Houston Ballet's 2015/16 Spring mixed rep Featured:

George Balanchine's Serenade (1934), Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Gloria (1989), and the Houston Ballet Premiere and North American Premiere of Alexander Ekman's Cacti (2010).

Houston Ballet is known for their blend of lyricism and precision in their interpretation of Serenade.


Gloria is a unique performance experience with live choral music, theatrical elements, and dance.

Broadway World

Cacti is pure, unapologetic fun with its poke at pompous critics and its embrace of artistic vulnerability.

Broadway World


Serenade Description

George Balanchine’s romantic masterpiece Serenade, a showcase for the company’s classical technique, opened the 2015/16 Spring Mixed Repertory. Originally created for the School of American Ballet in New York, Balanchine's Serenade is the most requested work of his to be performed across the world in ballet academies, companies, and universities. Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM notes, “The music is expressive, melodic, and grand in scale, with rich orchestrations, making it a perfect vehicle for Balanchine’s choreography and the musicality of Houston Ballet’s dancers." ©The George Balanchine Trust

Gloria Description

Inspired by Vera Brittain’s poignant wartime memoir "Testament of Youth," Gloria is a haunting elegy for the lost generation of young men who perished in World War I. Gloria is a magnificent synthesis of dance, theater, and music: Poulenc’s exquisite choral work, performed live by an ensemble of 50 singers, combines with the drama of love, loss and heartbreak. It's been in Houston Ballet's repertoire for decades. Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM notes, “The ballet combines the drama of love, loss, and heartbreak during wartime, beautifully evoked in MacMillan’s crystalline choreography.”

Cacti Description

Closing the 2015/16 Spring Mixed Repertory was Cacti, the first work by Alexander Ekman to enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire -- a gleeful, hilarious parody of the excesses of contemporary dance. Ekman’s Cacti represents one of many contemporary dance creations that are currently circulating across various countries. From on-stage laughter to body percussions to pretentious spoken text, Cacti offers a wide-range of entertainment but with a certain 21st century grit attached. Artistic Director Stanton Welch AM notes, “Ekman’s Cacti with its unconventional use of space, movement, and humor makes it the perfect addition to the company.”


George Balanchine (1904-1983)

Choreographer, Serenade

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. He came to the United States in late 1933, at the age of 29, accepting the invitation of the young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907 - 1996), whose great passions included the dream of creating a ballet company in America. At Balanchine’s behest, Kirstein was also prepared to support the formation of an American academy of ballet that would eventually rival the long-established schools of Europe. This was the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934, the first product of the Balanchine-Kirstein collaboration. Several ballet companies directed by the two were created and dissolved in the years that followed, while Balanchine found other outlets for his choreography. Eventually, with a performance on October 11, 1948, the New York City Ballet was born.

Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer from 1948 until his death in 1983. Balanchine’s more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), Le Palais de Cristal, later renamed Symphony in C (1947), Orpheus (1948), The Nutcracker (1954), Agon (1957), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), Ballo della Regina (1978), and Mozartiana (1981). His final ballet, a new version of Stravinsky’s Variations for Orchestra, was created in 1982. He also choreographed for films, operas, revues, and musicals. Among his best known dances for the stage is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, originally created for Broadway’s On Your Toes (1936). The musical was later made into a movie. A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance. This had an inestimable influence on the growth of dance in America. Although at first his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his ballets are now performed by all the major classical ballet companies throughout the world.

