Posts Tagged ‘Houston Ballet II’


Blog Entry – Jacob’s Pillow 2013

June 17, 2013

From June 10 – 23, two Houston Ballet II dancers have been invited to participate in the prestigious ballet program at the legendary Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Western Massachusetts.

April 2013_MG_4540-order - Aoi Fujiwara and Eric White

Ballet: Brigade; Dancers: Aoi Fujiwara and Eric White; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Aoi Fujiwara, an 18 year-old originally from Osaka, Japan who has trained at Houston Ballet’s Academy for two years, was awarded a full scholarship. Mallory Mehaffey, an 18 year-old from Sugar Land, Texas who has studied at the Academy for two years, was selected by the Jacob’s Pillow panel to participate.

The Sleeping Beauty_Mallory Mehaffey and Joel Woellner

Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty; Dancers: Mallory Mehaffey and Joel Woellner; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Jacob’s Pillow Dance is lauded worldwide as a “hub and mecca of dancing” (TIME Magazine), and “the dance center of the nation” (The New York Times). “The Pillow” is a treasured 220-acre National Historic Landmark, a recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts, and home to America’s longest-running international dance festival. Each year thousands of people from across the U.S. and around the globe visit the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts to experience the Festival with more than 50 dance companies

At the Pillow, both Ms. Mehaffey and Ms. Aoi will have the invaluable opportunity to train with stellar teachers such as New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Wendy Whelan and Anna Marie Holmes, director of the program. They will also perform in a world premiere created by the acclaimed dance maker Helen Pickett in the opening gala of the 2013 Festival on June 15.  And on June 22, they will take the stage again as part of the Pillow’s free outdoor performance series.


Houston Ballet II Steps Center Stage in Toronto

May 1, 2013

From April 28 – May 4, the dancers of Houston Ballet II will tour to Toronto to appear in the prestigious international ballet festival Assemblée Internationale 2013 (AI13) in the Betty Oliphant Theatre at 404 Jarvis Street. Houston Ballet II dancers will appear along side other young dancers from some of the world’s most elite training institutions, including Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet of London, the Royal Danish Ballet, the National Ballet of Cuba, and The Australian Ballet.

Fingerprints_Artists of Houston Ballet II_Amitava Sarkar9891_sm

Ballet: Fingerprints; Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet II; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Hosted by Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS), the AI13 will bring together students and artistic staff from eighteen international professional ballet schools for an intensive seven days of classes, performances, forums and professional development. Former Houston Ballet dancer Garrett Smith is choreographing a new work that will premiere at the festival. Houston Ballet II will also perform the first movement of Stanton Welch’s work Fingerprints, inspired by the music of the famous Kronos Quartet’s Pieces of Africa.

Tickets to four public performances can be purchased by calling the box office at 416-964-5148 or by email at For more information, visit Assemblée Internationale’s website


We are so proud that Houston Ballet II has been invited to Toronto to participate in the prestigious Assemblee Internationale 2013, the international ballet festival April 28 – May 4. Learn more about this innovative program that brings together the best young dancers from all over the world for an incredible week of classes, professional development and performances.


Summer Diary Series – Joel Woellner, Houston Ballet II Dancer

August 23, 2012

Ever wondered what our Houston Ballet II company dancers do over the summer? Well, we asked HB II dancer Joel Woellner what he did over the summer. Check out this week’s entry from Joel Woellner! Enjoy!

I have been reflecting on the wonderful time that I had, dancing at Jacob’s Pillow Dance in June this year.

Jacob’s Pillow is rich in dance history.

In 1930, modern dance pioneer, Ted Shawn, bought an old farm high in the Boston/Albany mountains as a retreat. At that time, Shawn and his wife, Ruth St. Denis were America’s leading couple in dance. Their Denishawn Company had popularized a revolutionary dance form rooted in theatrical and ethnic traditions rather than those of European ballet. Their trailblazing work and cross-country tours paved the way for the next generation of legendary modern dance pioneers such as Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, and Doris Humphrey.

Shawn’s was not only an inspiring dancer, but an inspiring director. He collaborated one of the first all male dance companies in the world! His aim was to educate and present the strength, technique and raw power of the male dancer. His aim was to take men from being “fork lifts” into soloist that would perform male roles along side women. He paved the way for modern day men and contemporary style.

