Houston Ballet Announces Promotions and Additions to 2013-14 Season

Houston Ballet Announces Promotions and Additions to 2013-14 Season

Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch announced plans today for the company's 2013-2014 season, including eight promotions and additions of several new dancers. Houston Ballet's roster now stands at 53 dancers.

Jessica Collado and Katharine Precourt have been promoted from soloist to first soloist, and Christopher Gray has been promoted from corps de ballet to demi soloist. Apprentices Dylan Lackey, Zecheng Liang, Madeline Skelly, Alyssa Springer (all graduates of Houston Ballet Academy) and Derek Dunn have moved up to the corps de ballet.

Houston Ballet II graduates Asia Bui, Silken Kelly, Rhys Kosakowski, Bridget Kuhns, Hayden Stark, and Joel Woellner join the company as apprentices. Mr. Woellner placed sixth overall out of 78 international contestants and won the Contemporary Dance Prize at the 2013 Prix de Lausanne Dance Competition. Renee Kester, who trained at Southland Ballet Academy and Washington Ballet, also joins the company as an apprentice.

Houston Ballet has six ranks of dancers: apprentice, corps de ballet, demi soloist, soloist, first soloist, and principal, the top level in the company.

Meelis Pakri joined the artistic staff of Houston Ballet as ballet master in August 2013. He is originally from Tallinn, Estonia, and performed as a principal dancer with Colorado Ballet from 1991-2001. He is a graduate of the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. For five years he was a principal dancer with Estonian National Ballet touring Europe, South and Central America, the Philippines, Singapore and the former Soviet Union. In 1990, he was a guest dancer at the International Ballet Festival in Havana, Cuba, honoring Alicia Alonso, and a guest principal dancer for the National Theater of Macedonia in Skopje, Yugoslavia. In addition to dancing with Estonian National Ballet, Pakri was a partnering and technique teacher at the Tallinn Ballet School of Estonian National Ballet. Among his students are present stars of English National Ballet and Royal Ballet of Flanders in Antwerp, Belgium. From 2001-2006, Mr. Pakri served as the Ballet Master of Colorado Ballet. He also is a frequent guest teacher at many schools and summer intensive program throughout the United States. In 2005, Pakri received critical acclaim for staging the full length The Sleeping Beauty for Colorado Ballet.

"Jessica Collado's musicality is so extraordinary and detailed," commented Mr. Welch said. "I really enjoy choreographing on Jessica, and her movement is very strong. She can do anything you ask her to do. But it's always natural. There's always a sense that the technique that happens, that the movement is actually a very natural part of her.

"Katharine Precourt has had a long history of being a featured dancer with the company," observed Mr. Welch. "She has really blossomed as a dancer and an artist over the last few years. She has made strong impressions as Gamzatti in my version of La Bayadére, the Mad Ballerina in Jerome Robbins's The Concert, and as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, among many excellent performances."

Jessica Collado and Katharine Precourt Promoted to First Soloist

Ms. Collado remarks, "I couldn't be more excited about my promotion to First Soloist. I only hope that with this promotion I will continue to be pushed and challenged as a dancer and as an artist. It has been a wonderful journey so far...I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead."

Jessica Collado was born in Coral Springs, Florida and was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She trained with the Gwinnett Ballet Theater under the direction of Lisa Sheppard Robson. During her summers, Ms. Collado attended programs at South Carolina University and Boston Ballet. Between 2001-2003, Ms. Collado attended Houston Ballet's Ben Stevenson Academy Summer Intensives as well as a year with Houston Ballet II on full scholarship. Upon her graduation from the academy in the spring of 2004, she received the Michael Wasmund Memorial Award. Ms. Collado joined Houston Ballet as an apprentice in July 2004, was promoted to the corps de ballet in July 2005, to demi soloist in March 2009, to soloist in July 2011, and to first soloist July 2013.

Ms. Collado's classical repertoire includes the Snow Queen in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker, Carabosse in Mr. Stevenson's staging of The Sleeping Beauty, and Effie in Johnny Eliason's staging of La Sylphide. Highlights of her neoclassical repertoire are Suzuki in Stanton Welch's Madame Butterfly, and the Mistress in Sir Kenneth MacMillan'sManon. She has also created roles in Nicolo Fonte's See(k), Brian Enos' Dark and Lovely Mmm..., Jorma Elo'sONE/end/ONE, and Aszure Barton's Angular Momentum.

Some of Ms. Collado's more featured roles in repertory pieces include the lead purple girl in Stanton Welch's Red Earth and Summer in his The Four Seasons; the Rooster girl in Christopher Bruce's Rooster, Hush, Sergeant Early's Dreams, andGrinning In Your Face; Jiri Kylian's Forgotten Land, Svadebka, Petite Mort, Falling Angels, and Sinfonietta; William Forsythe's In The Middle Somewhat Elevated and The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude; Nacho Duato's Jardi Tancat; George Balanchine's Ballo della Regina, Jewels, and Ballet Imperial; Jerome Robbins's The Concert, Fancy Free, and In The Night; Mark Morris's Sandpaper Ballet, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, and Pacific; and Twyla Tharp's In The Upper Room.