©The George Balanchine Trust

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Composer, Serenade

Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, in Vyatka, Russia. His work was first publicly performed in 1865. In 1868, his First Symphony was well-received. In 1874, he established himself with Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Minor. Tchaikovsky resigned from the Moscow Conservatory in 1878, and spent the rest of his career composing yet more prolifically. He died in St. Petersburg on November 6, 1893. Pyotr Tchaikovsky is widely considered the most popular Russian composer in history. His work includes the The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. He once said, “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”

Sir Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992)

Choreographer, Gloria

Sir Kenneth MacMIllan was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1929 and received his dance training at the Sadler’s Wells (now Royal) Ballet School.  In 1946, he became a founding member of Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, a new company formed by Dame Ninette de Valois.  In 1953, Sir MacMillian’s first ballet, Somnambulism, was the hit of the evening, and from then on, he pursued a celebrated choreographic career.  From 1954 to 1965, he created over ten works for the Sadler’s Wells Company, including The Burrow (1958), Romeo and Juliet (1965), and Song of the Earth (1965).  In 1966, he received an invitation to direct the Berlin Ballet at Deutsche Oper in West Berlin.  He took the company over and staged his own productions of The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Anastasia.  Emerging as the natural successor to Royal Ballet Director Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir MacMillan assumed the directorship at the beginning of the 1970-1971 season.  He continued to choreograph and in 1974 created both Manon and Elite Syncopations, as well as Requiem (1976), and My Brother, My Sisters (1978), for Stuttgart Ballet.  Other works include Mayerling (1978), La Fin du Jour (1979), Gloria (1980), Isadora (1981), Wild Boy (1981) for American Ballet Theatre, Quartet (1982), Orpheus (1982), Valley of the Shadows (1982), and Requiem for Royal Ballet. Sir MacMillan received his knighthood in 1983. 

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Composer, Gloria

The brilliant French composer, Francis (Jean Marcel) Poulenc, was born into a wealthy family of pharmaceutical manufacturers. His mother, an amateur pianist, taught him to play, and music formed a part of family life. At 16, he began taking formal piano lessons with Ricardo Viñees. A decisive turn in his development as a composer occurred when Francis Poulenc attracted the attention of Erik Satie, the arbiter elegantiarum of the arts and social amenities in Paris. Deeply impressed by Satie's fruitful eccentricities in the then-shocking manner of Dadaism, Poulenc joined an ostentatiously self-descriptive musical group called the Nouveaux Jeunes. In a gratuitous parallel with the Russian Five, the French critic Henri Collet dubbed the "New Youths" Le Groupe de Six, and the label stuck under the designation Les Six. The 6 musicians included, besides Poulenc: Auric, Durey, Arthur Honegger, Milhaud, and Tailleferre. Although quite different in their styles of composition and artistic inclinations, they continued collective participation in various musical events. Les Six also had links with Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau. Francis Poulenc embraced the Dada movement's techniques, creating melodies that would have been appropriate for Parisian music halls. From 1918 to 1921 he served in the French army, and then began taking lessons in composition with Koechlin (1921-1924). An excellent pianist, Poulenc became in 1935 an accompanist to the French baritone Pierre Bernac, for whom he wrote numerous songs. Compared with his fortuitous comrades-in-six, Francis Poulenc appears a classicist. He never experimented with the popular devices of "machine music," asymmetrical rhythms, and poly-harmonies as cultivated by A. Honegger and Milhaud. Futuristic projections had little interest for him; he was content to follow the gentle neo-Classical formation of Ravel's piano music and songs. Among his other important artistic contacts was the ballet impresario Diaghilev, who commissioned him to write music for his Ballets Russes. He also, throughout his career, borrowed from his own compositions as well as those of Mozart and Camille Saint-Saëns. Apart from his fine songs and piano pieces, Francis Poulenc revealed himself as an inspired composer of religious music. Later in his life, the loss of some close friends, coupled with a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, led him to rediscovery of the Catholic faith and resulted in compositions of a more sombre, austere tone. Of his choral works Stabat Mater and Gloria are notable. He also wrote remarkable music for the organ, including a concerto that is considered among the most beautiful concertos organists have in repertoire. A master of artificial simplicity, he pleases even sophisticated listeners by his bland triadic tonalities, spiced with quickly passing diaphonous discords. Among his last series of major works is a series of works for wind instruments and piano. He was particularly fond of woodwinds, and planned a set of sonatas for all of them, yet only lived to complete four: sonatas for flute, oboe, clarinet, and the Elegie for horn.

