Posts Tagged ‘Houston Ballet’


Houston Ballet’s New York Tour: A Dancer’s Perspective

November 13, 2013

From October 22 – 27, 2013, Houston Ballet returned to The Joyce Theater in New York City. Corps de ballet member Harper Watters shares the highlights of the trip for him, including guerilla photo shoots in Greenwich Village with acclaimed dance photographer Jordan Matter.

1. What was one of your favorite moments about the tour?

Houston Ballet had the privilege of working with guerrilla dance photographer Jordan Matter. He is most well known for sending dancers out into everyday scenarios and having them strike athletic positions. This is exactly what the dancers of Houston Ballet did. My shoot was in Greenwich Village with demi soloist Soo Cho and soloist Nao Kusuzaki.

Jordan Matter - Harper Watters, Soo Youn Cho, and Nao Kusuzaki

Photo by Jordan Matter; Dancers: Harper Watters, Nao Kusuzaki, Soo Youn Cho

After watching Soo scale the steps and railing of a beautiful brown stone home, our second location was a busy intersection with the brand new Freedom Tower as the back drop. As the girls and I hit our pose pretending to hale a cab in arabesque and Jordan lay in the middle of the street to capture the moment, I was suddenly hit with a rush of adrenaline. It was such a thrilling moment to be in the middle of New York City dancing and being photographed. As cabs wizzed by and onlookers began taking pictures you couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment.

Other dancers who were photographed took pictures down in the subway, in the middle of times square, and even in the fountain of Washington Square Park. The whole experience provided memories I will never forget.

2. Was this your first tour with Houston Ballet? Tell us about your experience.

This was my first tour with Houston Ballet, and it was definitely an incredible way to start my touring experience by heading to the center of the arts world, New York City.

The minute you drive into the city you can’t help but feel immersed by the culture of the city. The pace is definitely much faster than what we’re used to in Texas, so it amplified our excitement to get out on stage and perform. In true New York fashion, we were thrown right into our busy schedule. The first day we had class, then a dress rehearsal, then our first show later that night.

The response was overwhelming and it was made even more special by the attendance of familiar Houston Ballet faces and past Houston dancers and ballet stagers. Over all this tour was a success and we firmly left our footprint in New York.

3. What was it like to perform in the Joyce Theater?

This was my first time ever attending the Joyce Theater, but I am certain that it will definitely not be my last. It might not be the grandest of theaters in scale, but what it lacks in size in makes up for in its artistic reputation.

Joyce Banner 2013 HB

Photo Courtesy of Houston Ballet

Just like when you enter the city, when you enter the Joyce, you immediately feel the presence of the past companies who have graced the stage. Companies such as Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, and Mark Morris have brought their greatest works to the stage, inspiring Houston Ballet to bring their most thought provoking and contemporary choreography. It’s an incredibly intimate venue, where you can easily hear the murmur of the crowd when they are wowed by a lift or moved by a gesture. You can’t help but feel like a part of something special when you perform at the Joyce.

4. Did you have time in between to visit any attractions in NYC? If so, which ones?

Unfortunately due to the number of rehearsals and performances that we had, it was really difficult to make it to any New York attractions. Aside from a pizza shop or seeing Orlando Bloom walk out of the stage door of Romeo and Juliet, there wasn’t much site seeing. However, a few of the dancers did stumble upon what some would call a New York attraction, and that was the graffiti art of Banksy.

All month long the British Artist began going borough to borough painting random images in the least expecting of places. Normally his work sells for thousands of dollars, but with NYC as his canvas, he painted on the wall of a laundromat an image of a young girl bashing a pre-existing fire hydrant and on a street corner an image of a man spray painting “I love NY”. Once he would paint his image at night, an instagram photo would appear on his website giving little armies of people clues on how to go see it. It was a treat to be able to witness a few in real life and only added to the artistic experience Houston Ballet was a part of at the Joyce.

NYC Bansky Art

Photo Courtesy of Harper Watters

5. How was opening night? Where you on stage or in the audience?

Opening night was a huge success. I was in the audience which made the evening that much more gratifying. As the theater slowly emptied out into the lobby after the show, there was a constant murmur of conversations going on and on about how much they enjoyed the evening. One woman said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the beauty of Pacific and one couple could not stop discussing the different dance genres that were showcased in the finale of Play. On a personal level, I was really touched by Twilight and was so pleased to see that it received such an excited response.

The 3 other ballets on the program I was with in or covered, so when Twilight was performed in NY, it was the first time I had seen the pas. It is really a testament to the choreographer, Ben Stevenson, that something created over 10 years ago can still have such an emotional impact on audiences today. There was no denying the strength, grace, and technique the pas de deux required and it felt great to know that New York truly appreciated past Houston Ballet, Ben Stevenson, and the Houston Ballet of today featuring the world’s leading choreographers and our artistic Director Stanton Welch.

