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Houston Ballet Presents The Nutcracker

NOVEMBER 25 2013                                                           (download pdf)
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Soloist Allison Miller and Demi Soloists Soo Youn Cho and Nozomi Iijima
Make Their Debuts as the Sugar Plum Fairy


147 Houston Area Youth Appear in 34 Performances of Beloved Classic,
Seen by More than 1 Million People Since its Premiere in 1987


HOUSTON, TEXAS- Fresh from its tours to New York in October and Paris in November, Houston Ballet celebrates the holidays with Ben Stevenson's breathtaking production of The Nutcracker from November 29 - December 29, 2013. The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She encounters the frightful King Rat before embarking on a wondrous journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will experience the many special effects, including the Christmas tree which "grows" to 40 feet, 200 pounds of "snow" falling during the snow scene, and the firing of cannon onstage. Houston Ballet will give 34 performances of The Nutcracker, to a live orchestra, in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or logging on to www.houstonballet.org.

Houston Ballet's production of The Nutcracker has been hailed by the Houston Chronicle as "the crown jewel of holiday entertainment." Under the headline "Nutcracker shows tradition can still thrill," Houston Chronicle dance critic Theodore Bale observed, "The opening performance was a tremendous assertion of just how thrilling tradition can be, probably because the dancing was superb and also because a certain inspiration was in the air....Because the company is dancing so beautifully at present, it is likely every cast in the coming weeks will be a dream cast. The opening-night dancers were perfection from start to finish." (November 30, 2012).

For over one hundred years, the story of the ballet has proven irresistible to both children and adults alike. Set in nineteenth-century Germany, the ballet opens at a Christmas party at which the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer gives his little niece Clara a magical toy that takes her on an unforgettable journey. From the battle scene between the Rat King and the Nutcracker in the first act to the cooks who fly magically through the air in the second act, The Nutcracker is sure to enchant audiences of all ages.  

147 students from Houston Ballet Academy ranging in age from 8 - 22 will appear in performances of The Nutcracker in such roles as party children, mice, soldiers, snowflakes, clowns and flying cooks. Participating in The Nutcracker is a very unique experience for these youth as they share the stage with Houston Ballet's professional company. They become more disciplined and learn about the hard work and commitment required for a career in professional ballet. 

Tickets are available at a discount for select performances of The Nutcracker, including evening performances on opening night Friday, November 29 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, November 30 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, December 1 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, December 8 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, December 12 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, December 15 at 7:30 pm; Tuesday, December 17 at 7:30 pm; Wednesday, December 18 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, December 19 at 7:30 pm; and Friday, December 27 at 7:30 pm.

Soloist Allison Miller and Demi Soloists Soo Youn Cho and Nozomi Iijima
Shine in their Debuts as the Sugar Plum Fairy

The Nutcracker frequently gives dancers an opportunity to shine in new roles. This year, soloist Allison Miller, who was promoted to the rank in November of this year, and demi soloists Soo Youn Cho and Nozomi Iijima will make their debuts in the challenging role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Often, the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is one that dancers look forward to performing for years, having seen the role as a young child during the holidays.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida, Ms. Miller joined Houston Ballet in 2006 after training at North Carolina School of the Arts, attending Houston Ballet's Summer Intensive Program and dancing with American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company. In 2011 she was named as one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" and was promoted to the rank of soloist in November 2013. She has eagerly awaited the opportunity to perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy and says, "I am thrilled to be making my debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy. I have watched many beautiful dancers perform the role, and I am excited for the opportunity to bring my own interpretation to the stage this Nutcracker season."

A native of Incheon, South Korea, Ms. Cho danced with Leipziger Ballet in Germany before joining Tulsa Ballet. There, she achieved the rank of principal dancer before joining Houston Ballet as a demi soloist in 2012. Ms. Cho has aspired to do the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy since she was a little girl and comments, "It's one of my dream roles. I watched it every winter when I was young and said if I became a ballerina, I wanted to do that role."

Ms. Iijima is a native of Osaka, Japan and trained with Houston Ballet Academy before joining the professional company in 2008. In 2013 she was promoted to the rank of demi soloist and that same year was selected as one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list. In March 2013, she made a particularly strong impression performing the leading female role in Stanton Welch's new staging of The Rite of Spring. The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is one Ms. Iijima loves due to its challenging choreography and beautiful costume. Ms. Iijima says, "It was always my dream to dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I love classical ballet and always wanted to dance the role in a pink tutu. It's going to be a big challenge for me and I'm very excited!"

