Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Merrill Ashley Shares the Legacy of Balanchine at Dance Talks on April 16

April 2, 2013

On Tuesday, April 16 from 8:00 – 9:00 pm, join Houston Ballet for a free Dance Talk in which the great American ballerina Merrill Ashley will be interviewed by principal dancer Connor Walsh about her career, her collaborations with the legendary choreographer George Balanchine, and her staging of the Houston premiere of Balanchine’s masterpiece, Ballet Imperial, running May 30 – June 9 as part of Houston Ballet’s program Journey with the Masters.

NYCB Rep - Steven Caras_Merril Ashley

Dancer: Merrill Ashley; Photo: Steven Caras

The Tuesday, April 16 Dance Talk is free and open to the public at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, 77002.  For more information or questions, please contact marketing manager Elizabeth Cleveland:, or 713 535 3236.

Merrill Ashley

Headshot: Merrill Ashley

During her 31-year career as a dancer with New York City Ballet, Merrill Ashley was considered one of the great Balanchine ballerinas, and she now helps keep George Balanchine’s legacy alive by staging his ballets for companies around the world. For more information on Ms. Ashley, visit:


Houston Ballet – October News Report!

October 18, 2012

It’s time introduce a new series called Houston Ballet News Report! Each month I’ll bring you all some exciting Houston Ballet events, announcements, photos, videos, and much more.

Marie on Tour!

Dancers: Melody Mennite & Ian Casady; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Let’s wish our Houston Ballet dancers good luck on their trip to Canada!

They are performing Marie, a three-act narrative ballet choreographed by Stanton Welch at The National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada from October 18-20, 2012.

Check out the behind the scenes look at the beautiful costumes of Marie!

For more information visit:

Soloist Karina Gonzalez guesting in NYC!

Dancer: Karina Gonzalez; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

From October 23-28th, Soloist Karina Gonzalez will be guesting in New York City with Ballet Next at The Joyce Theater. She will be performing with guest artists from New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Good luck Karina!


 Houston Ballet Center for Dance named one of Houston’s 12 most distinctive archeticual/design landmarks in Curbed National

Photo Courtesy of Gensler

“This $53 million Gensler-designed facility is the largest ballet center in the U.S. Its six stories have a number of innovative features including an open-air pedestrian sky bridge and a stunning black granite facade.” – Stirling Kelso, Curbed National

Read more at:

Principal Melody Mennite recognized as one of Houston’s Top 30 under 30


Dancer: Melody Mennite; Photo Amitava Sarkar

Congratulations to Melody Mennite! She has recently been recognized as one of Houston’s Top 30 Successful Young Professionals Under 30.

In honor of Houston’s Future Leaders, a celebration will be held at BlackFinn American Grill this October 26, 2012 recognizing the rising stars of one of our country’s fastest growing cities! These individuals 30 and under are making a difference in their community, job environment or have had success in many areas of life.

The Nutcracker is just around the corner!

Houston Ballet presents The Nutcracker from November 23-30, 2012. A little girl named Clara receives a magical nutcracker on Christmas Eve, and sets out on a wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Featuring breathtaking scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Desmond Heeley, The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift: the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting Please click here to view, print or download casting.


Houston Ballet to Perform at “East Meets West”

April 24, 2012

On April 28, 2012 Houston Ballet will perform at Dance of Asian America’s “East Meets West X”. The show will feature Houston’s most prominent companies in contemporary, modern, hip-hop, ballroom dance, and Chinese dance uniting some of the best from the east and the west. Companies featured includes Revolve Dance Company, Ad Deum Dance Company, Mitsi Dancing School and more!

Houston Ballet principal dancers Simon Ball and Amy Fote will perform the ravishing wedding night pas de deux from Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly. 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.

Dancers: Simon Ball and Barbara Bears; Photo: Jim Caldwell

This is a ticketed event for the covered seating area. Free tickets are available (4 per person over age 16 while they last) at the Miller Outdoor Theatre box office the day of the performance between the hours of 10:30am-1pm. If tickets remain at 1pm, the box office will re-open one hour before show time to distribute the remaining tickets. As always, open seating on the hill.


