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HOUSTON, TEXAS - On February 21, following her performance as Nikiya in La Bayadère, Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch promoted Karina Gonzalez to the rank of principal dancer. Ms. Gonzalez joined Houston Ballet as a soloist in 2010, and has since won acclaim for her performances as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, and in the title roles of Giselle and The Sleeping Beauty. In 2011, she created the leading female role in the world premiere of Jorma Elo's ONE/end/ONE.

A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Ms. Gonzalez won a silver medal at the International Ballet Competition in New York City in 2007. She has danced professionally with Ballet National of Caracas and Tulsa Ballet, where she reached the rank of principal in 2007. Over the last three years, her career has blossomed as she has made guest appearances in New York City and Mexico. In the summer of 2011, she appeared in the title role of The Sleeping Beauty at Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. She was featured on the cover of Pointe Magazine in February 2008. In November 2011, she was featured on the cover of Dance Magazine.

Writing in The Houston Chronicle on February 23, dance critic Molly Glentzer observed, "Since joining the company three years ago from Tulsa Ballet, González has polished what was already a refined style. A native of Caracas, Venezuela, she's technically brilliant and a natural in spirited roles like Kitri in Don Quixote. But she's quickly built her acting chops, able to turn on sweet innocence one moment and intense passion the next. She's been lovely as Juliet, enticing as Giselle. Now she's added another jewel to her tiara as the temple dancer Nikiya."

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 (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.