Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch Receives Order of Australia

Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch was awarded the Order of Australia for his contributions to the world of dance. The award recognizes his significant service to the performing arts as a ballet dancer, mentor, choreographer and artistic director. The prestigious Order of Australia Award, established in 1975, is bestowed on Australian citizens for meritorious service in a particular area or field of activity.

"I am exceptionally humbled to receive this recognition. One of the greatest privileges in my life is the ability to create and share dance with audiences around the world, so it gives me immense pleasure and pride to have my hard work and passion recognized. I am a proud Australian and to be awarded the Order of Australia is a great honor," said Mr. Welch.

Mr. Welch was born in Melbourne, Australia to Marilyn Jones, O.B.E. and Garth Welch, AM, two of Australia's most gifted dancers of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1989 he began dancing with The Australian Ballet, where he rose to the rank of leading soloist. In 1995, Mr. Welch was named resident choreographer of The Australian Ballet. Mr. Welch has also created works for such prestigious international companies as Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet and The Royal Danish Ballet.

In 2003, Mr. Welch assumed leadership of Houston Ballet, America's fifth largest ballet company. Since he took the helm of the company, Mr. Welch has revitalized Houston Ballet, bringing in new dancers, commissioning new works, and attracting a top-flight artistic staff. For Houston Ballet he has choreographed more than twenty new works including a new full-length narrative ballet Marie (2009) inspired by the life of the legendary Marie Antoinette and spectacular stagings of Swan Lake (2006), La Bayadère (2010), and Romeo and Juliet (2015).

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 56 dancers with a budget of $24.5 million (making it the United States' fifth 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 $69 million (as of May 2015).

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, Trey McIntyre, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir, Nicolo Fonte, and Edwaard Liang. Executive Director James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, a position he assumed in February 2012 after serving as the company's General Manager for over a decade.

Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Over the past fifteen years, the company has appeared in London at Sadler's Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia, in six cities in Spain, in Montréal and Ottawa, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center and The Joyce Theater, at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, 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 approximately 33,500 Houston area students (as of the 2013-2014 season). Houston Ballet's Academy has over a thousand students and has had four academy students win awards 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.

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