Houston Ballet Appoints Jean Ellis First Chief Development Officer

Houston Ballet Appoints Jean Ellis First Chief Development OfficerHouston Ballet has announced that Jean Joransen Ellis has been appointed as its first Chief Development Officer. Ms. Ellis will be responsible for developing comprehensive strategic fundraising plans and overseeing the development department at the company.

"I am extremely pleased that Jean has joined the Houston Ballet team," said Executive Director James Nelson. "Her knowledge and depth of experience will be a tremendous asset for the organization as we continue to grow."

Ms. Ellis has twenty years of professional experience in leadership and development roles in the non-profit sector. She earned her Masters in Business Administration and her undergraduate Bachelor of Arts from University of Denver.

Ms. Ellis commented on her return to Houston by saying, "I consider Houston Ballet, with its new building and presence downtown, as one of the premier cultural organizations in the country. It's a pleasure to return to a performing arts position in a city I love and have considered home for a large part of my adult life."

In 1992, Ms. Ellis began professionally fundraising with the Shreveport Symphony as Director of Development. During her time there she was responsible for all fundraising activities and exceeded their annual giving campaign goal by 6% the first year. In 1995 Ms. Ellis began working for the Houston Symphony as Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving. She was then promoted to Director of Development in 1996. After a brief gap, she returned to the symphony, ending her tenure with them in 2003 as Senior Director, Capital Campaign.

In 2005, Ms. Ellis was the Executive Director of the Bagaduce Music Lending Library, a non-profit in Blue Hill, Maine. During her time there Ms. Ellis oversaw the volunteer workforce, overhauled the accounting system and developed new financial policies to increase giving.

Most recently, Ms. Ellis worked at the Denver Zoological Foundation as Vice President for Development and Membership where she helped to reenergize their capital campaign and worked on growing the organization's endowment. Ms. Ellis now brings her leadership and fundraising experience to Houston Ballet as its new Chief Development Officer.

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 just over $57.6 million (as of May 2011).

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 in 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 20,500 Houston area students (during the 2011-2012 season). Houston Ballet's Academy has 509 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.