Houston Ballet to Present JUBILEE OF DANCE, 12/6

Houston Ballet to Present JUBILEE OF DANCE, 12/6

Fresh from its tours to New York City in October and Paris in November, Houston Ballet presents its tenth annual Jubilee of Dance, a special one-night only performance on Friday, December 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm.

This year's program will celebrate Stanton Welch's tenth anniversary as artistic director of Houston Ballet and the plethora of new works that he has choreographed. The evening will include a touching video tribute to principal dancer Mireille Hassenboehler, who retired from Houston Ballet in September 2013 after a brilliant 21-year career with the company. The program will also feature the dazzling Spanish-flavored classical showpiece Paquita, showcasing the entire company. Houston Chronicle dance critic Molly Glentzer called the 2006 Jubilee of Dance "the event of the season," noting, "The audience gave it a rousing standing ovation." The Jubilee of Dance will be held at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.

In 2003, Mr. Welch took the helm of the company and revitalized Houston Ballet, bringing in new dancers, commissioning new works and attracting a talented artistic staff. He has led the company on tours to Paris, New York, Spain, Montreal, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and to cities large and small across the U.S. For Houston Ballet, he has choreographed twenty two 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) and La Bayadère (2010). 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."

A video tribute to retired principal dancer Mireille Hassenboehler will close out the second act of the performance. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Houston Ballet Academy, Ms. Hassenboehler joined Houston Ballet in 1992, and was promoted to the rank of principal dancer in 2000. In a long and memorable career, she has created the leading female roles of Sluefoot Sue in Stanton Welch's Pecos in 2004 and Odette/Odile in Stanton Welch's staging of Swan Lake in 2006. She has danced the leading female roles in all the great classical ballets, making a particularly strong impression with her dramatic gifts in the title role of Giselle in 2005. That same year, readers of Houston Press selected her as "Best Ballet Dancer." But Ms. Hassenboehler's most rewarding role is mother to her young son Teddy, born in 2011, and she has successfully managed to balance the demands of being both a full-time ballet dancer and mother of a young child.

"I'm very thankful for my career here at Houston Ballet," Ms. Hassenboehler reflected. "I've been such a lucky dancer and Houston has been a wonderful place for me to grow as an artist. I will definitely miss the professional career that I've enjoyed and worked for all these years."

Company Principals Perform Excerpt from New Works, Signature Ballets and Beloved Classics

Houston Ballet will revive the third act of Paquita, a dazzling classical showpiece which the company first performed in 1972 that has not been seen in Houston for over three decades. Paquita was premiered by the Paris Opera in 1846, and Marius Petipa produced the ballet in 1847 for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg as his debut production. The ballet tells of Paquita, a Spanish gypsy, who saves the life of a French officer named Lucien. In the end, once it is revealed that she is of noble birth, Paquita and Lucien are able to marry. Mr. Welch has created eleven variations for the dancers, and created dances for all the men, giving the whole company the opportunity to shine.

Also on the program are excerpts from Mr. Welch's Sons de L'âme (Sounds of the Soul), which had its world premiere at the famous Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris on October 31 of this year. The performance was a collaboration between Houston Ballet and celebrated concert pianist Lang Lang. The ballet is set to piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin and includes 16 Houston Ballet dancers. Reviewing for the Financial Times, Laura Cappelle commented, "Alert, vivid musicality has been an attribute of American ballet . . . and the Houston dancers are proud exponents of that tradition. Their eagerness to realise every musical phrase and the unfussy expressiveness of their upper bodies were the highlights of the programme."

Excerpts from several other ballets will be performed, including Mr. Welch's Marie (2009) featuring principals Joseph Walsh and Sara Webb; Divergence (1994), A Time to Dance (1990), Of Blessed Memory (1991), Play (2004), Swan Lake (2006), Brigade (2006), Cline Time (2004), Clear (2001), Maninyas (1996) and Nosotros (2005).

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 $22.8 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 $60,676, 551 million (as of August 2013).

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.

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.

Pictured: Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet. Photo by Amitava Sarkar/Image provided courtesy of Houston Ballet.