Houston Ballet Launches 44th Season with Four Premieres, 9/5
From September 5-15, 2013, Houston Ballet launches its 44th season with a mixed repertory program of premieres by emerging and established choreographers. Famed choreographer James Kudelka will create a new work for the company. British master and Houston Ballet's associate choreographer Christopher Bruce's Intimate Pages will have its Houston Ballet premiere. World premieres by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough round out the program.
James Kudelka is widely acknowledged as one of North America's most exciting and sought-after choreographers. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times proclaimed James Kudelka as "easily ballet's most original choreographer." His mastery of both classical ballet and modern/contemporary dance has earned him commissions from companies as stylistically diverse as American Ballet Theatre, Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Mr. Kudelka's work covers an impressive range, from virtuoso pas de deux, through large-scale and always arresting adaptations of such classics asSwan Lake (1999) and The Nutcracker (1995), to boldly innovative creative collaborations with dancers, designers and musicians. Mr. Kudelka served as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1996-2005. Today he continues to undertake collaborative projects that engage and challenge him as a choreographer. Houston Ballet currently has four works by Mr. Kudelka in its repertoire: There, below (created in 1989, performed by Houston Ballet in 1982), Musings (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 1994 and 1998), The Firebird (created in 2000, performed by Houston Ballet in 2001 and 2005) and Little Dancer (2008), which he created especially for Houston Ballet. Mr. Kudelka's new work will be set to the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Concerto for Piano in D, Op. 61a, performed by Houston Ballet pianist Katherine Burkwall-Ciscon.
Garret Smith's world premiere Return is set to two pieces by acclaimed composer John Adams: Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Harmonielehre pt. III. San Francisco Symphony commissioned Harmonielephre from Mr. Adams and gave the piece its debut in 1985 where it was considered an instant classic. Joshua Kosman, music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle praised the music as a "brilliant and dynamic opus". (December 10, 2010)
Garrett Smith was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and began his ballet training at The Utah Regional Ballet at the age of 13. He was featured in the Off Broadway show Breakthrough, where he was presented with an award from Mikhail Baryshinikov. Mr. Smith later was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the highest award a high school student can receive. He was able to meet the President at The White House and perform at The Kennedy Center. He was a student at Houston Ballet Academy in 2006 and then joined Houston Ballet II, Houston Ballet's Second Company and part of Houston Ballet Academy, in 2007. In 2009 Mr. Smith joined Houston Ballet and danced there for three years before joining The Norwegian National Ballet in 2012.
While at Houston Ballet Academy's Summer Intensive Program in 2007, Mr. Smith participated in a choreographic workshop that was a partnership between American Festival for the Arts (AFA) and Houston Ballet. During the summer session student choreographers teamed up with AFA student composers and, over five weeks, completed new ballets. Mr. Smith paired with composer Derek Zhao to create the ballet Found Alone (2007). Since that first creation, Mr. Smith and Mr. Zhao have collaborated two other times for Of Opposing Nature (2009) and Regarding Us (2012). In total, Houston Ballet II has four works by Mr. Smith in its repertoire: Found Alone (2007), Subtle Release (2007), Den III (2008), andOf Opposing Nature (2009).
In 2009 Mr. Smith received a Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet which he used to create Vivacious Dispositions (2010). Dance critic Nichelle Strzepek of Dance Advantage writes, "Already an accomplished performer and choreographer . . . [Smith] is clearly, on the fast-track to a bright future".
On returning to Houston to create his new work, Mr. Smith muses, "I am coming back to a place that is very special to me, where many of my close friends and dance family are. It feels like coming back home, but also now as choreographer, I feel it is the best way I could ask to come back. I am beyond excited to return and create something special here.
"I have never listened to much of John Adams before, but these two pieces I found were quite energetic and big. They made me want to dance, and I immediately got visuals of bodies on stage. What was also exciting about this selection of music, is that John wrote back personally within about two weeks of asking for the music rights. It felt like this was the right choice. The music is big and calls for larger cast. I saw many bodies filling the stage."
Melissa Hough will create her first commissioned piece for Houston Ballet. In 2011 she created C-Sharp Minor for Houston Ballet's Choreographic Workshop where it caught the eye of Mr. Welch. The piece was then performed at that year's Jubilee of Dance. The New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet, awarded Ms. Hough a Fellowship Initiative grant in 2012 to create a new work in a studio setting. That same year she created another new piece for Houston Ballet's Choreographic Workshop I Was Here (2012). Dance critic David Clarke of Broadway World writes, "This piece was extremely emotional and raw, especially during the solo dance with a chair. From beginning to end, it was dark, enigmatic, and supremely haunting."
"I'm really excited to have another opportunity to choreograph," Ms. Hough comments. "I hope that I manage to mold the dancers' movements into something that gets conveyed to the audience in an interesting way."
Melissa Hough was a bronze medal winner in the 2005 Helsinki International Ballet Competition, a jury award of merit winner from the Jackson International Ballet Competition in 2002 and a senior outstanding dancer at New York City Dance Alliance in 2002. She trained with The Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. and has danced professionally with BalletMet, M & Company, and Boston Ballet, where she reached the rank of principal in 2009. She danced with Houston Ballet from 2010-2013, achieving the rank of first soloist before leaving to join The Norwegian National Ballet.