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FOR RELEASE MAY 2013
CONTACT:
SARAH LAM
713-535-3226
KIMBERLY CEDENO
713-535-3224
pr@houstonballet.org

 

HOUSTON BALLET'S JOURNEY WITH THE MASTERS
SHOWCASES THREE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY'S
GREATEST CHOREOGRAPHERS
MAY 30 – JUNE 9, 2013

Merrill Ashley Stages Company Premiere of
George Balanchine's Ballet Imperial

Company Revives Jiří Kylián’s Signature Work, Sinfonietta

Jerome Robbins's Comedic Spoof The Concert Brings Laughter to the Stage

From May 30 – June 9, 2013 Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program titled Journey with the Masters featuring the company premiere of Ballet Imperial, George Balanchine's tribute to Marius Petipa and Peter Tchaikovsky, alongside revivals of Jiří Kylián's exuberant and joyous Sinfonietta (not seen in Houston since 1997) and Jerome Robbins's The Concert, a laugh-out-loud ballet depicting a group of concertgoers at a performance with keen insight to human behavior.

"Journey With the Masters is an exciting program because it brings three of the greatest choreographers -- George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Jiří Kylián -- together on one program. We have built up our Balanchine repertoire significantly in the past few years and Ballet Imperial is a spectacular ballet to add to our season. We look forward to continue our greater understanding of Balanchine’s extraordinary works," remarks Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch.

On Tuesday, May 21 from 8:00 – 9:00 p.m., Houston Ballet will host a free Dance Talk featuring former New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Bart Cook discussing Jerome Robbins's comic masterpiece The Concert, and Roslyn Anderson about her work staging Jiří Kylián’s signature piece, Sinfonietta. The Tuesday, May 21 Dance Talk is free and open to the public at Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston Street, 77002. For more information or questions, please contact marketing manager Elizabeth Cleveland: ECleveland@houstonballet.org, or 713-535-3236.

Houston Ballet Premiere of George Balanchine's Ballet Imperial

Balanchine created Ballet Imperial for American Ballet Caravan, and it premiered on June 25, 1941 at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. Ballet Imperial, a ballet for two principals, three soloists, and 24 corps de ballet dancers, is set to the music of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.2 in G major, Op. 44. A sumptuous tutu ballet, with a hierarchical cast, and a brilliant courtly atmosphere, Ballet Imperial, in Balanchine's words, is "a contemporary tribute to Petipa, 'the father of the classic ballet,' and to Tchaikovsky, his greatest composer."

The celebrated American dance critic John Martin noted: "It would be a grave mistake to imply anything old-fashioned in any respect except the psychological setting. The virtuosity of the old academic style, the grandiloquence of manner, even the conventional mime [Balanchine] has looked back on with a certain tenderness but with an artistic objectivity as well, which allows him to treat it purely as choreographic material and to compose it freely and imaginatively." Indeed, the ballerina's role is still considered perhaps the most difficult in Balanchine's repertory. The choreography of the entire piece has been described  by the respected American dance historian Nancy Reynolds  as "a non-stop outpouring of kinetic exuberance."

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer for New York City Ballet from 1948 until his death in 1983. Balanchine's more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), The Nutcracker (1954), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), and Mozartiana (1981). Houston Ballet has 14 Balanchine works in its repertory, including Apollo (1928), Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), The Four Temperaments (1946), Symphony in C (1947), Theme and Variations (1947), La Valse (1951), Western Symphony (1954), Pas de Dix (1955), Agon (1957), Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (1960), and Jewels (Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds) (1967).

Ballet Imperial will be coached by Merrill Ashley. During her 31-year career as a dancer with New York City Ballet, Ms. Ashley was considered one of the great Balanchine ballerinas, and she now helps keep George Balanchine's legacy alive by staging his ballets for companies around the world. In 1967 George Balanchine invited Ms. Ashley to join the corps de ballet of the New York City Ballet, where she soon appeared in both corps and soloist roles in almost all of the ballets in the company's repertory. In 1974 she was promoted to the rank of soloist, and three years later she became a principal dancer. Balanchine choreographed both Ballo della Regina and Ballade for Ms. Ashley, and she also originated roles in Jerome Robbins' Concertino and Brahms/Handel, which he choreographed with Twyla Tharp.

