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Ballet Ball Kickoff — a Delightful Spectacle!

October 23, 2013

Guest Writer: Suzie Cadey, Special Events Manager

On October 8, more than 600 guests joined together to kick off the 2014 Houston Ballet Ball, chaired by S. Shawn Stephens, at an extravagant celebration at the Galleria. The ice rink, covered with layers of protection, was transformed into an elegant and dazzling environment complete with food stations, bars, lounge furniture, and chandeliers.

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman.

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman.

On October 8, more than 600 guests joined together to kick off the 2014 Houston Ballet Ball, chaired by S. Shawn Stephens, at an extravagant celebration at the Galleria. The ice rink, covered with layers of protection, was transformed into an elegant and dazzling environment complete with food stations, bars, lounge furniture, and chandeliers.

Ballet Ball 2013

The Ballet Ball, themed La Mille et Deuxième Nuit, or “The Thousand and Second Night,” will be held on Saturday, February 15, 2014, at the Wortham Theater Center. The exotic theme will usher in the American premiere of David Bintley’s Aladdin the following week, and Houston Ballet dancers begin Aladdin rehearsals at the Center for Dance shortly.

Dancer: Joseph Walsh; Ballet: Aladdin; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Dancer: Joseph Walsh; Ballet: Aladdin; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

The kickoff celebration piqued the guests’ interest in the Ball, which offers individual tickets starting at $1,500, as well as tables starting at $15,000.

Kickoff party hostesses Carmina Zamorano and Nancy Arreguin, co-owners of Carnan Properties, which celebrated its Houston grand opening during the evening, spared no expense in providing guests with a one-of-a-kind event.

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

Seventeen Academy students, dressed in costumes from Houston Ballet’s American premiere of Aladdin (February 20 – March 2, 2014), performed a “costume parade” in the exquisite Sue Blane-designed costumes never before seen in the U.S.

Guests were also entertained by the performance by two majestic Lusitano horses, which shared the floor with the Academy students, and who pranced to the same music. Rafael Chavez, Zamorano’s husband, breeds and trains the beautiful horses at Haras dos Cavaleiros in Magnolia.

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

A cocktail hour included a lavish spread from Zamorano’s Haras Catering, as well as wines from the family vineyards in Spain.

De Beers Jewelers, which is donating a stunning $20,000 necklace to the Ball auction, provided more than $1 million in diamond jewelry for the hostesses, Ball chair Stephens, and emcees KPRC’s Dominique Sachse and KHOU’s Katherine Whaley.

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

In attendance were Lynn Wyatt, Beth Muecke, Nick Florescu, Jim Jordan, Diane Lokey Farb, Kristy Bradshaw, Diane and Phil Bazelides, Phoebe Tudor, Patti Murphy, and Philamena and Arthur Baird, among many other Ballet patrons.

Ballet Ball 2013 Kick Off Party

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman.

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

© Gary Fountain and David Rossman

For more information about the Ball, contact Suzie Cadey at (713) 535-3230, or scadey@houstonballet.org

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The Return of a Modern Dance Icon

October 4, 2013

–by Andrew Edmonson, Houston Ballet Director of Marketing & PR

Modern dance legend Paul Taylor is beloved by the international dance community, but he has a special place in the heart of Houston Ballet.

Sunset

Artists of Paul Taylor Dance Company; Sunset

The winner of a Kennedy Center honor, a MacArthur Genius Award, an Emmy, and the subject of the riveting Oscar-nominated documentary Dancemaker, Mr. Taylor has bestrode the modern dance world like a colossus for the last five decades, choreographing a series of brilliant works.

Houston audiences will have their first opportunity in a decade to see Mr. Taylor’s company performing three of his classic works (Airs, Esplanade, and Sunset) on Saturday, October 12 at 8 pm at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, presented by Society for the Performing Arts. An added bonus is that the performance will feature live music by Houston’s Mercury.

Houston Ballet has had a special relationship with Mr. Taylor for over two decades, commissioning two works from him and sharing the stage of The Kennedy Center with the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003 in a special tribute to this visionary American artist.

In the beginning Paul Swen IMG

Paul Taylor with Artists of Houston Ballet (2003); Photo by Paul Swen

In 1991, Mr. Taylor created Company B, one of the most popular works in the world choreographed in the 1990′s and the most popular original premiere in Houston Ballet’s history. Set to nine irresistible songs by The Andrews Sisters, the work premiered at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and was greeted by a thunderous ovation by an audience that included President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. The New York Times pronounced it “an instant masterpiece” and “quite simply, the best dance premiere of the season,” observing “Company B hits as deep in the gut as it dazzles the eye with its outpouring of spirited choreography.”

