Houston Ballet Announces First Soloists for 2014-15 Season, Jared Matthews and Yuriko Kajiya

By: May. 07, 2014
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Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch announced today that Jared Matthews and Yuriko Kajiya, currently soloist dancers with American Ballet Theatre (ABT), will join Houston Ballet as first soloists for the 2014-15 season beginning in August 2014.

"Yuriko and I were strongly attracted to Houston Ballet because of the opportunity to work with Stanton and the company's repertory," states Mr. Matthews. "Next year's season is fantastic and was a huge motivating factor for us to make this leap."

Mr. Matthews, a native Houstonian, and Ms. Kajiya, a native of Nagoya, Japan, appeared together on the popular television show So You Think You Can Dance performing the pas de deux from Don Quixote. Ms. Kajiya is well known in Japan, having appeared in several high profile documentaries. She starred in the 2007 documentaryPassion Across a Continent in Japan. In 2011, a 90 minute documentary entitled Yuriko: Ballerina appeared on national television across Japan. In September 2013, she met with the Prime Minster of Japan, Shinzo Abe, while he visited the U.N., to discuss women's rights within Japan.

Mr. Matthews and Ms. Kajiya first worked with Mr. Welch in 2001 when he was choreographing The Long and Winding Road for ABT Studio Company, casting them as one of the main couples in the ballet. When they joined ABT's professional company, Mr. Welch cast each of them in their first soloist roles in his ballets Clear, Carmina Burana, and Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison. Mr. Matthews was featured in one of the casts of Mr. Welch's work Clear when ABT premiered it in 2001. Since 2001, he has also danced in the first cast of Clear several times when it has been performed on tour and when it was revived most recently at the Koch Theater in New York City in 2013. They were both featured in the ballet that Mr. Welch created for ABT's Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison.

Mr. Matthew states, "The first live ballet performance I ever saw was by Houston Ballet, featuring Janie Parker and Carlos Acosta in The Sleeping Beauty in the mid 1990s. Stanton had a strong influence at the beginning of our careers. It is only appropriate that he is there for the next chapter."

"I have been fortunate to have already choreographed on Jared and Yuriko a few times. They are lovely dancers, strong and versatile. They have a good grasp on contemporary and classical dance, and it has been a pleasure to observe their dancing over the years. We are very excited to have them join us at Houston Ballet," comments Mr. Welch.

Jared Matthews was born in Houston and received his early ballet training there under the guidance of Victoria Vittum and Gilbert Rome. He was awarded a full scholarship to study at North Carolina School of the Arts summer program as well as the School of American Ballet and ABT. While attending ABT's Summer Intensive Program in 2001 as a Coca Cola Scholarship winner, he was invited to join ABT's Studio Company.

Mr. Matthews joined ABT as an apprentice in 2002 and as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2003. He was promoted to the rank of soloist in August 2007. His repertoire highlights include Albrecht, Hilarion and the peasant pas de deux in Giselle, Camille in The Merry Widow, the Nutcracker Prince in Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker, Lensky in Onegin; as well as numerous other ballet classics. During ABT's 2014 spring season at the Metropolitan Opera, Jared will dance the leading roles in Giselle, Coppélia, and Gaite Parisienne.

Ms. Kajiya began her training at the age of eight. At ten, she moved to China and became one of the first foreign students to graduate with scholarship from the Shanghai Ballet School. In 1997, at age 13, Ms. Kajiya won the Best Performance Award in the senior category at the Tao Li Bei National Ballet Competition. In 1999, she became one of the youngest finalists at the Third International Ballet Competition in Nagoya. In January 2000, she won the renowned Prix de Lausanne Scholarship which enabled her to study at the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto.

Ms. Kajiya joined ABT's Studio Company in September 2001. She became an apprentice with the main company in 2002, and was promoted to corps de ballet in June. Ms. Kajiya was appointed a soloist in August 2007. Her repertoire highlights include Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Kitri in Don Quixote, Valencienne in The Merry Widow, and the lead role in Giselle; as well as numerous other ballet classics. During ABT's 2014 spring season at the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. Kajiya will dance leading roles in Coppélia and Alexei Ratmansky's The Tempest.

She has performed as a guest in Japan dancing Odette in Swan Lake, Act II and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ms. Kajiya was also featured as 100 people to look up to in Japanese Newsweek. The government of Japan gave Ms. Kajiya an Artistic Ambassador Award in 2012.

Photo Credit: Tetsu Maeda


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