The night appropriately ended with a champagne toast, and kind words from the representatives of The Joyce Theater. The evening was poignantly summed up by the head of the Joyce when he said, “This time of year is Fall, and it is the most beautiful time in New York. However, tonight, New York Falls for Houston Ballet.”

6. What was the funniest things that happened to you or someone on the tour?

One of the funniest things I experienced on tour was during the photo shoot with Jordan Matter. My photo session had just ended and another group of dancers had met us at Washington Square Park to begin their photo session. All the dancers had looked up his body of work and had sort of developed a slight idea of what we were getting ourselves into.

As the three girls walked up to meet us, one of them mentioned how beautiful the fountain was. Little did they know that Jordan had planned for them to be photographed inside of that fountain. In the end they were great sports about the whole thing and were more than willing to jump, turn, and kick in the water.

At one point though, the jets of the fountain were hitting one of the girls square in the face. Jordan loved how the girls were positioned, so to not ruin the shot, she tried to work with the water hitting her face and execute her pose. It did not go over well, and thankfully a new formation was made, but for that brief moment I got a pretty great laugh. When the shoot was over and the girls stepped out of the fountain, he asked “Do you girls have a towel”? The looks on their faces were priceless.

Jordan Matter - Houston Ballet - Harper Watters

Photo by Jordan Matter; Dancer: Harper Watters


Nutcracker Market: 33 Years of Consecutive Growth

November 5, 2013

From November 7 – 10, “Candy Cane Lane,” the thirty-third Nutcracker Market will roll into Reliant Center, welcoming over 100,000 guests and featuring over 300 national and international merchants with unique holiday gifts ranging from food to home décor to jewelry to clothing.

Nutcracker Market

In 2013, Houston Ballet Director of Special Events Patsy Chapman celebrates twenty-five years organizing and executing this beloved holiday event.  In this blog entry, Patsy looks back at how the market has grown and evolved, and shares some of the secrets of what makes the event so successful.  Click here for more information about The Nutcracker Market.


From first year gross revenues of $28,000, the Nutcracker Market now generates more than 100 times that amount, raising a net total of more than $3.8 million in 2012. Since its inception in 1981, the Market has raised more than $39 million for Houston Ballet, its Academy and Scholarship Programs.

Nutcracker Market booth

Patsy Chapman, Director of Special Events for the Ballet, and the driving force behind the Market’s success, has seen total sales grow from $13.7 million in 2009 to $15.6 million in 2010, to $16.4 million in 2011, and $17.7 million in 2012.  She has three explanations for the continued success of the Market – the very nature of the holiday season, the fresh environment every year, and the world’s best shoppers!

“People love to celebrate the holidays, in good times and in bad,” she said. “The Nutcracker Market gives them a reason to focus their energies on family, the spirit of giving, and spreading holiday cheer.  Every year we try to give them a totally new experience with a different theme.”

The 2013 chairman, Cynthia Brown, selected “Candy Cane Lane” as the theme.  Some past themes are:  Waltz of the Flowers, A Shopping Safari, Rockefeller Center Christmas, Puttin’ on the Dog, and Holiday Under the Big Top.

Nut Market 184

With only two full-time staff dedicated to planning and coordinating the annual Nutcracker Market – Chapman and her assistant – the event now represents a nationally-renowned holiday shopping extravaganza for over 104,000 attendees. She gives much of the credit to over 1,000 volunteers who work tirelessly every year to make the Market a reality.

“Some people put in 18 hours of work in one day because they love Houston Ballet and being a part of the Nutcracker Market,” Chapman said. “I’m in awe of those who choose to give their time and talents out of the goodness of their hearts.”

When Chapman first joined the organization, roughly 80 merchants offered their products at the Market. That number is now 300+ merchants from 149 cities in over 32 states. Between 15 and 30 new vendors are approved each year, out of around 400 who apply.

The Market used to be held in a 120,000 sq. ft. space at the George R. Brown Convention Center. As the event drew more attention from vendors and shoppers, it required more space, so it expanded to a 226,000 sq. ft. space in Astrohall, then to a section of Reliant Center. In 2009, the Nutcracker Market took over all of Reliant Center — over 1 million square feet!

“I always wonder what we can do to top the year before,” said Chapman. “One year, I heard a little girl ask, ‘Grandma, are we in Heaven?’ and I knew we had done well. But that just raises the bar for the next Nutcracker Market.”

The 2013 Nutcracker Market takes place November 7-10. For more information, visit and

Watch a video preview of The Nutcracker Market.


Making Magic Happen Behind The Scenes In New York At The Joyce Theater

November 4, 2013

Houston Ballet has been extremely busy during the month of October, preparing for two major tours: to New York’s Joyce Theater from October 22-27; and to the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris, France October 31 – November 4.

