James Nelson, Houston Ballet Executive Director
A native of Portland, Oregon, James Nelson has spent his career in the dance world moving from professional dancer to administrative leader, serving as Houston Ballet's general manager since August 2000. He assumed the position of executive director of Houston Ballet, the company's senior administrative leadership role, in February 2012.
As general manager of Houston Ballet, Mr. Nelson administered the artistic operation of the company's 52 dancers, 61 musicians, and 180 production employees. He had budgetary oversight for over half of the company's $19.2 million budget. Mr. Nelson also directed all tours for Houston Ballet and oversaw international engagements of Houston Ballet in Russia, the United Kingdom, and China, and developed an ongoing company exchange between Houston Ballet and Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montreal. In April 2009, Mr. Nelson lead a six-city tour to Spain in which the company performed to sold-out houses and glowing reviews.
Mr. Nelson received his professional dance training from Houston Ballet Academy from 1983-1986. As a professional ballet dancer, Mr. Nelson performed a wide range of featured roles with the Cincinnati Ballet from 1986-1990. He was invited by then artistic director Ben Stevenson to join Houston Ballet where he danced from 1990-1996. Mr. Nelson ended his 11 year performing career in 1997 dancing for Ballet de Santiago, in Santiago, Chile.
After retiring from a performing career, Mr. Nelson received his BBA in finance from the University of Houston in 1999. Mr. Nelson was named general manager of Houston Ballet in August 2000. In 2005, Mr. Nelson was selected for and attended the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Executive Program for Non Profit Leaders. In 2006, Mr. Nelson participated in Mayor Bill White's Economic Development Mission to China as a cultural delegate.
Under Mr. Nelson's leadership, Houston Ballet has developed a partnership with The Methodist Hospital Center for Performing Arts Medicine providing health and wellness services to the dancers and staff. In addition, Mr. Nelson initiated the development of the Dance for Parkinson's program in partnership with Houston Area Parkinson's Society resulting in Houston Ballet receiving the 2009 Roy H. Cullen Quality of Life Award for this initiative.
Mr. Nelson is an active member of Dance USA-- the national service organization for dance. In 2009, Mr. Nelson led the Houston dance community in a two-year planning effort in hosting Dance USA's Annual Conference in 2009. The Houston committee set a new record for host committee fundraising.
Mr. Nelson was a board member of the IATSE Pension Plan from December 2001 through January 2011 and has served as a board member of the Performing Arts Alliance (formerly American Arts Alliance). Mr. Nelson is a graduate of Leadership Houston Class XXVI.