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FOR RELEASE SEPTEMBER, 2012
HOUSTON BALLET SHOWCASES FEMALE CHOREOGRAPHERS IN
SEPTEMBER 20 - 30
Acclaimed Canadian Choreographer Aszure Barton
Creates Her First Commissioned Work for Houston Ballet
Company Premiere of The Brahms-Haydn Variations
is the Second Work by Twyla Tharp to Enter Houston Ballet's Repertoire
HOUSTON, TEXAS - From September 20-30, 2012, Houston Ballet presents Women@Art featuring a world premiere by Aszure Barton, the company premiere of Twyla Tharp's The Brahms-Haydn Variations, and the return of Julia Adam's Ketubah, commissioned by Houston Ballet in 2004. Houston Ballet will give six performances of Women@Art at Wortham Theater Center at 510 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston. Tickets start at $18, and may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.
With this program, Houston Ballet becomes one of the few American ballet companies to devote an entire program to the work of three living female choreographers. Houston Ballet is proud to nurture and support the careers of female dance makers. The company has a history of commissioning new works from such established female choreographers as Julia Adam, Patricia Olalde, Natalie Weir, and Lila York in addition to giving first opportunities to female dancers such as Barbara Bears, Melissa Hough, and Kristine Richmond to create works for Houston Ballet. "In many respects, ballet choreography can be a very male dominated field," states Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. "It's rare and exciting for a major ballet company to curate a program featuring the works of three women choreographers. Not only are these three great talents and I think Houston audiences will love their works but they also happen to be women."
Aszure Barton has been called a "brilliant" and "audacious" choreographer by the world's leading dance critics. Britain's Globe & Mail remarked, "The brilliant New York-based Barton produces delectable works that are quirky, deep, cheeky, and poignant. Her quicksilver, unpredictable movements always astonish the eye." Ms. Barton's premiere for Houston Ballet will mark the first time she has choreographed on the company, and will feature costumes by Fritz Masten and lighting by Burke Brown.
"Aszure's work is very contemporary dance theater" comments Mr. Welch. "Her choreography is funny, smart, athletic, sexy and thoughtful with an edge to the work. For her world premiere with Houston Ballet she is planning on using the full company but I know little else as of yet."
Ms. Barton was born and raised in Canada. She received her formal training at the National Ballet School in Toronto where she helped originate the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Showcase. She has created works for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Hell's Kitchen Dance, The National Ballet of Canada, Nederlands Dans Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (Resident Choreographer 2005-2008), Sydney Dance Company, The Juilliard School, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Martha Graham Dance Company, among others. In 2006 Ms. Barton choreographed the Broadway revival production of The Threepenny Opera directed by Scott Elliott. She is the founder and director of Aszure Barton & Artists, a New York based international dance project and her works continue to tour nationally and internationally. She is an artist in residence at The Banff Centre in Canada and Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City, and was proclaimed the Ambassador of Contemporary Choreography in Alberta, Canada.
Twyla Tharp's The Brahms-Haydn Variations will have its Houston Ballet premiere. The work was first performed by American Ballet Theatre in 2000, and subsequently toured to Washington D.C. and Berlin, Germany. Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post remarked "It is a marvel of musicality, soaring flight, understated wit and seamless design." (March 22, 2000) Time Out New York critic Gia Kourlas enthused "As she railed against the composers completely unreasonable symmetry, frequently mimicking a mad conductor in order to help the audience follow the score, Tharp delivered the performance of a lifetime." (May 2000)
"Twyla is one of the most famous living American choreographers. She took ballet dance mainstream and made it popular with a much wider audience," states Mr. Welch. "She has become a household name because of her success in all aspects of dance in the arts: Broadway, film, and ballet."
After graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Ms. Tharp founded her dance company, Twyla Tharp Dance in 1965. A leading choreographer of modern dance and ballet, Ms. Tharp rose to prominence during the dance boom of the 1960s and 1970s. In the mid-1970s, she began to cross over into ballet choreography. Her American Ballet Theatre debut, Push Comes to Shove, was very popular with audiences, and became a signature work for Mikhail Baryshnikov. Ms. Tharp went on to create several ballets for Baryshnikov, including The Little Ballet, Once More Frank, and the choreography for Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in the film White Nights. Her dance style is a combination of modern dance and ballet, and is set to a variety of music types, including classical and popular. In addition to choreographing for her own company and ABT, she has created works for other companies including The Joffrey Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, Martha Graham Dance Company, Miami City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. The Brahms-Haydn Variations is the second work by Ms. Tharp to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire after her signature work, In the Upper Room, which the company first performed in September 2009.
Julia Adam's Ketubah was the first work by the celebrated young choreographer to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire in 2004. Set to live klezmer music by The Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas, Ms. Adam's work is inspired by the rituals of a traditional Jewish wedding, following one couple from first glance to wedding night.
Ketubah is a Hebrew term referring to the marriage contract signed by the bride and groom on their wedding day. A work involving 16 dancers - eight women and eight men - the ballet features movement that is a mixture of several styles. "I'm classically trained," Ms. Adam explains, "so I'm taking from that world, but there are contemporary and folk elements in the ballet. I'm also pulling shapes from Jewish folk dance."
The piece begins with a lighthearted game of "musical chairs" that serves to introduce the bride and groom, and then flows through the elements of a Jewish wedding, including a ritual bath, the groom's party, the unveiling of the bride, the ceremony under the chuppah - the wedding canopy - and finally ending with a celebration. Ms. Adam uses a single design element throughout the piece to unify and emphasize the underlying theme.
Comments Ms. Adam, "I take a piece of fabric that morphs from the mikvah - the bath where the bride immerses herself to cleanse her hands, feet, and body - and becomes her veil. Bedecken, the unveiling, is when the groom looks at the bride and sees that it is the woman he's supposed to marry. The veil then turns into the chuppah, and the chuppah becomes the sheet that was historically used in the marriage bed. The ballet ends with festivities, and the last song is 'Mazel Tov.'"
Ketubah is set to klezmer music, a uniquely evocative style integral to the once vibrant Eastern European Jewish culture, which is frequently played at Jewish weddings. Ms. Adam choreographed her ballet to music recorded by a Houston-based group, The Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas, which will perform live. The band embraces the past by drawing upon the musical influences of the Yiddish-speaking culture of old-world Europe, and melding them with the infectious rhythms of America's jazz age. The ensemble is known for its spirited performances of Jewish folk songs and traditional wedding dances, haunting, lyric melodies of East European Jews, fiery virtuosic Gypsy showpieces, and dazzling theater music, all infused with an electrifying world-beat.
Of her inspiration for Ketubah, Ms. Adam says, "I began with the idea of this wedding. I'm pulling from Eastern European Jewish Ashkenazi ritual. Pulling from ritual and tradition makes good theater." She looked to her own family and roots when creating the ballet. "I'm Jewish, so it's coming from my background," she said. "I'm visiting a part of my life. I married a non-Jew, but had a Jewish wedding: a rabbi, the chuppah, the whole thing."
Ms. Adam, a former principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, began her choreographic career in 1993. She has created numerous pieces for San Francisco Ballet including: The Medium is the Message (1993), Once is Enough (1994), Night (2000), and Imaginal Disc (2003). Night has become a signature work for the San Francisco troupe, and the company has performed it at London's Royal Opera House, at the Palais Garnier in Paris and at New York's City Center. Reviewing Night for Dance Magazine, Janice Ross wrote, "Adam's brilliance in Night resides in the way she can generate and sustain a very complicated stage picture, one that starts deep in the physical actions of each of her eleven dancers."
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 The Dancing Times in June 2012, dance critic Margaret Willis praised Houston Ballet "The synchronization, agility, presentation and sheer gusto from each member of the company would, if ballet were an Olympic sport, see them 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 20,500 Houston area students (as of 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.