Jiří Kylián's Sinfonietta Returns

Jiří Kylián, one of the most important choreographers of our time, has influenced generations of dance-makers since creating his first works with Stuttgart Ballet in the 1970s. "Kylián has a broad range of style and ability that works so well with classically trained dancers," states Mr. Welch. “He is one of my idols and his work is constantly challenging the dancers and audiences musically and intellectually."

"I make ballets because dance can express things which are inexpressible with words," Mr. Kylián has said. "My choreographies have been based on classical ballet, influenced by modern dance, folk-dance and extremely natural movements."

Kylián set his Sinfonietta to the music of Janáček to create this fluid, spacious, romantic ballet which has become a milestone in contemporary choreography. The forceful fanfares of Janáček's music are matched by a ceaselessly energetic and exuberant display of movement, creating an image which carries through the composer's intention of evoking the spirit of what Kylián calls the "free Czech man . . . [and] represents free men in general."

Mr. Kylián considers Sinfonietta "perhaps my most spontaneous work." He created it in 1978 for Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, when the company had little sense of direction and a tight deadline, but "the result was quite remarkable. The audience at the Charleston premiere never heard the end of the music, because they already stood on the top of their chairs cheering and throwing the program books into the air. This was the moment that tore the company out of a depression and this work where simplicity is one of the major characteristics, became a cornerstone of the repertoire of Nederlands Dans Theater."

The ballet, choreographed for seven couples, begins with a rousing series of leaps for the men, set to Janáček’s celebratory opening fanfares. The most classically based of Mr. Kylián’s ballets, Sinfonietta has five sections. Both men and women leap joyously through the air, seemingly effortless in their transcendence of gravity, building to a thrilling conclusion. Sinfonietta entered Houston Ballet's repertoire in 1995.

Born in Prague, Jiří Kylián studied at Prague Conservatory and The Royal Ballet School in London before joining Stuttgart Ballet in 1968 under the direction of John Cranko. He began his choreographic career in Stuttgart, creating his first work for that company in 1970. Mr. Kylián joined Nederlands Dans Theater in 1973 as a guest choreographer, and was appointed artistic director in 1978. After joining Nederlands Dans Theater he created and realized over 60 productions for the company including such works as: Sinfonietta (1978), Forgotten Land (1981), Bella Figura (1995), and Last Touch (2003). In 1995 Mr. Kylián celebrated 20 years as artistic director with Nederlands Dans Theater with the large-scale production Arcimboldo as well as receiving Holland's highest honor, Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau. In 1999 Mr. Kylián retired as artistic director, but still has an active role as resident choreographer and artistic advisor with the company. Houston Ballet has seven works by Mr. Kylián in its repertoire, including Falling Angels, Soldiers' Mass, Petite Mort, Svadebka, Forgotten Land, Sinfonietta, and Symphony in D.

The Concert:
"One of the Funniest Ballets Ever Created"

Jerome Robbins's The Concert is a comic spoof of a classical music concert. Set to music by Chopin and orchestrated by Clare Grundman, the piece begins with a pianist onstage. The audience for this particular concert is made up of dancers who file in carrying chairs. This audience, like many others, gets distracted once the music starts, and that is when the fun begins. Mr. Robbins once observed, "One of the pleasures of attending a concert is the freedom to lose oneself in listening to the music. Quite unconsciously, mental pictures and images form." This sentiment is brought comically and vividly to life in his choreography, when the hilariously unthinkable happens in the concert hall. Some of the vignettes from the ballet feature a young lady whose enormous hat blocks the view, a bickering married couple who chase each around the stage, and confusion with the tickets which causes everybody to switch seats.