Alexander Ekman

Choreographer, Cacti

Alexander Ekman is an international choreographer/director creating pieces for Theatres, Opera Houses and Museums. He also directs films and creates live performances / events in pop up locations around the world. Ekman has created close to 40 works to date. His works are being performed worldwide by renowned companies such as Boston Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Norwegian National Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Dresden Semper Oper Ballet, Vienna Staatsballet, Sao Paulo City Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo among others. Ekman's works are known for their clever ideas, fast-paced choreography and abundance of humor. Besides holding the choreographic credit, he regularly designs the set/costumes and co-composes the music for his creations. Ekman also creates unique performances / installations in collaboration with different disciplines. His dance film 40 M UNDER (2009 Cullberg Ballet) was shown on Swedish National Television. In 2012 he collaborated with Alicia Keys and incorporated her into his work Tuplet. In 2013 Ekman created his first commercial for the flooring Company Bolon which has won several design awards internationally. In 2014 Ekman made his debut on the main stage of the Norwegian Opera House in Oslo, with a surrealist interpretation of the classic ballet Swan Lake, creating his own version for Norwegian National Ballet ‘A Swan Lake’. Together with top designer Hendrik Vibskov for costumes and a new musical score by composer Mikael Karlsson, Ekman produced this groundbreaking performance in which he transformed the entire stage into an actual lake. In 2015 Ekman premiered to great acclaim ‘A Swedish Midsummer nights Dream’ with Royal Swedish Ballet. He received the Swedish Medea Award för “Inventor and renewer” in September 2015. In March of 2016 he premiered ‘COW’ a full evening for Dresden Semper Oper Ballet with music by Mikael Karlsson and costumes by Hendrik Vibskov.

Apollo Chamber Players

Musicians, Cacti

Houston (TX) based Apollo Chamber Players has “found fruitful territory” (Houston Chronicle) through its mission to explore the cultural and folkloric influences in classical music, and the ensemble's performances have "rhythmic flair and doses of virtuosity” (The Strad). Apollo presents thematically-programmed concerts both regionally and nationally including two recent tours of the East Coast, with a Carnegie Hall debut in 2013 and concerts in Hartford (CT), Pittsburgh (PA), Baltimore (MD), and at Symphony Space (NYC) in 2016. Additional touring engagements include concerts for Chamber Music Society of Little Rock, Seattle University (WA), Grand Junction Symphony (CO), and Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston (SC). The ensemble is featured frequently on American Public Media’s nationally syndicated program, Performance Today. Apollo's 20x2020 commissioned works have reached over 8 million listeners since the project's launch in 2014. 20x2020 includes a roster of some of the world's leading composers, including Grammy-winners Libby Larsen and Christopher Theofanidis. Winner of HoustonPress’ 2014 MasterMinds award, Apollo was one of three organizations in Houston to be recognized for positively impacting the local arts community. In recent seasons Apollo has collaborated with Houston Ballet, Houston METdance, and Catholic Charities of Houston, and concertized with acclaimed artists James Dunham, Ivo-Jan van der Werff, Timothy Pitts, Ismail Lumanovski, and Robin Kesselman. Apollo’s studio albums have received international critical acclaim and airplay. European Folkscapes earned ‘Album of the Week’ honors by WQXR in NYC, and Blurred Boundaries has been lauded as “truly lovely music played exceptionally well by an adventurous and gifted young ensemble (Audiophile Audition). Passionate about arts education, the ensemble curates programs for performance through Young Audiences of Houston, and it has presented concerts and masterclasses for schools and festivals across the country. 


Serenade Repertoire History

This was Houston Ballet’s ninth time performing Serenade as part of its main season. Houston Ballet’s Academy performs Serenade as part of its Spring Showcase and Summer Intensive Showcase. Other ballets by Balanchine in Houston Ballet’s repertoire include Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Waltz and Variations, Prodigal Son, Concerto Barocco, The Four Temperaments, Theme and Variations, Western Symphony, Agon, Symphony in C, La Valse, Apollo, Ballo della Regina, Jewels, Ballet Imperial, and Allegro Brillante.

