Ucross and Houston Ballet  Reveal Inaugural Recipient of the Lauren Anderson Dance Residency

Jack Wolff, a choreographer and dancer in company at Houston Ballet, will experience two weeks of uninterrupted time and space at Ucross.

By: Mar. 20, 2024
Ucross and Houston Ballet  Reveal Inaugural Recipient of the  Lauren Anderson Dance Residency
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 Ucross and Houston Ballet have announced the inaugural recipient of the Lauren Anderson Dance Residency at Ucross: Jack Wolff of Houston, Texas. 

Wolff, a choreographer and dancer in company at Houston Ballet, will experience two weeks of uninterrupted time and space at Ucross, the acclaimed artist residency program on a 20,000-acre ranch in northern Wyoming in July. Wolff will be joined by fellow Houston Ballet dancers Aoi Fujiwara of Osaka, Japan, and Eric Best of Indianapolis, Indiana, with whom he will collaborate on his choreographic project.

During his Ucross residency, Wolff hopes to “create and explore movement inspired by events from my own life: modern-day issues within family dynamics, such as infidelity and divorce,” he said. “I will be using Rachmaninoff Piano Suites, which have such drama and have augmented my inspiration for the work. I will be working with one male dancer and one female dancer, who will be asked to explore classical ballet language, gritty contemporary movement and more.

“I’m excited to find the relationship between the dancers, the music and ideas of familial issues,” Wolff continued. “These modern conflicts have become more common in society, and I find it important to bring representation of such events to the ballet stage.”

Wolff joined Houston Ballet as an apprentice in 2018 and is currently a demi soloist after his promotion in winter 2022. Wolff started his training at Precision Dance Academy, Houston METtoos and Houston Ballet Summer Intensives. In 2015, he moved to New York City to train at American Ballet Theatre’s JKO School on full scholarship. While living in New York, Wolff was awarded Young Arts winner in Tap, represented the JKO School at ABT at Prix de Lausanne, and at 16 years old made his professional debut in Bulgaria as a guest artist with iMEE, a company under the direction of Spencer Gavin Hering and Andrea Dawn Shelley. 

Since being in the company at Houston Ballet, Wolff has worked with respected choreographers such as Arthur Pita, Justin Peck, Azure Barton, Disha Zhang and Trey McIntyre. In 2022, Wolff performed in McIntyre’s world premiere of “Pretty Things” and had his principal role debut as Peter in McIntyre’s “Peter Pan.” Wolff has also been invited to choreograph for both Houston Ballet II and the Houston Ballet main company. He had his choreographic premiere with his piece “PIEL” in May 2022.

“We look forward to welcoming Jack Wolff, as well as participating dancers Aoi Fujiwara and Eric Best, for the first Lauren Anderson Dance Residency at Ucross,” said Ucross President William Belcher. “It has been an honor to work with Lauren Anderson and the Houston Ballet to organize this partnership, which nurtures choreographers and performers by giving them time, free of distractions, in our stunning new dance studio and performance space.”

Awarded annually, the fellowship includes exclusive access to the Lauren Anderson Dance Studio in the Koehler Performing Arts Center, which opened in December 2022 as part of Ucross’s 40th Anniversary. The state-of-the-art studio features large accordion-style doors that open onto a concrete patio, allowing artists to cross between the sprung-floor dance studio and the open air. A green room and second-story observation room are also part of the 2,200 square-foot performing arts center.

In addition to the private studio space, the fellowship includes living accommodations for the recipient and all collaborators, meals by a professional chef, staff support, a stipend and the unparalleled experience of the High Plains on Ucross’s ranch. 

The fellowship and dance studio are named for Lauren Anderson, the first Black principal ballerina at Houston Ballet. Anderson performed leading roles across the world to great critical acclaim from 1983 to 2006. Today, she conducts master classes and gives lectures for Houston Ballet’s Education and Community Engagement program. Anderson will continue to help select recipients of the residency named in her honor.

“Excited doesn't begin to describe it: I am thrilled to announce Jack Wolff as the first fellow in residence at Ucross,” Anderson said. “His creativity and commitment to having art reflect life promises an inspiring fusion of movement and emotion. This residency marks a significant milestone in fostering artistic expression and collaboration between Ucross and Houston Ballet, and I am honored to have my name on this residency."

The Lauren Anderson Dance Residency at Ucross is fully funded, thanks to a generous donation by Deborah and Edward Koehler and the Raymond Plank Philanthropy Fund (RPPF). That endowed fund gift provides funding for an annual Houston Ballet residency at Ucross in perpetuity, strengthening the bond between Ucross, Wyoming, and Houston, Texas, by connecting Ucross to one of the largest and most influential ballet companies in the United States. To elevate the Ucross experience for dancers, choreographers, performers, and collaborative groups, Deborah Koehler, executive director of the RPPF and former Ucross Foundation trustee, also provided a leadership gift to support the construction of the studio and performing arts space in 2022.