2012 Academy Spring Showcase Q&A

April 9, 2012

April is upon us and that means it’s time for Houston Ballet’s Academy Spring Showcase! The Spring Showcase is happening April 20-21, 2012 and is a chance for our students to show off their growing technical and artistic skills. To get an idea of how the students prepare for such an important event, we caught up with Houston Ballet II students Jacquelyn Long and Joel Woellner.


Dancer: Jacquelyn Long; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Let’s start with the basics. How old are you and where are you from?

JL: I’m 18 and I’m from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

JW: I’m 17 and from Sydney, Australia.

How long have you been at Houston Ballet Academy?

JL: This is my second year as a HBII. I started coming to Houston Ballet Academy when I was 14 for the summer intensive program and kept coming back! I stayed when I turned 16. Before then I was a Ballet Virginia International which my mom owns.

JW: This is my first year. I was at Academy Ballet in Sydney.

Why is the Spring Showcase important?

JL: It gives the academy a chance to showcase our skills and show how we’ve improved. It’s  a chance to show the big changes in technique I’ve learned this year.

JW: It’s the end of the year and we can show what we’ve learned.

What is the most challenging piece you’re performing in the show?

JL: Hmm, I’d have to say Paquita because I’m part of the corps but if one person messes up it’s very noticeable so I have to be very clean. It’s a classical ballet with tutus that really show the leg so everything you do shows.

JW: The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux. I haven’t done a lot of pas before and it’s about elegance and it has lots of subtle weight changes and where to put the girl to make her look good. The teachers are helping me on it.

Have you done any of the pieces in the show before?

JL: I’ve done segments of A Dance in the Garden of Mirth and Paquita, but not the whole thing before.

JW: It’s all new to me.

What’s your favorite piece in the showcase?

JL: A Dance in the Garden of Mirth. I’m excited because you can get really into it. It’s very Renaissance and fun! The music is very powerful and it’s difficult. It will wake up the audience when they see it!

JW: A Dance in the Garden of Mirth. It’s very sophisticated, up-market and fun, but very hard physically. It makes me feel happy when I dance and I have a good time doing it with all the HBII dancers.


Liana Carpio Chunwai Chan in A Dance in the Garden of Mirth; photo: Amitava Sarkar

On the program is a new work, Impromptu, by Houston Ballet Soloist Ilya Kozadayev. What’s it like working with him?

JL: It’s neat and fun to work with a new person, although we know him through the company. He’s very into the music and wants us to be as well. It’s a contemporary dance and we’re in flat shoes and there’s lots of swaying to beautiful, calm music.

What do you do to prepare for the Spring Showcase?

JL: We start learning early. A Dance in the Garden of Mirth, we started learning before The Nutcracker started and then learned the whole thing in January. With tours and working in the company we piece the show together when we can. In the last months leading up we really go into high gear.

JW: I go to bed and think about it. I visualize it and so I feel like I’ve done it before and I feel secure. Of course there’s lots of rehearsals and work behind the scenes. But mostly mental preparedness.

Jacquelyn, you’re going to be performing on tour in Las Vegas the weekend before the Spring Showcase. How will you make sure you’re rested and prepared?

JL: It will be difficult. I’m in all four pieces so it’s going to be hard. However, the tour pieces I’ve done before and are in my body already, so I can stay on top of what I know. This is my last tour with HBII and I’m sentimental!

Are your families coming to see the show?

JL: Yes! My mom is excited.

JW: My family and my old ballet teacher are coming.

Do you have any advice for other student dancers that are preparing for their end of the year shows?

JL: Take a step back and don’t overwhelm yourself. Focus on your performance but let the love of dance shine through.

JW: Work hard in rehearsal and focus on perfection. At the same time, entertain the audience. Yes, it’s nerve wracking but in the end entertain the audience and have fun!

What do you do for fun when you’re not dancing? What are your hobbies?

JL: I’m a big napper. I nap whenever I can. I read and watch TV and try to relax with friends.

JW: Like Jacquelyn, I like sleeping. I don’t think about dance, I want to keep it far away from me when I’m not dancing.

Well, good luck on your upcoming performance and thank you for your time!


Dancers from Houston Ballet Academy; photo: Mary Stephens of Art Institute of Hosuton

If you would like to see Jacquelyn, Joel and the rest of Houston Ballet II perform in their annual Spring Showcase, April 20-21 tickets start at $25 and can be purchased here.


Save the Date!