In 2009, Ms. Collado was named "25 to Watch" by Dance Magazine. And she was awarded "Top 10 Standout Performances in 2011" by Pointe Magazine for her performance in Christopher Bruce's Grinning In Your Face. Ms. Collado has also had the privilege of performing with Houston based company iMEE and San Francisco based company Post:Ballet.

"It is always an honor to be promoted. I feel particularly lucky and thankful to be recognized and rewarded for what I love to do. I am looking forward to an exciting season and many new challenges and opportunities in the future." commented Ms. Precourt.

Katharine Precourt began her dance training under the direction of Robin Morgan at the San Diego School of Ballet, where her teachers included the legendary Dame Sonia Arova and Jillana. At the age of ten she was selected for the part of Clara in the San Francisco Ballet's The Nutcracker and the following year she performed with American Ballet Theatre in their televised production of Le Corsaire. Ms. Precourt attended Summer Intensive programs on full merit scholarship at some of the most renowned schools in the nation: Houston Ballet's Ben Stevenson Academy, the School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School and she was the recipient of a scholarship award from Regional Dance America to American Ballet Theatre's Summer Intensive program. She continued her training year round in Houston as a member of Houston Ballet II and during this time she was an ARTS Ballet Award winner in the 2004 competition sponsored by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. She was then invited to perform at their 2005 Gala honoring Mikhail Baryshnikov.

With Houston Ballet, Ms. Precourt has developed into a versatile artist, proficient in both the classical as well as the contemporary repertoire. She has danced lead roles in great classical ballets: Aurora in Ben Stevenson's The Sleeping Beauty; Gamzatti in Stanton Welch's La Bayadère; Myrtha in Giselle, and she enjoys reprising every year the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker. Other performance highlights include lead and featured parts in: Sir Frederick Ashton's Les Patineurs; George Balanchine's Jewels and Serenade; William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated; Ji?í Kylián's Falling Angels and Petite Mort; Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earthand Manon; Jerome Robbins's Afternoon of a Faun and The Concert; and Stanton Welch's Tu Tu and Divergence. Stanton Welch choreographed parts for her in Marie, Punctilious and The Ladies.

Ms. Precourt is delighted to have the opportunity to participate and dance in community related events and fund-raising benefits including the 2011 Pink at the Brown. She also represented the company, performing with the Houston Ballet II, at the inauguration of the new award-winning Houston Ballet's Center for Dance.

About Houston Ballet

On February 17, 1969 a troupe of 15 young dancers made its stage debut at Sam Houston State Teacher's College in Huntsville, Texas. Since that time, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 55 dancers with a budget of $20.5 million (making it the United States' fourth largest ballet company by number of dancers), a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, Wortham Theater Center, the largest professional dance facility in America, Houston Ballet's $46.6 million Center for Dance which opened in April 2011, and an endowment of $53.7 million (as of August 2012).

Australian choreographer Stanton Welch has served as artistic director of Houston Ballet since 2003, raising the level of the company's classical technique and commissioning many new works from dance makers such as Christopher Bruce, Jorma Elo, James Kudelka, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte. James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, assuming the position of executive director of Houston Ballet in February 2012 after serving as the company's general manager for over a decade.

Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Since 2000, the company has appeared in London at Sadler's Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Ottawa, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center and The Joyce Theater, and in cities large and small across the United States. Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labor-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets.

Writing in Dancing Times on June 2012, dance critic Margaret Willis praised Houston Ballet and highlighted the fact that "During his own tenure, (Stanton) Welch has upped the standard and Houston Ballet now shows off a group of 55 dancers in splendid shape. With fast and tidy footwork, they are technically skillful and have strong, broad jumps and expansive, fluid movements. The dancers' musicality shines through their work, dancing as one with elegance and refinement -and they are a handsome bunch too! . . . if ballet were an Olympic sport, see Houston Ballet well on the way to achieving gold."

Houston Ballet Orchestra was established in the late 1970s and currently consists of 61 professional musicians who play all ballet performances at Wortham Theater Center under music director Ermanno Florio.

Houston Ballet's Education and Outreach Program has reached over 25,000 Houston area students (as of the 2012-2013 season). Houston Ballet's Academy has 950 students and has had four academy students win prizes at the prestigious international ballet competition the Prix de Lausanne, with one student winning the overall competition in 2010. For more information on Houston Ballet visit www.houstonballet.org.



Jessica Collado First Soloist

Katharine Precourt First Soloist

Christopher Gray Demi Soloist

New Company Members

Derek Dunn Corps de Ballet

Dylan Lackey Corps de Ballet

Zecheng Liang Corps de Ballet

Madeline Skelly Corps de Ballet

Alyssa Springer Corps de Ballet

New Apprentices

Asia Bui Apprentice

Silken Kelly Apprentice

Renee Kester Apprentice

Rhys Kosakowski Apprentice

Bridget Kuhns Apprentice

Hayden Stark Apprentice

Joel Woellner Apprentice


INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet online at www.houstonballet.org