Original Works, SWAN LAKE, THE NUTCRACKER & More Set for Houston Ballet's 2013-14 Season

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Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch has announced the company's 2013-2014 season. Eight new works enter Houston Ballet's repertoire, including world premieres by James Kudelka, Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough in September 2013; the North American premiere of David Bintley's Aladdin in February 2014; company premieres of Jirí Kylián's Sechs Tanze, Christopher Bruce's Intimate Pages and Stanton Welch's Of Blessed Memory as well as a world premiere A Young Person's Guide to Orchestra by Mr. Welch in March 2014.

From September 5-15, 2013, Houston Ballet launches its 44th season with a mixed repertory program of premieres by emerging and established choreographers. Famed choreographer James Kudelka will create a new work for the company. British master and Houston Ballet's associate choreographer Christopher Bruce's Intimate Pages will have its American premiere. World premieres by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough round out the program.

Mr. Bruce's Intimate Pages has its musical and thematic basis in the String Quartet No. 2 by the Czech composer Leoš Janácek. A victim of unrequited love, the composer wrote this delicate and finely crafted work in 1928, the last year of his life. For a little over a decade he had been corresponding with a young married woman he had met in 1917. The ballet conveys both the joy and the anguish expressed in the music. It features six dancers, and was first performed by England's Ballet Rambert in 1983.

James Kudelka is widely acknowledged as one of North America's most exciting and sought-after choreographers. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times proclaimed James Kudelka as "easily ballet's most original choreographer." His mastery of both classical ballet and modern/contemporary dance has earned him commissions from companies as stylistically diverse as American Ballet Theatre, Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Mr. Kudelka's work covers an impressive range, from virtuoso pas de deux, through large-scale and always arresting adaptations of such classics as Swan Lake (1999) and The Nutcracker (1995), to boldly innovative creative collaborations with dancers, designers and musicians. Mr. Kudelka served as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1996-2005. Today he continues to undertake collaborative projects that engage and challenge him as a choreographer. Houston Ballet currently has four works by Mr. Kudelka in its repertoire: There, below (created in 1989, performed by Houston Ballet in 1992), Musings (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 1994 and 1998), The Firebird (created in 2000, performed by Houston Ballet in 2001 and 2005) and Little Dancer (2008), which he created especially for Houston Ballet.

Garrett Smith was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and began his ballet training at The Utah Regional Ballet at the age of 13. He was featured in the Off Broadway show Breakthrough, where he was presented with an award from Mikhail Baryshinikov. Mr. Smith later was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the highest award a high school student can receive. He was able to meet the President at The White House and perform at The Kennedy Center. He was a student at Houston Ballet Academy in 2006 and then joined Houston Ballet II, Houston Ballet's Second Company and part of Houston Ballet Academy, in 2007. In 2009 Mr. Smith joined Houston Ballet and danced there for three years before joining The Norwegian National Ballet in 2012.

While at Houston Ballet Academy's Summer Intensive Program in 2007, Mr. Smith participated in a choreographic workshop that was a partnership between American Festival for the Arts (AFA) and Houston Ballet. During the summer session student choreographers teamed up with AFA student composers and, over five weeks, completed new ballets. Mr. Smith paired with composer Derek Zhao to create the ballet Found Alone (2007). Since that first creation, Mr. Smith and Mr. Zhao have collaborated two other times for Of Opposing Nature (2009) and Regarding Us (2012). In total, Houston Ballet II has four works by Mr. Smith in its repertoire: Found Alone (2007), Subtle Release (2007), Den III(2008), and Of Opposing Nature (2009).

In 2009 Mr. Smith received a Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet which he used to create Vivacious Dispositions (2010). Dance critic Nichelle Strzepek of Dance Advantage writes, "Already an accomplished performer and choreographer . . . [Smith] is clearly, on the fast-track to a bright future".

Melissa Hough will create her first commissioned piece for Houston Ballet. In 2011 she created C-Sharp Minor for Houston Ballet's Choreographic Workshop where it caught the eye of Mr. Welch. The piece was then performed at that year's Jubilee of Dance. The New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet, awarded Ms. Hough a Fellowship Initiative grant in 2012 to create a new work in a studio setting. That same year she created another new piece for Houston Ballet's Choreographic Workshop,I Was Here (2012). Dance critic David Clarke of Broadway World writes, "This piece was extremely emotional and raw, especially during the solo dance with a chair. From beginning to end, it was dark, enigmatic, and supremely haunting."