March 30, 2012

We’ve got two great events coming up in Houston Ballet’s season, so mark your calendars!

Academy Spring Showcase: April 20-21

See the rising stars of Houston Ballet’s professional training school as they showcase their talents.  The Spring Showcase is always a great look at future company members “before they were famous”.  The repertoire for this year’s showcase will include Stanton Welch’s A Dance in the Garden of Mirth, the classical ballet Paquita, and Houston Ballet Soloist Ilya Kozadayev’s Impromptu.

There will be two performances of the Academy Spring Showcase: Friday, April 20 at 7 PM and Saturday, April 31 at 1:30 PM.  Tickets start at $25 and may be purchased by calling 713.227.ARTS.

FREE Performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre: May 11-13 at 8 PM

Houston Ballet will give three free performances on May 11, 12, and 13 at 8 PM at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park.  The repertoire will include Giselle and a pas de deux from Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake and a pas de deux from Le Corsaire (“The Pirate”) 

Performances are free and open to the public, but tickets must be picked up from the Miller Theatre Box Office to sit in the covered reserved section of the theatre. To learn more call 281.373.3386. We hope to see you there!


Legendary Ballerina Monique Loudières Coaches Sugar Plum Fairies

November 23, 2011

For two weeks legendary ballerina Monique Loudières has been in Houston, coaching dancers performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Soloist Nao Kusuzaki gives an update on what she has learned from this remarkable teacher.


Amy Fote in Ben Stevenson’s The Nucracker. Photo Amitava Sarkar

Guest writer: Soloist Nao Kusuzaki

“Take pleasure in your dancing”, Monique Loudières reminded me during a recent sugarplum fairy rehearsal.  She is our newest guest teacher to join the Houston Ballet for 2 weeks, teaching morning classes and coaching the sugarplum fairies and princes. Petite in size but full of energy, Monique’s presence is luminescent. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge in time for the the Nutcracker to open on November 25th. This week was especially exciting.  Along with our family of ballet masters, Damian Welch, Stanton Welch’s brother is here teaching the men and coaching for the Jubilee as well as The Nutcracker, Ben Stevenson is here to oversee the Nutcracker, and Monique takes care of the morning classes and the Grand Pas de Deux rehearsals. Yes, it’s true the Nutcracker happens every year, and yes, this one is particularly invigorating. With all of the staff and the fiercely talented dancers, each of the 12 casts are dancing with their own delicious blend of spices. You really want to come see all 12 sets.

Our special guest from France, Monique Loudières, danced from 1972 to 1996 with the Paris Opera Ballet, where she was appointed Danseuse Ètoile in 1982. She danced leading roles in all of the major classical works. Her favorites include dramatic characters in Mat Ek’s and traditional Giselle, Manon, Eugene Onegin, and Romeo and Juliet, along with a large number of ballets by master choreographers in the neoclassic and contemporary repertoire  (Balanchine, Lifar, Kylián, Béjart, Ek and Neumeier). She was handpicked by Rudolph Nureyev to dance the role of Kitri in Don Quixote, and they danced together on many occasions. Her special partners also include Manuel Legris, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Fernando Bujones, to name a few.

After a steller career at the Paris Opera and as international guest artist, Monique Loudières was artistic and pedagogical director at l’Ecole Supérieure de Danse Rosella Hightower in Cannes till 2009.

In 1996, she was awarded the title Commandeur des Arts et Lettres. She was recently named Officier dans l’Ordre du Mérite National.

Ballet fans can still see her dance on DVD: 

Rudolph Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet (Opera National de Paris)

Comme les Oiseaux 

      Translates into English as “like a bird” and applies to Monique Loudières.  A biographical documentary by director Dominique Delouche.  Delouche shot much of the performance footage at the Paris Opera, where she interprets selections from works including Giselle, Don Quixote, and In the Night.

Yvette Chauvire: France’s Prima Ballerina Assoluta 

      Monique Loudières dances Nauteos in the film

When I asked about her impression of the company, she replied, “This company has positive energy to work, and positive energy together.  This kind of energy, day by day in class is a very good way to work. Because they are serious workers, as a result, dancers are ready very quickly.”  She adds, “Even within the class, there is progress. When they repeat the exercise again, I see that they understand. I see improvement…..  This is a gift for me–to receive this positive energy and to rediscover through teaching.”

