has inspired a plethora of great dance makers, including Richard Alston, Pina Bausch, Maurice Bejart, Martha Graham, Lester Horton, Leonide Massine, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, John Taras, Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley, Hans Van Manen, and Vladimir Vasiliev. Houston Ballet has performed Glen Tetley’s staging of The Rite ofSpring (originally created in 1973 for Munich’s Bavarian State Opera Ballet) on two occasions: in 1988 and in 1997.
To honor this famous artistic collaboration, Mr. Welch has conceived his own interpretation. The full-company ballet taps into the themes of primitiveness, sexuality and sacrifice. “With this full company piece I will explore primitive, primal movements, and emotion, while trying to capturewhat I have imagined since I first listened to this music as a child,” notes Mr. Welch. “There are so many wonderful versions of The Rite of Spring, and I hope to pay homage to the rich music and history of the story.”
The Rite of Spring sets are designed by acclaimed indigenous Australian artist Rosella Namok and include two giant back cloths printed in an aboriginal style. Ms. Namok’s work has been hailed by critics as “bold” and “inspired.” Mr. Welch discovered Ms. Namok’s work at Houston’s Booker-Lowe Gallery, which features the largest collection of contemporary Australian Aboriginal fine art in the Americas. “I immediately felt connected to Rosella Namok’s work which was very Australian and captured the spirit of the music for The Rite of Spring,” explains Mr. Welch.
Edwaard Liang’s world premiere for Houston Ballet will employ his distinctive choreographic style to create a new work specifically for company dancers. The ballet marks the first work by the acclaimed choreographer to enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire. “I first saw Edwaard’s choreography at The Joffrey Ballet. He has a unique mix of influences inspiring his work, ranging from George Balanchine to Jiří Kylián to his Asian heritage,” comments Mr. Welch. “I am excited for Houston Ballet’s dancers to work with Edwaard.”
Born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in Marin County, California, Mr. Liang began his training at Marin Ballet. In 1989 he entered the School of American Ballet. He joined New York City Ballet in the spring of 1993, and that same year, was a medal winner at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition. He was promoted to the rank of soloist in 1998. In 2001, he joined the Tony Award winning Broadway cast of Fosse, performing a leading principal role. In 2002, he was invited by Jiří Kylián to become a member of the acclaimed Nederlands Dans Theater. Dancing with Nederlands Dans Theater is where he discovered his passion and love for choreography. After returning from Holland, Mr. Liang again danced with New York City Ballet from 2004-2007.
Mr. Liang has choreographed a number of works, starting in 2003 with Nederlands Dans Theaterworkshop, Flight of Angels, which has since been staged for many companies. Mr. Liang was invited to do a piece for the 2004 New York Choreographic Institute and choreographed a piecefor the opening season of Cedar Lake Dance Company in Manhattan. Mr. Liang’s Distant Cries,created for Peter Boal and Company, premiered in March 2005 at The Joyce Theatre, to positivereviews from The New York Times, and was then performed as part of a New York City Ballet Gala later in 2005. Since then, Mr. Liang has choreographed ballets for many companies, including New York City Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Shanghai Ballet, among others. Mr. Liang was named one of the “Top 25 to Watch” for 2006 by Dance Magazinefor choreography, winner of the 2006 National Choreographic Competition, and invited to be a part of the 2007 National Choreographers Initiative. In 2008, Mr. Liang was invited to create a new work for The Joffrey Ballet. The resulting ballet, Age of Innocence, was deemed by Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times as “a newly minted masterpiece.” (October 17, 2008)
Pacific by legendary American choreographer Mark Morris rounds out the program. Mr. Morris’s Pacific is a light and joyous ensemble piece for nine dancers set to the music of Lou Harrison’s Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano. Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post calledPacific “a creation of unalloyed beauty” (May 22, 2010).
Created in 1995 for San Francisco Ballet, Pacific has entered the repertoire of Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Washington Ballet and Grand Théâtre de Genève and impressed critics with its serene alliance of mood and movement. Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times writes, “Pacific…is a quiet ballet, gentle as a sigh; its jumps seem to linger in the air like the scent of spring” (April 6, 2007).
Mr. Morris formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980 and saw his creativity flourish. From 1988-1991 he was the director of dance at Le Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in 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 Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, New York, his company’s first permanent headquarters in the U.S. Houston Ballet has two other works by Mr. Morris in its repertoire: Sandpaper Ballet and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.
Journey with the Masters Features Company Premiere of George Balanchine’s Legendary Ballet Imperial in May 2013
From May 30 – June 9, 2013 Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program titled Journey with the Masters featuring the company premiere of Ballet Imperial, George Balanchine’s tribute to Marius Petipa and Peter Tchaikovsky, alongside revivals of Jiří Kylián’s exuberant and joyous Sinfonietta and Jerome Robbins’s The Concert, a laugh-out-loud ballet depicting a group of concertgoers at a performance with keen insight to human behavior.
Balanchine created Ballet Imperial for American Ballet Caravan, and it premiered on June 25, 1941 at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. Ballet Imperial, a ballet for two principals, three soloists, and 24 corps de ballet dancers, is set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2 in G major, Op. 44. A sumptuous tutu ballet, with a hierarchical cast, and a brilliant courtly atmosphere, Ballet Imperial, in Balanchine’s words, is “a contemporary tribute to Petipa, ‘the father of the classic ballet,’ and to Tchaikovsky, his greatest composer.”
The celebrated American dance critic John Martin noted: “It would be a grave mistake to imply anything old-fashioned in any respect except the psychological setting. The virtuosity of the old academic style, the grandiloquence of manner, even the conventional mime [Balanchine] has looked back on with a certain tenderness but with an artistic objectivity as well, which allows him to treat it purely as choreographic material and to compose it freely and imaginatively.” Indeed, the ballerina’s role is still considered perhaps the most difficult in Balanchine’s repertory. The choreography of the entire piece has been described (by the respected American dance historian Nancy Reynolds) as “a non-stop outpouring of kinetic exuberance.”
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. Balanchine served as its 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). Houston Ballet has 14 Balanchine works in its repertory, including Apollo (1928), Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941),The Four Temperaments (1946), Symphony in C (1947), Theme and Variations (1947), La Valse (1951), Western Symphony (1954), Pas de Dix (1955), Agon (1957), Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (1960), and Jewels (Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds) (1967).
Jiří Kylián, one of the most important choreographers of our time, has influenced generations of dance-makers since creating his first works with Stuttgart Ballet in the 1970s. “Kylián is one of the leading influencers in dance. He has a rich career with a broad range of style and ability that work well with classically trained dancers,” states Mr. Welch. “He is one of my idols and his work is constantly challenging the dancers musically and intellectually.”
“I make ballets because dance can express things which are inexpressible with words,” Mr.Kylián has said. “My choreographies have been based on classical ballet, influenced by modern dance, folk-dance and extremely natural movements.”
Kylián set his Sinfonietta to the music of Janáček to create this fluid, spacious, romantic ballet which has become a milestone in contemporary choreography. The forceful fanfares of Janáček’s music are matched by a ceaselessly energetic and exuberant display of movement, creating and image which carries through the composer’s intention of evoking the spirit of what Kylián calls the “free Czech man . . . [and] represents free men in general.”
Mr. Kylián considers Sinfonietta “perhaps my most spontaneous work.” He created it in 1978 for Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, when the company had little sense of direction and a tight deadline, but “the result was quite remarkable. The audience at theCharleston premiere never heard the end of the music, because they already stood on the top of their chairs cheering and throwing the program books into the air. This was the moment that tore the company out of a depression and this work where simplicity is one of the major characteristics, became a cornerstone of the repertoire of Nederlands Dans Theater.”
The ballet, choreographed for seven couples, begins with a rousing series of leaps for the men, set to Janáček’s celebratory opening fanfares. The most classically based of Mr. Kylián’s ballets,Sinfonietta has five sections. Both men and women leap joyously through the air, seemingly effortless in their transcendence of gravity, building to a thrilling conclusion. Sinfoniettaentered Houston Ballet’s repertoire in 1995.
Born in Prague, Jiří Kylián studied at Prague Conservatory and The Royal Ballet School in London before joining Stuttgart Ballet in 1968 under the direction of John Cranko. He began his choreographic career in Stuttgart, creating his first work for that company 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 Falling Angels, Soldiers’ Mass, Petite Mort, Svadebka, Forgotten Land,Sinfonietta, and Symphony in D.
Jerome Robbins’s The Concert is a comic spoof of a classical music concert. Set to music by Chopin and orchestrated by Clare Grundman, the piece begins with a pianist onstage. The audience for this particular concert is made up of dancers who file in carrying chairs. This audience, like many others, gets distracted once the music starts, and that is when the fun begins.
Mr. Robbins once observed, “One of the pleasures of attending a concert is the freedom to lose oneself in listening to the music. Quite unconsciously, mental pictures and images form.” Thissentiment is brought comically and vividly to life in his choreography, when the hilariously unthinkable happens in the concert hall. Some of the vignettes from the ballet feature a young lady whose enormous hat blocks the view, a bickering married couple who chase each around the stage, and confusion with the tickets which causes everybody to switch seats.
Comments Mr. Welch, “The Concert is one of the funniest ballets ever created. It’s still fresh and funny today. Jerome Robbins was one of the true masters of dance. He had a unique and subtle sense of choreography which is lovely.”
The Concert was created for New York City Ballet and was premiered at New York’s City Center on March 6, 1956. Houston Ballet first performed The Concert in 2007 and has threeother works by Jerome Robbins – Fancy Free (1944), Afternoon of a Faun (1953), and In the Night (1970) – in its repertory. The Concert is widely regarded as a 20th century classic, one of the few works to successfully integrate humor into its dramatic storytelling.
New York-born choreographer Jerome Robbins, one of the first great American ballet masters, had a wide-ranging career in the fields of both theater and dance – as a performer and choreographer in ballet and musical theater, and as a director and choreographer in theater, movies, television and opera. In a career that spanned five decades, he won four Tony Awards, two Academy Awards, an Emmy, and countless other awards for his achievements. He joined Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) in 1940 and choreographed his first work, Fancy Free, for that company in 1944. This was followed by Interplay (1945) and Facsimile (1946), after which he embarked on a prolific and enormously successful career as a choreographer and later as a director of Broadway musicals and plays. He was simultaneously creating ballets for New York City Ballet, which he joined in 1949 as associate artistic director with George Balanchine. Among his outstanding works for that company were The Guests (1949), Age of Anxiety (1951), The Cage (1951), The Pied Piper (1951), Afternoon of a Faun (1953), and Fanfare (1953). For his own company, Ballets U.S.A. (1958-1962), he created N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz (1958), Moves (1959) and Events (1961). After the triumph of Fiddler on the Roof in 1964, Mr. Robbins dedicated his energies to creating ballets for New York City Ballet, for whom he became ballet master in 1972. After the death of Balanchine in 1983, he shared the post ofballet master in chief of New York City Ballet with Peter Martins until 1990 when he resigned. He died at the height of his creative powers in 1998 at the age of 79.
Escape to Neverland in Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan in June 2013
From June 13-23, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Trey McIntyre’s enchanting three-act workPeter Pan. Based upon the popular story by Sir James M. Barrie, the ballet is set to the music of Sir Edward Elgar in an arrangement by Niel DePonte. With elaborate, magical sets by Houston Ballet Director of Production Thomas Boyd and imaginative costumes by Broadway designer Jeanne Button, the production reinterprets the classic story with verve and wit for the new millennium. The ballet features spectacular flying sequences, swashbuckling swordfights, giant puppets, colorful masks, and costumes inspired by punk fashion.
Houston Ballet premiered Peter Pan in March 2002, with dance critic Robert Greskovic ofDanceView writing, “To call Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan the most impressive, original, multi-act ballet created by an American choreographer in recent memory doesn’t quite do the three-act production justice….Peter Pan is a story ballet that really flies.” (Summer 2002) Molly Glentzer, of the Houston Chronicle, called Mr. McIntyre “a superb storyteller with a kid’s heart and an adult’s appreciation of life’s complexities,” (March 16, 2002) and Clive Barnes, writing in Dance Magazine, described Mr. McIntyre as a “choreographer of considerable promise…who tackled it [Peter Pan] with invention, a sure dramatic instinct, and a very special sensibility.” (July 2002)
Mr. McIntyre’s Peter Pan is told from a child’s perspective, which is evident in the set design and costumes. Many set pieces have a playful sense of scale, representing a pint-sized person’s perspective. The ballet opens with seven-foot, larger-than-life nannies wheeling in huge buggies. Mr. and Mrs. Darling, who wear stiff masks, seem cold and imposing; in this retelling, the adults seem far removed and somewhat frightening.
This Peter Pan also emphasizes the connection between children and the dream world. The Darling children sleep in beds festooned with flowers and vines. Right beyond their bedroomlies a massive garden full of pink and purple blooms, inhabited by fairies. The garden motifs on the beds and other set pieces symbolize their tie to a world full of magical creatures. Fairies are real, shadows become a threatening presence and the children meet a new friend who whisks them away to a fantastical place full of mermaids, pirates, redskins and a very large crocodile.
Mr. McIntyre is one of the most sought-after choreographers working today. Born in Wichita, KS, McIntyre has created more than 80 works for companies such as Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Stuttgart Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, New York City Ballet and Ballet de Santiago (Chile). Mr. McIntyre is an artist who was discovered and nurtured at Houston Ballet over two decades: He studied at Houston Ballet Academy in the late 1980s, danced with Houston Ballet from 1989 to 1995; and served as choreographic associate for Houston Ballet from 1989-2008. Houston Ballet has commissioned seven works from Mr. McIntyre, including including Second Before the Ground (1996), Bound (2000), The Shadow (2003), and the full-length Peter Pan (2002).
In 2008, he formed his own company, the acclaimed Trey McIntyre Project, based in Boise,Idaho. In 2010 Mr. McIntyre was named the United States Artists Wynn Fellow. He has received two choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography, was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2001, one of People Magazine’s “25 Hottest Bachelors” in 2003 and one of Out Magazine’s 2008 “Tastemakers.” In 2012 the Trey McIntyre Project will tour to China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
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 52 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. 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. 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.
Writing in The Financial Times on March 6, 2006, dance critic Hilary Ostlere praised Houston Ballet as “a strong, reinvigorated company whose male contingent is particularly impressive, a well-drilled corps and an enviable selection of soloists and principals.”
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.
© 2012 Danza Ballet