The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy will also be danced by principals Karina Gonzalez, Melody Mennite, Sara Webb; first soloist Katharine Precourt; and soloists Nao Kusuzaki and Lauren Strongin. Ms. Cho, Ms. Iijima, Ms. Kusuzaki, Ms. Miller, Ms. Precourt and Ms. Strongin, will also dance the Snow Queen role in addition to first soloist Jessica Collado. The Prince will be danced by principals Simon Ball, Ian Casady, Connor Walsh and Joseph Walsh; first soloist Linnar Looris; soloists James Gotesky, Oliver Halkowich, Aaron Robison and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, who was recently promoted in November of this year; and corps de ballet member Aaron Sharratt.

The Houston Girls Chorus (HGC), a program of American Festival for the Arts, will join Houston Ballet Orchestra as part of Houston Ballet's production of The Nutcracker for 21 performances on Friday, November 29; Saturday, November 30; Sunday, December 1; Saturday, December 7; Sunday, December 8; Friday, December 13; Saturday, December 14; Friday, December 20; Saturday, December 21; Sunday, December 22; Monday, December 23; Thursday, December 26; Saturday, December 28 and Sunday, December 29. HGC will sing Waltz of the Snowflakes, the chorus part Tchaikovsky wrote for the iconic snow scene in the ballet.

The Nutcracker has a special place in Houston Ballet's history as the first full-length work to enter Houston Ballet's repertoire in a staging by Frederic Franklin, featuring scenery and costumes by the English designer Peter Farmer. The company gave six performances of The Nutcracker in 1972 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and has danced the work each December without fail for the following 38 years. In 1976, Houston Ballet presented the production with revised choreography by the company's new artistic director Ben Stevenson. In 1987, the current production with designs by Desmond Heeley, lighting by Duane Schuler, and choreography by Mr. Stevenson was unveiled to a glowing critical response.  

Today, the company gives 34 performances of  The Nutcracker at Wortham Theater Center, and the production plays a key role in Houston Ballet's financial picture, drawing 73,294 (as of December 2012) theatergoers to Houston's Theater District and bringing in over $4 million in revenues in 2012. 

Houston Ballet's performances of The Nutcracker are generously underwritten by United, Apache, Houston Methodist, Shell Oil Company, Baker Botts L.L.P, Macy's Foundation. 

The Story of The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll. One Christmas Eve, the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives at the Stahlbaum family's Christmas party and presents Clara with a special gift: a wooden nutcracker. After the party, as the clock strikes midnight, Clara awakens to find the room filled with giant mice.  The nutcracker comes to her rescue and a fierce battle ensues as the nutcracker leads the toy soldiers against the mice and their leader, King Rat.  The nutcracker overcomes King Rat, and then is transformed into a handsome prince who takes Clara on a magical journey.

To the delight of Clara and the audience, the evening is filled with dance.  The Snow Queen leads eighteen snowflakes in a brilliant waltz in the Land of Snow, where the trees are laden with icicles.  Then the Nutcracker Prince takes Clara on a boat ride across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Sugar Plum Fairy treats Clara to sweets and entertainment provided by the inhabitants of the kingdom: chocolate, a Spanish dance; coffee, an Arabian dance; and tea, a Chinese dance.  Next comes the comical Madame Bonbonaire whose huge skirt is filled with tiny clowns.  Then there is the Russian dance and the Waltz of the Flowers.   Finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a grand pas de deux.  As the celebration draws to a close, Clara becomes sleepy.  She awakens back in her bed, as the nutcracker salutes his little princess Clara.




Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Choreography by Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.
Scenic and Costume Designs by Desmond Heeley
Original Lighting Design by Duane Schuler
Recreated Lighting Design by Christina R. Giannelli

Houston Ballet Orchestra conducted by music director Ermanno Florio on opening night Friday, November 29. Guest conductors Ned Battista, Craig Kier and David LaMarche will share the podium throughout The Nutcracker.

Generously underwritten by: United, Apache, Houston Methodist, Shell Oil Company, Baker Botts L.L.P, Macy's Foundation

ABOUT THE PROGRAM: A little girl named Clara receives a magical nutcracker on Christmas Eve, and sets out on a wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Featuring breathtaking scenery and costumes by Tony Award-winning designer Desmond Heeley, The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift: the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season.

WHEN: November 29 - December 29, 2013

At 7:30 p.m. November 29*, 30*,

and December 1*,7, 8*, 12*, 13, 14, 15*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27*, 28

At 2:00 p.m. on November 30

and December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29

* Indicates discounted performance.  

WHERE: Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston

TICKETS: $30 - $135.  For tickets call (713) 227 2787 or 1 800 828 ARTS.

Tickets are also available at www.houstonballet.org and Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center.



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