“I learned so much from these wonderful people in my career, and I think I can help use it for dancers’ future and for classical ballet– to be more articulate in their movement and have freedom, even in classical ballets. Always ask “what does it mean?” what can I do, what can I say.  what does it mean for me.Take the freedom to feel first. When you are aware, you’re prepared to work with any choreographer.”


Houston Ballet Receives NEA Grant

November 18, 2011

Houston Ballet has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts! The prestigious $40,000 grant will assist in the creation of new works by Stanton Welch (debuting in March 2012) and Nicolo Fonte (debuting in May 2012). The NEA has been a long and valued partner to Houston Ballet over the years, making it possible for the company to commission many new works and bring new pieces into Houston Ballet’s repertoire.

You can see the NEA’s grant put to good use by attending performances of Rock, Roll & Tutus and Made in America. Don’t miss your chance to see an exciting world premiere! Tickets are available at


Houston Ballet opens with Return of the Masters

August 25, 2011

Houston Ballet will kick off the 2011-2012 season with Return of the Masters, a program showcasing three stunning works that have been absent from our repertoire for too long! We’re thrilled to bring back Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs, Jerome Robbins’s In the Night and Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth. Artistic Director Stanton Welch shares his thoughts and a little background information on each of the ballets here.

Enjoy these beautiful photos from our archives and definitely check out our photo gallery for more! Return of the Masters opens Thursday,  September 8 and runs through September 18.

Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth 1988

Li Cunxin, Janie Parker & Gregg Garrett in Song of the Earth p. Geoff Winningham

Mireille Hassenboehler & Susan Bryant in Les Patineurs p. Geoff Winningham

In the Night_Janie Parker, Li Cunxin

Janie Parker & Li Cunxin in Jerome Robbins's In the Night p. Geoff Winningham


Off to the Races

May 3, 2010

Guest writer: Andrew Edmonson, director of marketing and public relations

Houston Ballet’s dancers are leaping towards the conclusion of our 2009-2010 season.  Instead of a leisurely stroll around the home stretch, the company is engaged in an all-out sprint to the finish line on June 20, performing seven ballets, in three venues, in two different states, over the next seven weeks. 

First up on the calendar is an annual rite of spring for the company:  three free performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre Friday, May 7 – Sunday, May 9.   This year, Stanton has put together a stellar program that showcases the contemporary side of the company’s repertoire:  Nacho Duato’s modern classic Jardí Tancat  (literal translation:  Enclosed Garden), set to the haunting Spanish folk songs of  Marie del Mar Bonet; Twyla Tharp’s groundbreaking work In the Upper Room that takes its audience on an exalted journey from earth to a more transcendent space; and Stanton’s beautifully classical work for five couples to the music of Mozart, Falling.   Take a peak at Stanton’s Falling on Youtube. 

From May 27 – June 6, the company returns to Wortham Theater Center to present Pecos, a mixed repertory program featuring the company premiere of George Balanchine’s Ballo della Regina.  A very special style is required to perform Balanchine’s works.   Our dancers have been blessed to be taught and coached in Ballo by the legendary American ballerina Merrill Ashley, who not only had the good fortune to work with Balanchine from 1967 to 1983, but also created the leading female role in Ballo in 1978. 

“Balanchine always seemed to take special delight in challenging me with difficult steps, and since he knew I excelled at moving quickly, he decided to make that the feature of Ballo – virtuoso steps at high speed,” commented Ms. Ashley.  “He highlighted all my strengths in Ballo, giving me a ballet that not only was challenging and fun to dance, but one that gave me the opportunity to communicate the joy of dance, which was my favorite mood to express on stage. Ballo epitomizes the essence of the technique that he advocated, as it requires extreme precision, clarity, speed, and expansive movement. Dancers who are not trained in the Balanchine style are always startled to find how much easier the steps are when they use the technique Balanchine advocated. His choreography is constructed with the idea that the steps will be done as he would have taught them. That is what makes the angles of the steps look best, and what makes the transitions from step-to-step possible at high speeds.”

For more information on Ms. Ashley and her amazing career, read a 1997 interview with her in The New York Times discussing her special link to Balanchine, and the 1997 review of her final performance with New York City Ballet detailing so many of the qualities that audience adored about her.