The next day, the President invited Houston Ballet’s dancers to the private quarters of the White House. Company B quickly became a signature work for Houston Ballet, and the company performed it from Los Angeles to Moscow (at the Bolsohi Theater) to Beijing. Companies across the world went on to take the work into their repertories.

Paul Taylor - P. unknown IMG

Paul Taylor

In April 2003, Houston Ballet returned to The Kennedy Center again to premiere another work by Mr. Taylor, In the Beginning, a beguiling, comic re-telling of the Creation story, featuring four Adams and five Eves. First Lady Laura Bush attended the opening night performance, and welcomed the dancers to a luncheon she hosted at the White House the day after the premiere.

When Mr. Taylor brings his company to Houston on Sat., October 12, longtime Houston Ballet watchers will have a delicious opportunity to compare and contrast the different ways that Houston Ballet and Mr. Taylor’s dancers perform one of Mr. Taylor’s masterworks, Sunset. In 1991, Houston Ballet performed Mr. Taylor’s Sunset as part of its Cullen Contemporary Series.

Society for the Performing Arts presents The Paul Taylor Dance Company for one night only on Saturday, October 12 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts. Visit http://www.spahouston.org/show?ShowId=72 for more information and to purchase tickets.

AIrs (1280x853)Artists of Paul Taylor Dance Company; Airs

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Swansong Performances: Three Houston Ballerinas Reflect On A Pivotal Moment

September 17, 2013

Houston Ballet will host its second free Dance Talk of the 2013-14 season, “Stepping Out of the Spotlight,” on Tuesday, September 24 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, Houston 77002.

The Merry Widow Amy Fote_Amitava Sarkar

Dancer: Amy Fote; Ballet: The Merry Widow; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Houston choreographer Jane Weiner will interview current principal dancer Mireille Hassenboehler and former principal dancers Barbara Bears and Amy Fote about dancing the title role in Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, the exhilarating and challenging life of a dancer, and their transition to life after performing when they’ve retired from the stage.

Making the transition from a performing career to the next act of a dancer’s life can provoke a range of emotions that vary with each individual. For dancers who’ve experienced frequent injuries and who spend the last few years of their careers battling physical pain to continue to perform, retirement can be a blessed relief from a grueling physical regimen.

Symphony C

Dancer: Mireille Hassenboehler; Ballet: Symphony C; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

For dancers whose entire lives have been dedicated to and defined by their career choice, the transition to life after dance can sometimes be painful and disorienting. As the famous New York City Ballet ballerina Suzanne Farrell once observed after her retirement in 1989, “Nothing really prepares you for being an ex-ballerina.”

Some dancers have leapt into different, equally fulfilling careers with gusto. Former Houston Ballet Principal Dancer Lauren Anderson retired from performing professionally in 2006, and has found great joy in serving as Houston Ballet’s education/outreach associate. Former Houston Ballet dancer Nancy LeGros retired from the company, and has gone on to pursue a very successful career as an attorney.

BarbaraBearsNicholasLeschke_MG_5165ExpCrp

Dancers: Barbara Bears and Nicholas Leschke; Ballet: The Merry Widow; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Join us for our Dance Talk on Tuesday, September 24 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Houston Ballet Center for Dance for what promises to be a fascinating discussion with four gifted dance artists.  For more information on Dance Talks, please contact Education and Outreach Manager Chase Cobb at CCobb@houstonballet.org.

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From Storyboards to the Stage: The glamorous costumes and jewelry for The Merry Widow

September 16, 2013

Guest Writer: Ashley Roberts, Wardrobe Intern

First as an operetta in 1905 and as a ballet in 1975, The Merry Widow has been performed on countless stages around the world. Choreographer Ronald Hynd’s glamorous production is once again being produced by Houston Ballet September 19-29 at Wortham Theater Center. Featuring lavish and spectacular scenery by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno, The Merry Widow takes place in 1905 Paris, the ballet is comprised of two love stories. One story is about previous lovers and the other about forbidden love. However, the spotlight is on the wardrobe. As a Wardrobe Intern I got to sit in on a fitting for The Merry Widow. I even got a chance to repair some of the jewelry pieces used in the show and additionally got to attend the first technical rehearsal for The Merry Widow. I never saw The Merry Widow performed or had any background information of the ballet before I started interning.