With this heritage in mind it was going to be a great two weeks of dance.

Jacob’s Pillow – Week 1

I arrived at the Jacob’s Pillow on the 11th of June 2012. It is always difficult meeting new people and fitting in quickly. However when I arrived I was greeting with smiles and a lot of introductions!!! I instantly felt welcomed it was as if I were living back at Houston ballet! Before long we were a closely-knit group of friends sharing our passion for dance.

The grounds of Jacob’s Pillow are magnificent. Set in the high country of the Berkshire’s, New England. The facilities include two theatres, one dinning area, 3 studio spaces and about 7 housing accommodation and so much more, all made out of timber from local trees around the area. When Ted Shawn founded his company he and his male dancers built most of the main buildings, which still stand today. The studios having been made out of nothing but timber give morning classes a real edge. I felt so connected to nature, my body and ballet. Its like nothing else in the world. Each class in the mornings was absolutely fantastic. I learnt about how to be a better dancer, classmate, friend and artist.

Breakfast, lunch and dinners were all provided and cooked by the chiefs of Jacob’s Pillow. Each meal was nutritional, looked great and tasted even better. Jacob’s Pillow redefines the meaning of school camp!

In our first week we were all working hard for a performance at the 80th anniversary gala opening night. We were given 4 days to learn and clean an 8 minute ballet. This year Michael Corder choreographed a new piece. It was an orchestral piece that has a great sense of joy and happiness.

Each day would be a grueling 6 hours of rehearsals. We would finish at 9 in the night for the first week working on Michael Corder’s dance. But the walk back to our accommodation in the evening through the forests made the hard work worthwhile. Through both student and choreographers hard work we finished the piece in three days. Well before we were scheduled to finish it.

It was two days before the opening gala for Jacob’s Pillow and I was very confident that the dance would go well. We then had spacing on The Ted Shawn theatre stage. It was so different performing this dance in such a different setting and sized stage but after a few runs and spacing the dance became better and better.

The day of the performance I was so excited. I knew that both myself and my class mates had worked their hardest and that the piece was ready. It was such a great experience to perform at the opening of the gala. It was incredible that a group of teenagers got to perform amongst stars of today’s ballet word. David Hallberg principal of ABT, Circa an Australian company that specialized in acrobatics and Mimulus, a Brazilian contemporary company. Each performance was exquisite and a true inspiration to watch. This performance was the highlight of my Pillow experience.

The performance went so well, all our hard work and effort had paid off. It was great to be on stage and entertaining audiences. It’s the thing I love most about ballet.

Jacob’s Pillow – Week 2

We embarked on a new adventure. The second week proved to be hugely beneficial. It mainly focused on the development of the individual dancer in the context of a group performance. We were so fortunate to have such a wonderful teaching faculty during this week. Cynthia Harvey, taught us three classical ballet repertoires. We performed Le Corsaire pas de deux, Pas and coda of la bayadere and present pa from Giselle on the “inside out theatre”. This is a unique stage as it sits out doors in and around the forest.

As well as learning these pieces we were fortunate to take classes with Jose Manuel Carreno, Anna-Marie Holmes, Larissa Ponomarenko and Alonzo King, Director of Lines Ballet Company. It was such a fantastic week of dance, artistry and friendship.

I could go on and on…

For me this was a once in a lifetime experience. I loved the history. I have come away from Jacob’s Pillow inspired to dance. I have made new friends from around the world and seen and experienced a rich diversity of the dance community. For this I am very grateful to Houston Ballet for giving me such a wonderful opportunity.

-Joel Woellner, Houston Ballet II dancer

Houston Ballet II is Houston Ballet’s second company and part of Houston Ballet Academy. To learn more about Houston Ballet II  visit our webpage here.

Fun Fact: Jacob’s Pillow runs June 16-August 26, they are closing the 80th Anniversary season with a world premiere called Son of Chamber Symphony by Houston Ballet’s Artistic Director Stanton Welch and The Joffrey Ballet.

