The Houston Ballet's Academy Presents the 2014 SPRING SHOWCASE This Weekend

The Houston Ballet's Academy Presents the 2014 SPRING SHOWCASE This Weekend

Tonight, April 25 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 26 at 1:30 p.m., Houston Ballet II and the entire school will present its 2014 Spring Showcase in the Cullen Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets start at $28 and may be purchased by calling 713 227 ARTS (713 227 2787) or online at All proceeds raised by the performances will benefit Houston Ballet Academy.

Houston Ballet II is the second company of Houston Ballet, America's fourth largest ballet company. The Spring Showcase at Wortham Theater Center is a unique opportunity for Houston Ballet II to perform for their home audience after a busy schedule of touring. Over the last few years, Houston Ballet II has given performances in Houston with Houston Symphony and with Musiqa, the nationally acclaimed contemporary music ensemble. Over the past year, Houston Ballet II toured to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania; Conway, Arkansas; Carrollton, Georgia; andSyracuse, New York.

Academy Director Shelly Power with Houston Ballet II's Ballet Master Claudio Muñoz and Ballet Mistress Sabrina Lenzi carefully select each piece for the Spring Showcase to fully showcase the abilities of every dancer and fulfill the mission of Houston Ballet Academy. The pieces chosen for this year's program express three unique themes that showcase the versatility of Houston Ballet Academy - elegance, humor, and charm. George Balanchine's classical masterpiece Serenade set to the tuneful Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48. was created to give dancers an idea of how dancing on stage differs from class work and rehearsal. Graduation Ball invites students to embrace the humorous side of ballet. Stanton Welch's Studies offers the charm and tradition for Houston Ballet Academy students of all ages to share the stage.

Former Houston Ballet Principal Dancer Leslie Peck

Coaches the American Classic Serenade

Serenade has emerged as one of George Balanchine's most beloved and widely performed works. It was the first ballet that Balanchine choreographed upon his arrival in America in 1934. Mr. Balanchine created the work as a classroom exercise for the students of the School of American Ballet in Hartford, Connecticut to give his dancers an idea of how dancing on stage differs from class work and rehearsal. Serenade will be coached by Leslie Peck. At the age of 17, Ms. Peck joined New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine. She went on to dance leading roles with Pennsylvania Ballet and later became a principal dancer with Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Richmond Ballet and Ballet International in London. She was a principal dancer with Houston Ballet during a formative period, the early 1970s, when the professional company was in the first decade of its existence, performing during the directorship of Nina Popova, the company's second artistic director. Today, Ms. Peck is a recognized authority on Balanchine ballets and one of the few dancers authorized to stage Balanchine ballets by the Balanchine Trust. She is currently an associate professor in the dance department of Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts.

Graduation Ball, Set to the Lilting Melodies of Johann Strauss

Also on the program, a revival of David Lichine's crowd-pleasing comic ballet Graduation Ball, set to the lilting melodies of Johann Strauss and staged by Claudio Muñoz. Set in 1840s Vienna, the ballet tells what happens when young cadets from a local military academy visit a girls boarding school for their graduation ball. A perennial favorite in the repertories of the Royal Danish Ballet and the London Festival Ballet, the work is full of entertaining divertissements and romantic flirtations.

Entire Academy Shines in Stanton Welch's Studies

The highpoint of the evening will be a performance of Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch's classical showpiece Studies, showcasing 226 students from all levels of the academy. Studies has become an Academy tradition. Mr. Welch created it especially for the 2005 Academy Spring Performance, and it has been performed every year since.

The piece highlights the academy's ability to take students from introductory ballet and develop them into skilled professional dancers. According to Mr. Welch, "The piece is designed to give the audience an idea about the different levels of technique acquired as each age group progresses through their training. As young students in our Academy participate in Studies, they see the next level of students above them and aspire to rise to those levels. Each year as they ascend to more advanced levels in Studies, they are adding to the foundation of their technique. What makes ballet unique as an art form is that it's a tradition transferred from generation to generation. Studies embodies this tradition."

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by Barnett Serchuk