The Merry Widow_ Artists of Houston Ballet 2N9Y9460

Ballet: The Merry Widow; Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

My introduction to The Merry Widow started by completing storyboards for all the characters in the show. A storyboard is made of pictures or illustrations that comprise a story. The finished boards are then put in the dressing rooms of the dancers. They give the dancers and dressers, who come to help get the dancers in and out the costumes, a visual idea of their completed look. The wardrobe of the two main female characters Hanna and Valencienne stood out the most to me. Hanna, a wealthy widow, and Valencienne, the wife of a nobleman, have four different wardrobe changes each. The women are dressed in bodices made of rich velvets that are designed with attention to detail and are outfitted in gowns that sparkle.

 Storyboard The Merry Widow

An example of one of the storyboards that are placed in the dancer’s dressing rooms.

My favorite part of the wardrobe in The Merry Widow are the accessories! Almost every character has a set of accessories. In Act III the women have tiaras and the men carry top hats. The most meaningful accessory is a little pink scarf. Danilo pulls out a handkerchief that Hanna gave him many years ago as young lovers in Act I and of course Hanna is surprised. My favorite accessory for Hanna is a feathered shawl that is floor length in Act III. My favorite accessory for Valencienne is in Act I where she is wearing a chandelier necklace that lights up the stage. The Merry Widow has a great plot, fabulous wardrobe and is sure to fill your heart with delight!

Merry Jewelry

Valencienne’s necklace that she wears in Act I. The necklace has French elastic at the bottom that hooks into the bodice of Valencienne’s costume so the necklace won’t fall off or hurt the dancer on stage.

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From September 19-29, 2013, 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.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

Watch a video preview of Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow.

 

 

 

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Choreographer Melissa Hough: Inspired by Machiavelli, The Moonwalk, and Gabriel Prokofiev

September 4, 2013

From September 5 – 15, Houston Ballet launches it 44th season with Four Premieres, featuring three world premieres and the American premiere of Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages. Choreographer Melissa Hough has been hard at work in the studios on  her new piece, …the third kind [is] useless. For this week’s blog, Melissa takes time out from rehearsals to explain the sources of inspiration for her ballet.

C Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet - Amitava

Ballet: …the third kind is useless; Dancers: Connor Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

1.) Tell us about the music you chose for your new work.  Who is the composer? Why were you drawn to this particular piece of music?

Melissa Hough: The music I chose is String Quartet No. 1 by Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of Sergei Prokofiev! I was drawn to this music because of its edginess, rhythmic intricacy and dark sense of humor (all attractive qualities to me).

2.) How many dancers are in your ballet? Does it have a specific structure, with different movements?

Melissa Hough: The ballet is 15 minutes long and has 4 movements. I am using 13 dancers and 4 musicians to create mayhem :)

3.) What type of movement vocabulary are you using for your new work? Neoclassical?  Contemporary? Will the ladies be on pointe?

Melissa Hough: I am using a wide range of vocabulary. Each movement is completely different from the next, so I used emotional themes to create the style for each movement. There is a bit of a story that goes with my ballet and the arc of the story is what ties it all together. I have everything from a la seconde turns and double tours to the moonwalk and conga!

IMG_6284_Melissa Hough and artists of Houston Ballet

Melissa Hough at Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

4.) Tell us about your choreographic process. Do you enter the rehearsal hall with the steps choreographed in advance and a firm conception of what you want the ballet to look like when it’s finished? Or do you begin working with the dancers with no fixed idea in mind, open to the inspiration of the moment and what comes from your collaboration with the dancers?

Melissa Hough: My process is a little different each time. Often it has to do with how much time I will have to work in the studio. For this particular piece, I knew exactly how many hours I would have to initially create it, which was really helpful! I worked on the concept and story for a long time on my own prior to starting with the dancers. All the steps, however, were made in the moment and then worked and tweaked up over time.

5.) Tell us about the title of your work. Where does it come from?  What does it mean?

Melissa Hough: The title is a fraction of a quote by Niccolo Machiavelli, whose work has been a big inspiration for this piece. He talks about how there are three kinds of intelligence and…….the third kind is useless.

the third kind is useless 1

Ballet: …the third kind [is] useless.; Costume Sketch by Monica Guerra

6.) Are there any specific ideas or themes that you are exploring in …the third kind [is] useless.?

Melissa Hough: Containment, auto phobia, the use of classical mime and power.

7.) Is there anything else that you would like the audience to know about …the third kind [is] useless.?

Melissa Hough: I am hoping I’ve created something that is intriguing and interesting. Watch it with an open heart and having had caffeine prior to sitting in your seat because the ballet moves very quickly!

