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The Rite of Spring Features Stanton Welch's World Premiere of The Rite of Spring,
a World Premiere by Edwaard Liang,
plus the Company Premiere of Mark Morris's Pacific 

From March 7-17, 2013, Houston Ballet will present Rites of Passage, a program of premieres featuring three exciting 21st century choreographers. The company will unveil the world premiere of Stanton Welch's The Rite of Spring. A world premiere by internationally renowned choreographer Edwaard Liang and a Houston Ballet premiere of Mark Morris's Pacific round out the program.

Hailed by The Oxford Dictionary of Dance as "a seminal moment in modernism," the premiere of The Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913, at Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, shocked its audience. The ballet nearly started a riot among audience members with its unconventional music, modern choreography, and provocative storyline about a young woman chosen by her tribe as a sacrifice.

"The impact of Stravinsky's magnificent score and the ballet's universal theme of the cycle of life, death and rebirth has gone far beyond 1913," writes Jody Leader in The International Dictionary of Ballet. "The Rite of Spring became a touchstone of orchestral virtuosity in the latter half of the twentieth century, as well as a continuing challenge to choreographers." Stravinsky's landmark score has inspired a plethora of great dance makers, including Richard Alston, Pina Bausch, Maurice Bejart, Martha Graham, Lester Horton, Leonide Massine, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, John Neumeier, John Taras, Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley, Hans Van Manen, and Vladimir Vasiliev. Houston Ballet has performed Glen Tetley's staging of The Rite of Spring (originally created in 1973 for Munich's Bavarian State Opera Ballet) on two occasions: in 1988 and in 1997.    

To honor this famous artistic collaboration, Mr. Welch has conceived his own interpretation. The full-company ballet taps into the themes of primitiveness, sexuality and sacrifice. "With this full company piece I will explore primitive, primal movements, and emotion, while trying to capture what I have imagined since I first listened to this music as a child," notes Mr. Welch. "There are so many wonderful versions of The Rite of Spring, and I hope to pay homage to the rich music and history of the story."

The Rite of Spring sets are designed by acclaimed indigenous Australian artist Rosella Namok and include two giant back cloths printed in an aboriginal style. Ms. Namok's work has been hailed by critics as "bold" and "inspired." Mr. Welch discovered Ms. Namok's work at Houston's Booker-Lowe Gallery, which features the largest collection of contemporary Australian Aboriginal fine art in the Americas. "I immediately felt connected to Rosella Namok's work which was very Australian and captured the spirit of the music for The Rite of Spring," explains Mr. Welch.

Edwaard Liang's world premiere for Houston Ballet will employ his distinctive choreographic style to create a new work specifically for company dancers. The ballet marks the first work by the acclaimed choreographer to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire. "I first saw Edwaard's choreography at The Joffrey Ballet. He has a unique mix of influences inspiring his work, ranging from George Balanchine to Jiří Kylián to his Asian heritage," comments Mr. Welch. "I am excited for Houston Ballet's dancers to work with Edwaard."

Born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in Marin County, California, Mr. Liang began his training at Marin Ballet. In 1989 he entered the School of American Ballet. He joined New York City Ballet in the spring of 1993, and that same year, was a medal winner at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition. He was promoted to the rank of soloist in 1998. In 2001, he joined the Tony Award winning Broadway cast of Fosse, performing a leading principal role. In 2002, he was invited by Jiří Kylián to become a member of the acclaimed Nederlands Dans Theater. Dancing with Nederlands Dans Theater is where he discovered his passion and love for choreography. After returning from Holland, Mr. Liang again danced with New York City Ballet from 2004-2007.

Mr. Liang has choreographed a number of works, starting in 2003 with Nederlands Dans Theater workshop, Flight of Angels, which has since been staged for many companies. Mr. Liang was invited to do a piece for the 2004 New York Choreographic Institute and choreographed a piece for the opening season of Cedar Lake Dance Company in Manhattan. Mr. Liang's Distant Cries, created for Peter Boal and Company, premiered in March 2005 at The Joyce Theatre, to positive reviews from The New York Times, and was then performed as part of a New York City Ballet Gala later in 2005. Since then, Mr. Liang has choreographed ballets for many companies, including New York City Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Shanghai Ballet, among others. Mr. Liang was named one of the "Top 25 to Watch" for 2006 by Dance Magazine for choreography, winner of the 2006 National Choreographic Competition, and invited to be a part of the 2007 National Choreographers Initiative. In 2008, Mr. Liang was invited to create a new work for The Joffrey Ballet. The resulting ballet, Age of Innocence, was deemed by Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times as "a newly minted masterpiece." (October 17, 2008)

Pacific by legendary American choreographer Mark Morris rounds out the program. Mr. Morris's Pacific is a light and joyous ensemble piece for nine dancers set to the music of Lou Harrison's Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano. Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post called Pacific "a creation of unalloyed beauty" (May 22, 2010).

Created in 1995 for San Francisco Ballet, Pacific has entered the repertoire of Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Washington Ballet and Grand Théâtre de Genève and impressed critics with its serene alliance of mood and movement. Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times writes, "Pacific...is a quiet ballet, gentle as a sigh; its jumps seem to linger in the air like the scent of spring" (April 6, 2007).

Mr. Morris formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980 and saw his creativity flourish. From 1988-1991 he was the director of dance at Le Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels; and in 1990 he founded the White Oak Dance Project with Mikhail Baryshnikov.  He has choreographed works for San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet, among others.  His work is currently in the repertory of Houston Ballet, Ballet West, Dutch National Ballet, New Zealand Ballet, English National Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Washington Ballet. His opera credits include directing and choreographing productions for The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, English National Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera and the Royal Opera, London. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, and the subject of a biography by Joan Acocella (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). In 2001, he opened Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, New York, his company's first permanent headquarters in the U.S.  Houston Ballet has two other works by Mr. Morris in its repertoire:  Sandpaper Ballet and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes.