Guest writer: Jim Nelson, general manager
It is so gratifying to look back over the past few years and see the growth of our second company, Houston Ballet II (HBII).
While so many dance companies say they have a second company, when you look closely they are generally a group of upper level students who sometimes dance with the first company in larger productions like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or The Sleeping Beauty. Rarely are these junior companies giving their own fully-produced performances in professional venues.
That is what sets Houston Ballet’s second company apart from the majority of dance companies around the globe. In 2006, we took a leap of faith that our second company was ready to give public performances that had less of a graduation concert feel or educational/outreach focus. Our first season on the road included a terrific trip to Monterrey, Mexico as part of the Extremadura Gran Festival Internacional de Danza Contemporanea. Since 2006, HBII has performed internationally in Hungary and China as well as nationally in Louisiana, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. Additionally, HBII performs regularly in Houston at Wortham Theater Center, Discovery Green, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Moores School of Music at The University of Houston.
From April 18-28, I’ll be accompanying HBII to Germany for a five-performance, two-city tour. We’re traveling with 12 dancers, ballet master Claudio Muñoz, and production manager Brian Walker. We will give four performances in Schweinfurt and one performance in Villingen-Schwenningen. We fly from Houston to Frankfurt and then bus to Schweinfurt. The repertoire for this tour is Stanton Welch’s Long and Winding Road and Blue, Garrett Smith’s Den III, and Claudio Muñoz’s staging of excerpts from Raymonda (Act III). And while the dancers are all quite young (16-18), there is nothing junior or watered down when these dancers take the stage.
This tour is a real milestone for HBII, and I’m terribly proud of all they have achieved. The touring component is only one part of the HBII program, but it serves us in providing additional performance opportunities, expanding our national and international presence, and attracting the best dancers we can find to Houston Ballet and the Houston Ballet Academy. The success of the program is the result of the great work of the Houston Ballet Academy, which is led by Stanton Welch, Shelly Power and ballet masters Claudio Muñoz and Sabrina Lenzi. I don’t know of another second company that has the level of dancers we do: three Prix de Lausanne finalists (including a winner) in a group of twelve dancers!
I’ll be sending photo updates and blogs from overseas. Follow us while we embark on this great adventure!