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Nicolo Fonte Creates See(k), a World Premiere Set to a
Commissioned Score by the Celebrated English Composer Anna Clyne  

Houston Ballet Premiere of Mark Morris's Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes

Houston Mayor Annise Parker Commemorates
Wortham Theater Center's 25th Anniversary
on Opening Night

HOUSTON, TEXAS - From May 24 - June 3, 2012, Houston Ballet presents its spring mixed repertory program titled Made in America featuring See(k) a world premiere by Nicolo Fonte, a company premiere of Mark Morris's Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, and a revival of George Balanchine's tribute to Imperial Russian Ballet, Theme and Variations. Houston Ballet will give six performances of Made in America at Wortham Theater Center at 501 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston. Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or by visiting www.houstonballet.org.

 "I am excited for Made in America because all three works will truly be made in America. Nicolo Fonte is an exhilarating choreographer, and I have enjoyed all the works I have seen by him. His pieces are typically very challenging for the male dancers and will be very stylistically demanding for all our artists. He is one of the most sot after new American choreographers. We are looking forward to having Mark Morris in Houston and expanding our repertoire of Morris works with Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes. He is a leader in American contemporary dance and his unique style is enjoyed by our dancers and Houston audiences," remarks Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. "Our Balanchine repertoire has also built up significantly over the years so it will be nice to return to Theme and Variations. The piece was one of the first Balanchine works we performed after I became artistic director and the work has a long history with Houston Ballet, including being performed during the inaugural season at Wortham Theater Center in 1987. We look forward to continue our greater understanding of Balanchine's works, since he is the leader of classical American ballet."

Mayor Annise Parker will give a curtain speech opening night of Made in America on Thursday, May 24 to commemorate Wortham Theater Center's 25th Anniversary. The opening of Wortham Theater Center, the state-of-the-art facility built for Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, was a key moment in the civic and cultural life of Houston in the 1980s. The opening of Wortham Theater Center in May 1987 and the unveiling of The Menil Collection later that same year helped to establish Houston as an international arts center, and greatly raised the visibility of the city's performing and visual arts scenes.

Nicolo Fonte Creates See(k), a World Premiere, with
Original Score Composed by Anna Clyne 

Nicolo Fonte will create his first piece for Houston Ballet titled See(k). Mr. Fonte is known for his daring and original approach to dance, noted by critics for a unique movement language as well as a highly developed fusion of ideas, dance and design. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Fonte started dancing at the age of 14. He studied at The Joffrey Ballet School in New York, San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet Schools while completing a Bachelor's Degree of Fine Arts at SUNY Purchase. After graduation, Mr. Fonte danced with Peridance in New York City, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and Nacho Duato's Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid. In 2000 Mr. Fonte retired from performing and has gone on to choreograph for numerous international companies including Dutch National Ballet and The Australian Ballet. He received a Choo San Goh Award for his 2002 collaboration with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Almost Tango, of which R. M. Campbell of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote, "Fonte is a thinker, an architect who creates the new rather than reinventing the old. He is a master of manipulating space and creating relationships." On May 18, 2012 he will premiere a new staging of Petrouchka for the Perm Ballet in Russia.

Houston Ballet has commissioned composer Anna Clyne to create a new score for Mr. Fonte's piece. The score will also be titled See(k). Ms. Clyne is a London-born composer who specializes in acoustic and electro-acoustic works. Her work has been described by Time Out New York as "dazzlingly inventive." She currently serves as Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Mead Composer-in-Residence through 2012.

"I love Anna's music. It is incredibly rhythmic and contemporary sounding," says Mr. Fonte. "Her work creates a very specific atmosphere. And most importantly, it's very danceable."

Mr. Fonte first discovered Ms. Clyne's music when he was invited by New York-based Boosey & Hawkes, a classical music publishing company, to listen to a selection of new works from their label. He was instantly drawn to her music, which he describes as an "industrial collage." He would later use the exact piece he heard, a work for strings and electronics titled Paint Box, for his ballet Made Man, which was premiered by the Royal Ballet of Flanders (2010).