Melissa Hough was a bronze medal winner in the 2005 Helsinki International Ballet Competition, a jury award of merit winner from the Jackson International Ballet Competition in 2002 and a senior outstanding dancer at New York City Dance Alliance in 2002. She trained with The Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. and has danced professionally with BalletMet, M & Company, and Boston Ballet, where she reached the rank of principal in 2009. She danced with Houston Ballet from 2010-2013, achieving the rank of first soloist before leaving to join The Norwegian National Ballet.

The Delightful Romantic Comedy The Merry Widow Returns September 19-29

From September 19-29, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Ronald Hynd's comic and enchanting The Merry Widow. Adapted from Franz Lehár's beloved operetta, the internationally-admired British choreographer Ronald Hynd adds a new layer of lavish spectacle and choreography to the original story of The Merry Widow to create an irresistibly charming and intoxicating tale of high jinks, finance, romance, and intrigue. The production features magnificent scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno.

The Merry Widow premiered by The Australian Ballet to outstanding success on November 13, 1975 at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne and immediately established itself as a classic of the twentieth century full-length ballet repertoire. Like the operetta which debuted in 1905, the ballet has proven to be very popular and has been adopted into the repertoires of many companies. Houston Ballet first performed Mr. Hynd's The Merry Widow in 1995.

Mr. Hynd has a long and rich history spanning three decades with Houston Ballet, having created such full length works as Papillon (1979) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1988) for the company. Born in London, England, Mr. Hynd trained with Marie Rambert and later made his performing debut with Ballet Rambert. In 1951, Mr. Hynd joined the Sadler's Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) where he rose to the rank of principal dancer performing an extensive range of classical and dramatic roles. His first ballet, The Fairy's Kiss, was choreographed in 1967 for the Dutch National Ballet and was later taken into the repertoire of London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet). Between two directorships of the Munich Ballet, Mr. Hynd has enjoyed an international career and created many works. Many of his productions have entered the repertoires of such companies as Houston Ballet, The Royal Ballet, PACT Ballet (South Africa), Santiago Ballet of Chile and many other European and American companies to great critical acclaim.

Houston Ballet has seven works in its repertory choreographed by Ronald Hynd: The Merry Widow (created in 1975, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1999, 2007), Papillon (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1979, also performed 1980, 1981, 1984), Dvo?ák Variations (created in 1980, performed by Houston Ballet in 1980 and 1982), The Seasons (created for Houston Ballet in 1980), Rosalinda (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 1987, 1988), The Firebird choreographed with Annett Page after Michel Fokine (created for Houston Ballet in 1981) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which was created for Houston Ballet in 1988).

Born in Rome, Roberta Guidi di Bagno enjoys an international reputation as a set and costume designer. She created scenery and costumes for John Cranko's Onegin for Teatro all Scala, and her designs were later taken into the repertoires of Deutsche Oper Barlin, Teatro Colòn Buenos Aires and Opéra de Nice. For English National Ballet, she created designs for two new productions by Derek Deane: Romeo and Juliet (1998) andThe Sleeping Beauty (2000) both performed at The Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2000, she also created new sets and costumes for Mr. Hynd's productions of The Nutcracker for Teatro alla Scala and Coppélia for Deutsche Oper Berlin. In 1996, Ms. Guidi di Bagno was commissioned to create new sets and costumes for Mr. Hynd's The Merry Widow for Teatro alla Scala, which was restaged in Seattle by the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Mr. Welch has collaborated with Robert Guidi di Bagno on two of his productions: Ønsket ("The Wish") (1998) and Ander ("The Ghost") (1999) for Royal Danish Ballet.

Houston Ballet Lights up the Holidays with The Nutcracker

From November 29-December 29, 2013, Houston Ballet will bring Texas its most joyous holiday gift with its beloved production of Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker, a Houston holiday tradition. A wonderful ballet for the entire family, The Nutcracker is the perfect way to introduce young children to the power and beauty of classical dance. Tchaikovsky's magical score, Desmond Heeley's fairytale scenery and Mr. Stevenson's vibrantly theatrical staging combine to create one of the most visually stunning productions of The Nutcracker in the world today.

The Nutcracker tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She encounters the frightful rat king before embarking on a journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will experience the production's many special effects, including the Christmas tree that "grows" to 40 feet, 200 pounds of "snow" falling during the snow scene and the firing of a canon on stage. Molly Glentzer, dance critic for the Houston Chronicle, wrote, "You'd have to be a Scrooge not to surrender to the spirit."