For more information on Jacob’s Pillow visit:


A Word with Caue: Looking Back and What’s Next

July 20, 2012

Guest Writer: Ellie Weeks, Academy Intern

Welcome back to our 2012 Summer Intensive video blog! The fifth week of Houston Ballet’s Summer Intensive Program is finishing up. The Summer Showcase is next week, and dancers are busy rehearsing for the final performance. In this week’s video, Caue, a level 8 student from Brazil, looks back on the past five weeks at Houston Ballet’s Summer Intensive. He discusses his preparations for the Summer Showcase and what’s next for him!

Come back next week for a final video blog — featuring Andrea, Caue, and other Summer Intensive dancers!



Tour Talk with HB II students – Q&A with Liana and Joel

January 20, 2012

Guest writer: Kimberly Cedeno, Houston Ballet public relations intern


Dancer: Liana Caprio; Photo Amitava Sarkar

Houston Ballet II is Houston Ballet’s second company and part of Houston Ballet Academy. A group of young dedicated dancers that get to experience various opportunities like touring around the U.S. This Sunday, January 22 HB II will be in Alexandria, Louisiana performing at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center. Before they hop in the HB tour bus with their luggage and costumes — I had the chance to sit down with HB II students Liana Carpio and Joel Woellner.

Ready for this weekend? Are you looking forward to going to Alexandria, LA?

Liana: Super excited, I love touring and going to different places. Sightseeing is so much fun!

Joel: This is my first tour, I’m really really excited about it — I get to travel with HB II for the first time! And I get to explore more of America.

Can you tell me a little bit more about this weekend?

Liana: We are doing 4 contemporary ballets and what makes this trip unique is that this time we will have a live orchestra. We have live music from the Baroque to the Beatles.

Joel: We will be performing: The Long and Winding Road, Blue and Fingerprints, all by Stanton Welch, and Den III by Garrett Smith.

Exciting! How many tours have you been on?

Liana: Lets see…3 tours with Houston Ballet.

Joel: This will be my very first tour.

Do you feel that touring is an important experience for students?

Liana: Definitely a great learning experience because you learn to handle yourself outside of your usual routines. Touring is also a great way to learn how to perform in different environments and to work together as a group.

Joel: You’ve been practicing for so long to get better — now’s your chance to perform and showcase your talent and entertain the audience.

Liana, any advice you would give to others about touring?

Liana: Act professional. Stay focused. You are in charge of yourself; it’s a growing experience and take it for all it’s worth!

Any challenges of touring?

Liana: Adjusting to the different stages, some stages may be hard or slippery. Also after a while you get really tired. When you are touring, you are constantly on the road. It isn’t like your normal routine schedule. It’s very important to stay healthy!

Have you started packing?

Liana + Joel: ..(silence)..

Tell me a bit about yourself? Hobbies?

Liana: I was born in LA and live here with my family in Houston. I’ve been dancing since I was a child. I love to shop on my free time! Lots of fun!

Joel: I’m from Sydney, Australia. I’ve been dancing since I was a child too. This is sort of my first year with Houston Ballet. I’ve been in Houston for about four months. In terms of hobbies, sleeping and eating are my favorite things to do when I’m not practicing.

Outside of the studio — what are some of your favorite places to perform?

Liana: I love the big stage…The Wortham Theater Center! It’s great!

Joel: I love performing for people, wherever people are and willing to watch I will dance!

Great, good luck and have fun!!

To learn more about Houston Ballet II touring dates visit our webpage here.


18th Annual Theater District Open House

August 23, 2011

Guest Writer: Kim Espinosa, public relations associate

Ever wondered what the scenery and costumes from your favorite ballets look like up close? Or maybe you have imagined standing on Wortham Theater Center stage, looking out into the seemingly endless rows of seats?

You have your chance to do just that (and much more!) from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 28 at the 18th Annual Theater District Open House. Houston’s nine major performing arts groups will open their doors throughout the Theater District and offer backstage tours, great deals on subscription packages, performances and other fun-filled activities.

Houston Theater District Open House

A young Theater District Open House attendee tries on a costume from Houston Ballet's costume trunk. Photo: Zuzana Leckova/Art Institute of Houston-North

Houston Theater District Open House

Backstage at Wortham Theater Center. Photo: Zuzana Leckova/Art Institute of Houston-North

Don’t miss Houston Ballet II’s performances of movements from Jorge Garcia’s Majisimo, Stanton Welch’s A Time to Dance along with a beautiful pas de deux from Sylvia. You can catch them at 12:15 p.m. and 1:45 the Cullen Theater in Wortham Theater Center.  The entire day of events, including performances is FREE! See you there!