Following Made Man's success, Mr. Fonte decided to contact Ms. Clyne about a possible meeting. In a coincidental twist, she was living in a Brooklyn neighborhood adjacent to Mr. Fonte's. They met for coffee, and the rest, as they say, was history. Mr. Fonte mentioned he had a world premiere in the works with Houston Ballet and asked if she would be interested in writing a new score for it. Ms. Clyne readily agreed. This project will be her first original score for ballet.

Mr. Fonte, who has worked with a newly commissioned ballet score only once before, is both excited and nervous about the project. Part of this excitement is the freedom to make changes to the music on the fly. "The really satisfying part of it is being able to tell the composer what works and what doesn't. You have more control, and you're able to manipulate the music to fit your needs.

"This is a much scarier and riskier venture than setting a ballet on music that already exists. When you choreograph on existing music, in some way the music dictates the movement and mood," comments Mr. Fonte. "With this project, Anna and I create everything from the ground up. It is genuine creation; it came from nothing. That is very fascinating to me."

Mark Morris's Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes has its Company Premiere 

Inspired by the poem A Song to Celia, by Ben Jonson, Mark Morris's Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes is a work for 12 dancers set to 13 etudes for piano by Virgil Thomson. It was commissioned by Mikhail Baryshnikov as Mark Morris's third work for American Ballet Theatre in 1988.

The dancers are dressed in white and perform Mr. Morris's choreography in small groups, solos and pas de deuxs that form together an unpredictable, yet mesmerizing piece. Allan Ulrich, dance critic for The San Francisco Examiner, observed, "The freshness of the inspiration, the consistent upturning of artistic convention, the sheer bravado of it all, is unprecedented, joyful and so volatile you fear it will evaporate before your eyes."

Mr. Morris's creativity began flourishing when he formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980. From 1988-1991 he was the director of dance at La Monnaie, 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 the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, New York, his company's first permanent headquarters in the U.S. Houston Ballet currently has one other work by Mr. Morris in its repertoire, Sandpaper Ballet (1999). In March 2013, Houston Ballet will perform Mr. Morris's work Pacific for the first time.

George Balanchine's Theme and Variations Returns 

Rounding out the program is George Balanchine's Theme and Variations, the grandest tribute to his alma mater, the Imperial Russian Ballet, which Houston Ballet last performed in 2004. Balanchine originally created the work for American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancers Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch, and it premiered on November 26, 1947 at the City Center in New York City. Theme and Variations will be staged for Houston Ballet by Victoria Simon, the celebrated ballet mistress for the Balanchine Trust who has been staging the master's works since 1965.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. Balanchine served as ballet master and principal choreographer for New York City Ballet from 1948 until his death in 1983. Balanchine's more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), The Nutcracker (1954), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), and Mozartiana (1981).

Although Balanchine once said, "I am more American than Russian," he still turned to the music of the great Russian composers, notably Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, for his ballets. "My teachers were people who knew Tchaikovsky, who talked with him....My first time on stage was in a Tchaikovsky ballet....Thanks to The Sleeping Beauty, I fell in love with ballet. [Tchaikovsky] is like a father to me. In everything that I did to Tchaikovsky's music, I sensed his help."

Set to the music of Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3, in G, Theme and Variations explores classic ballet training, focusing on preparatory movements that were developed to train and warm-up the dancer's body. Taking these steps further, Balanchine produced some very challenging choreography. 

Themes and Variations was intended, as Balanchine wrote, "to evoke that great period in classical dancing when Russian ballet flourished with the aid of Tchaikovsky's music." The final movement of the composer's third orchestral suite consists of 12 variations. The ballet opens to reveal a corps of 12 women and a principal couple. As the ballet moves from variation to variation, the solo performances of the ballerina and her cavalier are interspersed among the corps performances.