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To learn more about the other works on Four Premieres, running September 5 – 15, watch this video interview with Stanton Welch and 

Christopher Bruce about the program.  For more information and to purchase tickets, visit:  http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing_Schedule/Season_Calendar/Four_Premieres/

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In Memoriam: Administrator Henry Holth

August 30, 2013

Houston Ballet mourns the passing of longtime ballet administrator Henry Holth, former general director of the Houston Ballet Foundation from 1972-1977, who died August 15, 2013 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he was president and general director of the Ballet Pro Musica Festival. He was 86 years old, and the cause of death was a heart attack. Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.

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In this blog entry, longtime Houston journalist Carl R. Cunningham, who covered the Houston dance scene for over three decades from the 1960s to the 1990s as the dance critic for The Houston Post, recounts Holth’s key role in building a strong financial base for Houston Ballet in the first decade of the company’s development.

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Henry Holth was born June 6, 1927. He performed as a dancer early in his career with Ruth Page’s Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet, the Bavarian National Opera Ballet, and the Grand Ballet International du Marquis de Cuevas.

Holth came to Houston in 1972 from Boston, where he had served as general manager of the Boston Ballet. His administration bridged the Houston Ballet artistic directorships of Nina Popove, acting artistic director James Clouser and the beginning of Ben Stevenson’s 27-year career. During his time, Houston Ballet mounted its first full-length performances of The Nutcracker, using the Boston Ballet production choreographed by Frederic Franklin. It was accompanied by the company’s first use of a live orchestra. Guest stars began to appear with the company, including Cynthia Gregory, Edward Villella, Natalia Makarova, Ivan Nagy, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Desmond Kelly  and Allegra Kent.

The company grew from its original 15 dancers to as many as 32 members during Holth’s term and greater fiscal control was attained. A balanced budget was achieved by the time he left in 1977 to become director of program development for the Society for the Performing Arts. During his administration, Houston Ballet also moved into its first company-owned studios at 2615 Colquitt.

From 1978 to 1983, Holth was president and general manager of the Dallas Ballet Association, and in 1984 he became president and general manager of the City Center Ballet of San Jose, California. In that position he oversaw the merger of the San Jose and Cleveland, Ohio, ballet companies.

Other institutions that Holth served as chief administrator include Ballet El Paso, San Francisco’s Dances in Time, Las Vegas Ballet, Boise Ballet, and Annapolis Ballet. He was the founder of the Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ballet, now the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet, and of the Ballet Pro Musica Festival.

-By Carl R. Cunningham

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Houston Ballet Hosts Free Dance Talk on Friday, Sept 6: Politics and Pop Music in Ballet

August 27, 2013

On Friday, September 6 from 6:00 – 7:00 pm, Houston Ballet will sponsor the first FREE Dance Talk of its 2013 -14 season: Politics and Pop Music in Ballet. The event will feature an open rehearsal of Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s hip one-act work Play, followed by a discussion with Mr. Welch and a group of Houston Ballet dancers. The Dance Talk will be held at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, Houston 77002.

 Play (Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet)

Ballet: Play; Dancers: Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Drew Donovan

Created in 2004, Mr. Welch’s imaginative and youthful work Play is set to several selections from the Grammy-nominated 1999 album Play by DJ/techno artist Moby. The ballet’s story is driven by the music: blues-inflected electronica, which provides the ideal musical backdrop for the ballet. “I always wanted to choreograph to Moby and techno music,” said Mr. Welch. “Moby was a pioneer of that genre.”

 Play is city life made into ballet with classical technique. The dancers wear street clothes, but are on pointe. However, the pointe shoes look like sneakers. Mr. Welch’s inspiration for this piece comes from the media-saturated, heavily politicized twenty-first century environment that urban dwellers experience. “The ballet is set on the street,” explained Mr. Welch, “where walking becomes choreography.” Everyday city life is dance: the dancers brush their teeth, rush to and from work, and play video games.

Play (Artists of HB)

Ballet: Play; Dancers: Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Drew Donovan

Originally created for BalletMet Columbus in 2004, Play had its New York premiere at the Joyce Theater that spring, where it was a great success. Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times, called Play “a quirky exploration of youthful alienation….This is Mr. Welch in a witty disco mode.” (May 28, 2004) Barbara Zuck of The Columbus Dispatch said that it “was a hit…Welch’s newest piece has the hustle and bustle of a New York street as well as a humorous eye…[Play] quickly caught the audience in its grasp.” (May 27, 2004)

Houston Ballet will host its second Dance Talk of the 2013-14 season on Tuesday, September 24 from 6:00 – 7:00 pm at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, Houston 77002. Artists and speakers participating in the Sept 24 Dance Talks will be announced at a later date.

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