Joyce Banner 2013 HB

Image Courtesy of Houston Ballet

Over the last decade Houston Ballet’s Director of Production Brian Walker has managed the production aspects of Houston Ballet’s tours to Moscow, Spain, Montreal, New York City, and to many cities small and large across the U.S. In this blog entry, Brian discusses the challenges and rewards that Houston Ballet’s production staff faces when the company takes to the road.


 Brian Walker; Photo by Kaye Marvins Photography, Inc.

1.)  If Houston Ballet opened at the Joyce on Tuesday night, when did the Houston Ballet crew arrive in NYC to get ready for the show?

We arrived Sunday evening and started working Monday morning at 9am.

2.)  How much time did production have to tech the show in Manhattan, compared to what you would have in Houston?

We loaded in for 8 hours on Monday and had 4 hours Tuesday morning. Our typical load in before the first tech rehearsal consists of about 36 hours total.

3.)  Does having 7 shows a week (-vs- our usual 4 shows a week in Houston) present any special challenges for the wardrobe department in terms of laundering the costumes?

Mary Clare (our wardrobe person) did have to stay late after each show to do laundry, but that’s a normal part of our process. On Saturday, when we had two shows, it was definitely more of an ordeal trying to get things cleaned and dried between shows. Mary Clare didn’t have a crew to assist, so she spent a lot of time during the matinee working to get things started so she had enough time to get it all done. 

4.)  What are the challenges of working in a much smaller theater (Joyce with 500 seats) versus working in your home theater, Wortham Theater Center (2300 seats, and our home venue)?

Because the Joyce doesn’t have the ability to fly any of their legs or other goods out, they have to come up with creative ways to get rid of things. 

 Play (Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet)

For Stanton Welch’s ballet Play, for example, Stanton wanted to reveal the back wall.  When we did the ballet at the Wortham, all of the legs, borders and up stage goods were flown out to reveal the backstage. At the Joyce, the legs cannot fly out and are hard flats, so they don’t go away. The upstage goods had to be “west coasted” which means bundling and tying them to the pipe that they’re hanging on. 

Lisa J. Pinkham - Joyce Lighting

Lighting Designer, Lisa J. Pinkham; Photo by Brian Walker

Play also used several moving lights in the original version. Our lighting designer Lisa Pinkham had to adapt those looks to conventional lights for the Joyce because we didn’t have moving lights, nor the time to program them.

5.)  What has it been like to work with the Joyce tech staff?

The Joyce Tech Staff are fantastic. They’re really good at what they do and have a keen eye on how to approach their venue and are very helpful in getting our show up and running.

6.) What’s been the most challenging aspect of the tour for production?

The most challenging aspect for this tour would have been putting Play back together. It’s been several years since we’ve done the ballet, and it was only done by Houston Ballet on the Wortham stage. 

Touring often requires an adapted version of shows we do at home, but having to adapt Play on the road to a unique venue, not having done it recently presented some challenges. It definitely gave us a place to start the next time we present the ballet outside the Wortham and we have a better idea of how Stanton would like to approach the ballet.

7.) What’s been the most rewarding aspect of the tour for production?

The most rewarding aspect for Stage Manager Michelle Elliott was getting to perform in New York. We all dream at one point or another of getting to do a show in New York City. This was Michelle’s first time stage managing a show in New York and she really enjoyed the experience. 

Stage Manager Michelle Elliott - Joyce HB

Stage Manager, Michelle Elliott; Photo by Brian Walker


Join us for an exclusive book reading of “The Making of Markova” by Tina Sutton!

October 25, 2013

On Thursday, November 7, 2013 from noon until 1pm at Houston Ballet’s Center for Dance, Houston Ballet and the Jewish Book and Arts Fair join forces to present a free reading by author Tina Sutton of her acclaimed book, The Making of Markova, about the great 20th century English ballerina Dame Alicia Markova. For more information, contact

"The Making of Markova" by Tina Sutton. Book Cover.

“The Making of Markova” by Tina Sutton. Book Cover.

British Lilian Alicia Marks became the most acclaimed classical ballerina of her generation. She overcame oppressive anti-Semitism, poverty, envy, sexism, and more. This is a spellbinding story of a smart, self-reliant, adventurous woman, proudly Jewish and ahead of her times. Given unprecedented access to Dame Markova’s journals and correspondence, Tina Sutton paints a full picture of the dancer’s astonishing life and times of one of the 20th century’s great artists. A writer, researcher, and journalist for over 35 years, Tina Sutton is a feature writer for The Boston Globe. “… Wonderment lights up every page” —Booklist, starred review.

To learn more about The Making of Markova please visit,


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


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.


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 for more information and to purchase tickets.

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


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.


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


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.


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

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





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!


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:


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.


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.


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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