Wortham Theater Center Celebrates its 25th Anniversary 

Mayor Parker's curtain speech on May 24 will officially launch seven months of celebration and events to honor the contribution that Wortham Theater Center has made to Houston's cultural life. Built at the height of the 1980s oil bust, the $66 million facility was constructed entirely with private money, on two blocks of land donated by the City of Houston, and was completed four months ahead of schedule and under budget. The facility greatly raised the international profile of both Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, and its completion was a signal moment for a city that had been battered by a severe economic recession and job losses.

Having its own theater also allowed Houston Ballet to expand its subscription season performances from one weekend to two weekends, giving the dancers more performance opportunities. (Prior to 1987, the company had danced in Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and was limited in the number of performances it could give because of the venue's exceedingly busy schedule and competition for open dates.) At the end of the first of Romeo and Juliet performances in September 1987, a Houston Chronicle headline enthused, "Houston Ballet finishes best week of its history." (September 7, 1987)

The grand opera house stage of Wortham Theater Center also provided Houston Ballet with a new platform on which to stage lavish new full-length productions of both traditional works of the classical repertoire (Ben Stevenson's The Sleeping Beauty [1990] and Coppélia [1992] and Stanton's Welch's staging's of Swan Lake [2006] and La Bayadère [2010]) and to commission a series of new, original full-length works (including Ben Stevenson's Dracula [1997], The Snow Maiden [1998]; and Cleopatra [2000]; Trey McIntyre's Peter Pan [2002]; and Stanton Welch's Tales of Texas [2004] and Marie [2009]). These pieces have gone on to be performed across the country and around the world. 

Moving into Wortham Theater Center also allowed Houston Ballet to greatly expand the number of performances of The Nutcracker that it gave each season, rising from 11 in 1986 to 29 in 1987 to 35 in 2012. The unveiling of Houston Ballet's magical new production of The Nutcracker in 1987 launched a Texas holiday tradition that continues today. The Nutcracker also plays a key role in Houston Ballet's financial picture, generating over $3.7 million in revenues (around 19 % of the organization's annual budget) in 2011.

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 51 dancers with a budget of $19.2 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, Trey McIntyre, Julia Adam, Natalie Weir and Nicolo Fonte. Executive director James Nelson serves as the administrative leader of the company, a position he assumed in February 2012 after serving as the company's general manager for over a decade.  

Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Over the last decade, 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 The Financial Times on March 6, 2006, dance critic Hilary Ostlere praised Houston Ballet as "a strong, reinvigorated company whose male contingent is particularly impressive, a well-drilled corps and an enviable selection of soloists and principals."

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 22,000 Houston area students (as of the 2010-2011 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.  





World Premiere
Choreography by Nicolo Fonte
Music Composed by Anna Clyne, See(k)
Lighting Design by Brad Fields

Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (1988)

Houston Ballet Premiere
Music by Virgil Thomson
Katherine Burkwall-Ciscon, Pianist
Choreography by Mark Morris
Costume Design by Santo Loquasto

Theme and Variations (1947)
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Suite No. 3 for Orchestra in G major, Op. 55
Choreography by George Balanchine (1904-1983)
Costume Designs after Karinska
Lighting Design by Tony Tucci

Houston Ballet Orchestra conducted by music director Ermanno Florio.

Generously underwritten by: Riviana Foods, Inc.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM: Balanchine. Morris. Fonte. All three have created ballets for companies around the world. This program, however, was made entirely in America. Mark Morris's breezy Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes was commissioned by Mikhail Baryshnikov for American Ballet Theatre. George Balanchine created Theme and Variations, his grand tribute to the Imperial Russian Ballet, for the same company. Nicolo Fonte, a Brooklyn native who danced with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and the Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid, will premiere a new work titled See(k), choreographed specifically for Houston Ballet to a commissioned score by the celebrated English composer Anna Clyne.

WHEN: At 7:30 p.m. on May 24, 26 and June 1, 2, 2012
At 2 p.m. on May 27 and June 3, 2012

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

TICKETS: Start at $18. Call (713) 227 ARTS or 1 800 828 ARTS. www.houstonballet.org.

Also available at Houston Ballet Box Office at Wortham Theater Center downtown at 501 Texas at Smith Street

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Houston Ballet online at www.houstonballet.org.