Original Works, SWAN LAKE, THE NUTCRACKER & More Set for Houston Ballet's 2013-14 Season


Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch has announced the company's 2013-2014 season. Eight new works enter Houston Ballet's repertoire, including world premieres by James Kudelka, Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough in September 2013; the North American premiere of David Bintley's Aladdin in February 2014; company premieres of Jirí Kylián's Sechs Tanze, Christopher Bruce's Intimate Pages and Stanton Welch's Of Blessed Memory as well as a world premiere A Young Person's Guide to Orchestra by Mr. Welch in March 2014.

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 American premiere. World premieres by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough round out the program.

Mr. Bruce's Intimate Pages has its musical and thematic basis in the String Quartet No. 2 by the Czech composer Leoš Janácek. A victim of unrequited love, the composer wrote this delicate and finely crafted work in 1928, the last year of his life. For a little over a decade he had been corresponding with a young married woman he had met in 1917. The ballet conveys both the joy and the anguish expressed in the music. It features six dancers, and was first performed by England's Ballet Rambert in 1983.

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 as Swan 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 1992), 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.

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), and Of 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".

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."

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.

The Delightful Romantic Comedy The Merry Widow Returns September 19-29

From September 19-29, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Ronald Hynd's comic and enchanting The Merry Widow. Adapted from Franz Lehár's beloved operetta, the internationally-admired British choreographer Ronald Hynd adds a new layer of lavish spectacle and choreography to the original story of The Merry Widow to create an irresistibly charming and intoxicating tale of high jinks, finance, romance, and intrigue. The production features magnificent scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno.

The Merry Widow premiered by The Australian Ballet to outstanding success on November 13, 1975 at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne and immediately established itself as a classic of the twentieth century full-length ballet repertoire. Like the operetta which debuted in 1905, the ballet has proven to be very popular and has been adopted into the repertoires of many companies. Houston Ballet first performed Mr. Hynd's The Merry Widow in 1995.

Mr. Hynd has a long and rich history spanning three decades with Houston Ballet, having created such full length works as Papillon (1979) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1988) for the company. Born in London, England, Mr. Hynd trained with Marie Rambert and later made his performing debut with Ballet Rambert. In 1951, Mr. Hynd joined the Sadler's Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) where he rose to the rank of principal dancer performing an extensive range of classical and dramatic roles. His first ballet, The Fairy's Kiss, was choreographed in 1967 for the Dutch National Ballet and was later taken into the repertoire of London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet). Between two directorships of the Munich Ballet, Mr. Hynd has enjoyed an international career and created many works. Many of his productions have entered the repertoires of such companies as Houston Ballet, The Royal Ballet, PACT Ballet (South Africa), Santiago Ballet of Chile and many other European and American companies to great critical acclaim.

Houston Ballet has seven works in its repertory choreographed by Ronald Hynd: The Merry Widow (created in 1975, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1999, 2007), Papillon (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1979, also performed 1980, 1981, 1984), Dvo?ák Variations (created in 1980, performed by Houston Ballet in 1980 and 1982), The Seasons (created for Houston Ballet in 1980), Rosalinda (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 1987, 1988), The Firebird choreographed with Annett Page after Michel Fokine (created for Houston Ballet in 1981) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1988).