Houston Ballet's Jubilee of Dance: A One-Night-Only Extravaganza

On Friday, December 6, 2013, Houston Ballet presents its tenth annual Jubilee of Dance, a special one-night-only performance showcasing the talent and artistry of the company dancers in a program of high-energy excerpts from signature works and beloved classics. This year Houston Ballet will perform the third act of Paquita, a dazzling classical showpiece. 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. 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."

David Bintley's Aladdin: A Story of Romance, Trickery and Adventure

From February 20-March 2, 2014, Houston Ballet presents the North American Premiere of David Bintley's Aladdin, the first work by the celebratEd English choreographer to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire. A run-in with palace guards leads young Aladdin into a whirlwind of adventure and romance, involving unbelievable riches, love at first sight, treachery, and of course a magic lamp containing a powerful genie. The three-act production boasts a stellar creative team with renowned film composer Carl Davis, famed costume designer Sue Blane and accomplished set designer Dick Bird.

The story of Aladdin and his magical lamp originated as a tale that appeared in the epic One Thousand and One Nights or Arabian Nights. This collection of stories was a compilation of tales brought together from countries in the east such as China, India, Egypt, Iraq and Iran. Although the legend of a boy receiving three magical wishes has been around since the third century, the story of Aladdin was not widely known until French scholar Antoine Galland translated the tale and introduced the collection of stories to European readers in the early 18th century. Since then, the tale of the poor boy who finds a magical lamp has enthralled and inspired audiences. In 1885 British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton published the celebratEd English language translation of the book. It stood as the only complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) of the Arabian Nights until the Malcolm C. and Ursula Lyons translation in 2008.

Aladdin is a co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Stanton Welch Showcases Houston Ballet Orchestra and Company in The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra in March 2014

From March 6-16, 2014, Houston Ballet celebrates the tenth anniversary of Stanton Welch as artistic director with a mixed repertory program featuring three works by Mr. Welch, including a world premiere set to Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. The evening will also include Maninyas, created for San Francisco Ballet in 1996 and Of Blessed Memory, a company premiere and one of the first works Mr. Welch created for The Australian Ballet in 1991.

A mix of classical and contemporary ballet, Maninyas is a small abstract work, a series of pas de deux and pas de trois. Set to Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, a work by Australian composer Ross Edwards, the piece features five couples in delicate costumes designed by Mr. Welch who move in and out of a series of shimmering curtains or veils.

Modern Masters Features Company Premiere of Jirí Kylián's Comic Sech Tanze in May 2014

From May 22 - June 1, 2014 Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program titled Modern Masters featuring the company premiere of Ji?í Kylián's comic and delightfulSech Tanze (Six Dances), along with revivals of his playful and sexy work Petite Mort, William Forsythe's explosive In the middle, somewhat elevated and George Balanchine's complex and inventive The Four Temperaments.

Mr. Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated first entered Houston Ballet's repertoire in September 1999. A neoclassical tour-de-force set to electronic techno music by Mr. Forsythe's frequent collaborator, the Dutch composer Thom Willems, the work opens on a bare, black stage with nine dancers (six women and three men) in leotards tearing through a series of fiendishly difficult classical steps with high attitude and haughty disdain. The title of the ballet refers to two golden cherries hanging "in the middle, somewhat elevated" in the Palais Garnier in Paris, where the work premiered in 1987.

Houston Ballet has one other work by Mr. Forsythe in its repertoire: The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (created in 1996, performed by Houston Ballet 2009).

Balanchine created The Four Temperaments for the opening program of Ballet Society, immediate forerunner of New York City Ballet. The premiere took place on November 20th, 1946, at the Central High School of Needle Trades, New York City. It is one of his earliest experimental works, fusing classical steps with a lean and angular style. The ballet is inspired by the medieval belief that human beings are made up of four different humors that determine a person's temperament. The Four Temperaments is set to the music ofPaul Hindemith's Theme with Four Variations (According to the Four Temperaments). The score is made of four movements titled: Melancholic, Sanguinic, Phlegmatic, and Choleric - the four temperaments of medieval medicine.

Houston Ballet Caps the Season with Romantic Classic Swan Lake

From June 15-15, 2014, Houston Ballet revives Stanton Welch's vibrantly theatrical staging of Swan Lake, which he created for Houston Ballet in 2006. Set to the hauntingly beautiful Tchaikovsky score, Swan Lake tells the classic tale of Odette - a beautiful maiden transformed into a swan by an evil knight - and the prince who swears his enduring love for her. It's good and evil in black and white, danced on rich and spectacular sets by the late, great New Zealand designer Kristian Fredrikson.