Comments Mr. Welch, "The Concert is one of the funniest ballets ever created. It's still fresh and funny today, as it was when it was made. Jerome Robbins was one of the true masters of dance who has touched us all in some way through his shows, ballets and Broadway."

The Concert was created for New York City Ballet and was premiered at New York's City Center on March 6, 1956. Houston Ballet first performed The Concert in 2007 and has three other works by Jerome Robbins -- Fancy Free (1944), Afternoon of a Faun (1953), and In the Night (1970) -- in its repertory. The Concert is widely regarded as a 20th century classic, one of the few works to successfully integrate humor into its dramatic storytelling.

New York-born choreographer Jerome Robbins, one of the first great American ballet masters, had a wide-ranging career in the fields of both theater and dance – as a performer and choreographer in ballet and musical theater, and as a director and choreographer in theater, movies, television and opera. In a career that spanned five decades, he won four Tony Awards, two Academy Awards, an Emmy, and countless other awards for his achievements. He joined Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) in 1940 and choreographed his first work, Fancy Free, for that company in 1944. This was followed by Interplay (1945) and Facsimile (1946), after which he embarked on a prolific and enormously successful career as a choreographer and later as a director of Broadway musicals and plays. He was simultaneously creating ballets for New York City Ballet, which he joined in 1949 as associate artistic director with George Balanchine. Among his outstanding works for that company were The Guests (1949), Age of Anxiety (1951), The Cage (1951), The Pied Piper (1951), Afternoon of a Faun (1953), and Fanfare (1953). For his own company, Ballets U.S.A. (1958-1962), he created N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz (1958), Moves (1959) and Events (1961). After the triumph of Fiddler on the Roof in 1964, Mr. Robbins dedicated his energies to creating ballets for New York City Ballet, for whom he became ballet master in 1972. After the death of Balanchine in 1983, he shared the post of ballet master in chief of New York City Ballet with Peter Martins until 1990 when he resigned. He died at the height of his creative powers in 1998 at the age of 79.

Houston Ballet's performances of Journey With the Masters are generously underwritten by Sysco Corporation and Riviana Foods.

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 $20.5 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 just over $57.6 million (as of May 2011).

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.

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 over 20,500 Houston area students (during the 2011-2012 season). Houston Ballet's Academy has 509 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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HOUSTON BALLET'S
Journey with the Masters
FACT SHEET

WHAT: BALLET IMPERIAL (1941)
Houston Ballet Premiere
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893),
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op. 44
Choreography by George Balanchine (1904-1983),
© The George Balanchine Trust
Scenic and Costume Designs by Rouben Ter-Aurtunian

THE CONCERT (1956)
Music by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), Orchestrated by Clare Grundman
Choreography by Jerome Robbins (1918-1998)
Costume Design by Irene Sharaff (1910-1993)
Scenic Design by Saul Steinberg
Lighting Design by Jennifer Tipton

SINFONIETTA (1978)
Music by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
Choreography by Jiří Kylián
Scenic and Costume Designs by Walter Nobbe (1941-2005)
Lighting Design by Joop Caboort

Houston Ballet Orchestra Conducted by Music Director Ermanno Florio.

Generously supported by:
Sysco Corporation and Riviana Foods.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM:
From the banks of the Vltava River to the grandeur of a Russian palace to the rain drenched sidewalks of Central Park, the spring repertory program is a fantastic voyage led by the grand masters of choreography. Jiří Kylián’s Sinfonietta is an exuberant tribute to the Czech choreographer's homeland. Ballet Imperial is George Balanchine's homage to St. Petersburg, to the choreographer Marius Petipa, who he referred to as "the father of classic ballet," and to Russia's greatest composer, Peter Tchaikovsky. The Concert is famed American choreographer Jerome Robbins's laugh-out-loud funny reflection on the active imaginations of New York City concert goers.

WHEN: At 7:30 PM on May 30 and June 1, 7, 8, 2013
At 2:00 PM on June 2, 8, 9, 2013

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
Tickets are also available at www.houstonballet.org and
Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave. (at Smith St.)

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet on the web at www.houstonballet.org