A very different balletic style is required to perform the works of Sir Frederick Ashton, whose 1960 masterpiece La Fille mal gardée closes Houston Ballet’s season on June 10-20.  The English critic Alastair Macaulay has observed, “The ballet style shown in Ashton’s ballets is a particularly intricate one, with upper and lower body maintaining a lively activity, and many internal embellishments of head, arms, épaulement and footwork.”  Two experts in the Ashton style have been in Houston helping our dancers to prepare to perform Fille:  Englishman Christopher Carr, a former dancer and ballet master with London’s Royal Ballet, and Australian Grant Coyle, principal dance notator to The Royal Ballet.

There will be no rest for the weary.  The weekend after Fille opens, ten Houston Ballet dancers will hop on a plane to Washington, D.C. to perform Stanton’s work, Falling, for the prestigious national ballet festival, Ballet Across America II, at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Houston Ballet was a part of the very successful first installment of Ballet Across America in 2008 and is very happy to make its 8th appearance at The Kennedy Center.  Houston Ballet opens the festival Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16 on a program with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre.

Then the ten dancers who performed in Ballet Across America will rush back to Houston for the final four performances of Fille June 18 – 20.  And then, it’s off to a very well-deserved long summer break for most of the company. 



On the road to the Prix de Lausanne, part III

January 27, 2010

Guest writer: Shelly Power, associate director of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy

My duty today is to transition from Houston Ballet Academy Associate Director to Prix de Lausanne jury member. Now that Claudio Munoz has arrived, my transition should be easier…right Claudio?

Claudio arrived in Lausanne around 8:30 am and made his way to the hotel, and then met HBII’s at 12:15 for the official registration. Claudio will not only observe our students, but he will begin tomorrow to find those he wishes to recruit for Houston Ballet’s summer program and perhaps the year. He will watch select classes and make notes of student numbers, then follow them throughout the weekend.  No approaches are made to students until the final round as not to disrupt their concentration on the competition. He will observe classes as well as stage time. Many long hours of sitting, watching and waiting will begin for Claudio.

My day began with a 9:00 am jury meeting to assure that we understand the policies and procedures of the Prix.  The Theatre de Beaulieu jury room looks out to Lausanne’s beautiful architecture, giving a sense of solidarity and fortitude. Against the church steeples, the hills and valleys are more beautiful views of the lake outlined with the snow-tipped Alps.  The skies are usually clouded over and a bit gray this time of year, and today is no different. Growing up in frigid cold winters, I appreciate having only one week of winter, and that week being in Switzerland (albeit inside) happens to make it all the better.

We begin with observation only today with no scoring. Without the pressure of scoring we are to (hopefully) become better acquainted with all 70 contestants. We all shine in different ways and this is no different. Students must come in ready to show what brought them to the Prix in the first place, whether that means one or several different talents. Artistry, facility, and natural movement are all among those attributes we search for at this competition, along with technical abilities and most important: potential.

At the end of today, we completed four 1 ½ hour classes of observation time.  I felt it gave us a good introduction to the overall group. This year the Prix has more boys competing than girls, which marks the first time in Prix history.  There were over 220 applicants originally (also a record), which resulted in only 70 acceptances. 

I had little, if any, contact with our HBIIs today and of course I am not to comment on any of them. But I think I am safe to say that they were acknowledged as being good candidates (don’t read anything more into this than that).  All three appeared to be having fun and ready for the week’s challenge.

Sitting on the other side of the table is definitely different, as you don’t get to feel the pressure-cooking quite the same as you do behind the scenes.  Imagine sitting in the pit of the Indy 500 with racecar engines roaring and revving up for the big race. Backstage is much the same.

On this side of the table however, I find myself turning inwards, searching for the most intuitive approach to assessing these young students. Life doesn’t deal anyone a totally fair hand, but in the midst of our imperfections I believe there is a natural order that seems to make it all fall into place and allows each of us to make choices as we gather feedback along the way. So although the engines are a bit quieter for me, the anticipation is perhaps a little more intense knowing that my vote does count this round.

I hope to serve the jury well and to provide each candidate my undivided attention, as they all deserve this moment in time as a fresh new beginning.  Wish me luck.

And by the way, the rumors about Swiss chocolate are NOT exaggerated.


P.S. I don’t want to forget a “shout out” to the ladies in the Academy–Liz, Jennifer, Rachel and Lindsey!


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