Houston Ballet II dancers Liana Carpio & Chunwai Chan perform Ben Stevenson's Sylvia. Photo: Amitava Sarkar



Blogging from the Road: HBII’s Tour to Germany

April 16, 2010

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.

HBII dancers in The Long and Winding Road.  Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

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!



One Man Show

October 24, 2008

Guest writer: Brian Walker, production manager

This season is the first time that Houston Ballet II has had full touring engagements.  In previous years, the HBIIs performed around town and for a couple of seasons in Brenham.  We made the decision to try to offer the second company as a an alternative to the full company for touring.  This move allows the company to perform in venues and in cities that would not normally be exposed to Houston Ballet either because of the size of the venue or because of the cost of presenting the full company.  This new touring plan for HBII means that we are as streamlined as possible.  The company tours with one artistic staff member, a company manager and a production person…and that would be me.  Normally the full company tours with me in the role of production manager, 2 stage managers, a lighting supervisor, 5 crew heads and at least one wardrobe person.  So that means that when I take HBII on the road, all of those duties fall to me.  We are of course on a much smaller scale, but it still means a lot falls on my shoulders.

Our first booking was in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  I caught a 7am flight out of Houston on a Monday.  After a 5 hour layover in Chicago, I finally landed in Wisconsin around 4pm.  I arrived too late to actually get any work at the theater done, but the local production crew had spent the day working on getting the lighting equipment hung and circuited.  I checked in at the theater Tuesday morning to see how things were going.  Even though there were only two people working, they had gotten quite a lot done.  I was able to solve several problems right away and answer several other questions that would have become problems later.  Our backdrop arrived later that morning, and we were able to sort out how to deal with it since this theater didn’t actually have the ability to fly the drop out.  We resolved that it had to be hung and struck each time we needed it.  This particular booking was through a university, which meant that the crew was going to be volunteer students.  The theater itself was a separate entity from the school and there ended up being very little communication between the two.  So while I was promised a crew would be arriving the day of the show, there ended up being no crew to speak of.  So there was a bit of a scramble to deal with that.  I ended up having to ask our company manager Shauna Tysor to help with the backdrop.  All in all, the show went well.  The house crew were great and knew exactly what needed to happen to make the show work.  I was totally stoked that our first show went well.

Our second booking was in Monroe, Louisiana.  There had been a bit of a hiccup a couple of weeks before we left for Louisiana.  We had sent our lighting information to them which was a part of the tech rider and contract that had been signed.  Unfortunately, they were not able to honor that part of the agreement because the venue didn’t have the equipment that our lighting required and they weren’t financially able to rent the equipment.  Rather than cancel the booking, we decided to make do with what we could.  It required a significant change to our lighting, and we actually cut a couple of elements.  Another 7am flight on a prop plane (and a slight delay) got me to Monroe by 10am.  I went straight to the theater to see what was going on.  While they had gotten a lot done, things had stalled a bit by mid-day.  I also noticed a few things that we had requested weren’t done, so I started scrambling to figure out how to make things work.  In the end, after several compromises, I was able to walk away that day feeling like we would be okay the next day.  The morning of the show, I arrived at the theater with big plans to start focusing.  The house crew had ended up working until about 3am the previous night to get everything done (apparently they weren’t quite as far along as I had hoped).  So we had to wrap up a few last minute things before I was able to start working.  Unfortunately, the person assigned to focus for me wasn’t quite as up-to-speed as I had hoped.  What took me just over an hour in Wisconsin, took the better part of 3 hours in Louisiana.  I had to work quickly to get done so I could give the stage to the dancers for class.  They ended up having to take barre in the house at the front of the orchestra.  Fortunately they were able to use the wall of the orchestra pit as their barre and I was able to finish focus in time for them to move to center.  We managed to do the rehearsal that afternoon, and I was able to make the show look decent considering the major concessions we had made.   All in all the day went well, though I had a pretty major migraine.  The show itself went well, and the audience response was great. 

To be quite honest, it’s a little sad that we don’t have any more bookings for the rest of the season since I’ve now got the whole process down.  Oh well, maybe next season!



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