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Houston Ballet Mixed Repertory Showcase Work By Stanton Welch

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MARCH 6-16, 2014

Welch Spotlights Houston Ballet Orchestra and Dancers in premiere of new work
The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Beloved Texas Actor Jaston Williams,
of Tuna Texas fame, Appears as Guest Artist to Narrate

Program Features Houston Ballet Premiere of
Of Blessed Memory,
set to Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne

HOUSTON, TEXAS – From March 6 – 16, 2014, Houston Ballet celebrates the tenth anniversary of Stanton Welch as the company’s artistic director with a mixed repertory program featuring three works by Mr. Welch, including a world premiere set to Benjamin Britten’s classic The Young Person’s Guide to 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 that Mr. Welch created for The Australian Ballet in 1991.  Houston Ballet will give six performances of this program at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.  Tickets start at $19, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org or by calling Houston Ballet box office at 713 227 2787, or 1800 828 2787.

Over the last year, Mr. Welch has been extremely busy as a choreographer both nationally and internationally.  From September 26 – October 5, 2013, Canada’s Alberta Ballet performed his signature piece, Madame Butterfly.  From October 16 – 27, 2013, The Joffrey Ballet danced his staging of La Bayadere in Chicago. American Ballet Theatre revived Mr. Welch’s Clear October 31 – November 10, 2013 at the David H. Koch Theater in New York City.  Mr. Welch collaborated with classical music sensation Lang Lang to unveil Sounds of the Soul, which Houston Ballet premiered in Paris at the Theatre des Champs Elysees from October 31 – November 4, 2013.  From March 22 – April 21, 2014, the Berlin State Ballet will perform Clear in Germany.  The Australian Ballet will perform La Bayadere in Melbourne August 28 – September 6, 2014 and in Sydney November 6-22, 2014. 
The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra:
A Collaboration Between Orchestra and Dancers

Benjamin Britten created his The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra in 1946, and it has helped to introduce generations of children to the world of classical music. "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra marks a very significant collaboration between our dancers and the orchestra," comments Mr. Welch.

The celebrated Texas actor Jaston Williams, winner of the LA Dramalogue Award for his performances in both Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas, will appear as a guest artist, serving as the narrator for The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Since 1982, Mr. Williams has served as co-author and co-star of the Tuna trilogy, chronicling the citizens of the small fictional town of Tuna, Texas on and off Broadway, at The Kennedy Center, the Edinburgh International Arts Festival, the Spoleto Festival USA and on tours across America.  He has received the received the San Francisco Bay Area Critics Award for his performance in Greater Tuna.  A native of Austin, Mr. Williams toured for several years in Larry Shue’s The Foreigner, and received a nomination for best actor for Washington DC’s prestigious Helen Hayes Awards.  He has performed in The Fantasticks at Washington D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre, and directed the musical Bad Girls Upset by the Truth for Atlanta’s Alliance Theater.  Mr. Williams received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts by a Native Texan, and has performed on three occasions at the White House.

The costumes for The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra will be created by Holly Hynes, who has collaborated with Mr. Welch before on the costumes for The Core and Brigade, among others.  Lighting will be designed by Mr. Welch’s frequent collaborator Lisa Pinkham.

Of Blessed Memory:

Created in Australia in 1991 for Welch’s Mother Marilyn Jones

Of Blessed Memory is a company premiere for Houston Ballet and one of the first works Mr. Welch choreographed for The Australian Ballet in 1991. He created the leading role for his mother, Marilyn Jones, OBE, one of The Australian Ballet's greatest ballerinas of the 1960s and 1970s and a former artistic director of The Australian Ballet. The piece is a large-scale work danced to selections from Joseph Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne.  The ballet was so popular and well-received that he was voted best new choreographer in 1992 by readers of the British magazine Dance & Dancers after the work was performed on tour by The Australian Ballet in London and Italy.

In Of Blessed Memory, Mr. Welch explores the relationship between a mother and her child. “For some time the theme of mother and child has been very important to me. I wished to explore the relationship between a child and the giver of life, a bonding that is so deep and natural and which comes from the sharing of the same body,” Mr. Welch commented.