Serenade Production Details

CHOREOGRAPHER: George Balanchine

GENRE: Neoclassical Ballet

RUN TIME: Ballet in 1 Act; approximately 40 minutes

COMPOSER: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

SCORE:  “Serenade for Strings, Op. 48”

ORIGINAL PREMIERE DATE: December 6, 1934 at the Avery Memorial Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut by the School of American Ballet

HOUSTON BALLET PREMIERE DATE: March 10, 1983 at Jones Hall in Houston, TX

HOUSTON BALLET COSTUME DESIGN: Ray Delle Robbins, after Karinska


BALLET MASTER (2016): Louise Lester

STAGER FOR HOUSTON BALLET (2016): Victoria Simon


HOUSTON BALLET STAGE MANAGER (2016): Rachael Fernandez

SPECIAL PROGRAM NOTES (2016):  Houston Ballet’s 2016 performances of Serenade, a Balanchine Ballet, were presented by arrangement with ©The George Balanchine Trust and has been produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style© and Balanchine Technique© Service standards established and provided by the Trust.

Gloria Repertoire History

This was Houston Ballet’s seventh time performing Gloria as part of its main season. Other ballets by Sir Kenneth MacMillan in Houston Ballet’s repertoire include Song of the Earth, Solitaire, Elite Syncopations, and Manon.

Gloria Production Details

GENRE: Neoclassical Ballet

RUN TIME: Ballet in 1 Act; approximately 40 minutes

CHOREOGRAPHER: Sir Kenneth MacMillan

COMPOSER: Francis Poulenc

SCORE:  “Gloria”

ORIGINAL PREMIERE DATE: March 13, 1980 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, England by the Royal Ballet

HOUSTON BALLET PREMIERE DATE: September 21, 1989 in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in Houston, Texas



LIGHTING DESIGN: John B. Read and Christina R. Giannelli

BALLET MASTER (2016): Barbara Bears


HOUSTON BALLET ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR (2016): Ermanno Florio, performed by Soprano Lauren Snouffer and Houston Chamber Choir Ballet Chorus

HOUSTON BALLET STAGE MANAGER (2016): Rachael Fernandez

Cacti Repertoire History

This was Houston Ballet’s first time performing Cacti and first
work by Alexander Ekman. This 2016 performance was the North American Premiere of Cacti.

Cacti Production Details

CHOREOGRAPHER: Alexander Ekman

GENRE: Contemporary Ballet

RUN TIME: Ballet in 1 Act; approximately 40 minutes

COMPOSER: Franz Schubert

SCORE:  “Presto from String Quartet Der Tod und das Madchen”

COMPOSER: Joseph Hayden

SCORE:  “Allegro from String Quartets, Op. 9, No. 6 in A Major” & “Sonate no V “Sitio” from Die sieban letzten Worte unseres Erlosers am Kreuze, Hoboken XX, 1B”

COMPOSER: Ludwig van Beethoven

SCORE:  “String Quartet No. 9 in C, Opus 59, secont from Andandte con moto quasi allegretto”

ORIGINAL PREMIERE DATE: February 25, 2010 at Lucent Danstheater in Hauge, Netherlands by Nederlands Dans Theater

COSTUME DESIGN: Alexander Ekman





TEXT: Spenser Theberge

BALLET MASTER (2016): Steven Woodgate

STAGER FOR HOUSTON BALLET (2016): Spenser Theberge


ADDITIONAL LIVE ORCHESTRATION (2016): Apollo Chamber Players

HOUSTON BALLET STAGE MANAGER (2016): Rachael Fernandez


The Nutcracker

Nov. 23 - Dec. 29, 2018


Feb. 21 - March 3, 2019


March 7 - 10, 2019