Daniel Gesmer, critic for The New York Times called the ballet, "A neo-Classical centerpiece, Stanton Welch's first major ballet, Of Blessed Memory, is an abstract, intensely romantic exploration of youth, motherhood and the transition families endure when children grow up and leave home." (January 20, 2000).

Performing as the vocal soloist in Of Blessed Memory is Nicole Heaston, who recently won acclaim for her performance in the title role of Handel’s Alcina. The New York Times wrote:
Alcina rightly emerges as the focal point around which the action turns. She is splendidly portrayed by the American soprano Nicole Heaston, whose versatility is underscored by fine singing in Alcina’s wide ranging, musically superb arias. Ms. Heaston’s radiant voice is handsomely resonant, with a slight but attractive shimmer. She brings brilliance to Alcina’s showpiece arias but is especially moving in Alcina’s devastating finalaria, sung when her magical powers have failed her. She makes a pathetic figure at the end, crawling on the floor, her elaborate, bejeweled head covering stripped off to reveal a balding pate, while all the others turn their backs to her (February 2014).

Maninyas:  A Process of Unveiling

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. 
"The piece is a process of unveiling," explained Mr. Welch.  "It examines how in relationships, you gradually unlayer yourself, and how scary, dark, and open it is to reveal yourself to another, without protection.  The dancers are undressing themselves spiritually as well as physically."
Originally created for San Francisco Ballet in 1996, Maninyas was Mr. Welch's first commission outside his home company, The Australian Ballet – his first American exposure, which led to commissions with other companies. In fact, seeing Maninyas led Ben Stevenson, Houston Ballet Artistic Director Emeritus, to ask Mr. Welch to create a work for Houston Ballet.  When Houston Ballet had its company premiere of the ballet in 2005, Wendy Perron of Dance Magazine wrote:

It started with a single dancer taking a spectacular billowy entrance that looked, under Lisa J. Pinkham's lighting, like some unidentifiable act of nature – a flood, a volcano? In a haunting mix of abandon and despair, the dancers thrust both arms upward on a diagonal, snapping their elbow until their hands flopped. Swishing their long skirts with their hands, the women were separate but equal, strong and feminine. Inventive, circular partnering brought Kylián to mind . . . .

An exquisite duet in blue, with wild lifts and sudden swirling falls, highlighted this beautifully crafted work. (October 2005).

Houston Ballet’s performances of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra are generously underwritten by ConocoPhillips.

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, at the Théâtredes 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. 

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 Ballets 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

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(World Premiere)
Music by Benjamin Britten
Choreography by Stanton Welch
Costumes by Holly Hynes
Lighting by Lisa Pinkham
Guest Artist – Jaston Williams

(Houston Ballet Premiere, 1991)
Music: Joseph Canteloube (Chants d'Auvergne)
Choreography by Stanton Welch
Costume Design by Stanton Welch, realized by Laura Lynch
Lighting by Lisa Pinkham
Nicole Heaston, soprano

Music by Ross Edwards (Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra)
Choreography, scenic and costume design by Stanton Welch
Lighting by Lisa Pinkham
Jonathan Godfrey, violin


Houston Ballet’s performances of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra are generously underwritten by ConocoPhillips.

Houston Ballet’s Winter Mixed Repertory Program celebrates the 10th anniversary of artistic director Stanton Welch with a program featuring three of his works.  Mr. Welch will showcase Houston Ballet’s orchestra and dancers in the world premiere of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, featuring celebrated Texas actor Jaston Williams of Greater Tuna fame, serving as the narrator.  Also featured will be the company premiere of Of Blessed Memory, a piece created in 1991 to showcase Mr. Welch’s mother, the great Australian ballerina Marilyn Jones, and a revival of the sensual 1996 work Maninyas, set to music by Australian composer Ross Edwards.


WHEN: At 7:30 p.m. on March 6, 8, 14,15, 2014 

At 2:00 p.m. on March 9, 16, 2014

WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston

TICKETS: Start at $19.  Call (713) 227 ARTS or 1 800 828 ARTS.
Also available at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center downtown at 501 Texas at Smith Street

INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet online at www.houstonballet.org.

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