The Holiday Season between Thanksgiving and New Years is the traditional time when Houston Ballet presents its annual run of The Nutcracker.
But there is another annual tradition at Houston Ballet, and that is a one-night performance during the run of The Nutcracker, which is a look back at some of the Highlight Moments of some of the best-received ballets of previous seasons. It is a veritable “Greatest Hits” of Houston Ballet, entitled “Jubilee of Dance,” followed by its traditional gala onstage dinner for Houston Ballet supporters, and the entire dance company.
Of extra significance this year, is that Jubilee of Dance comes during the final season of the 29-year run of Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker, to be replaced in 2016 by a completely new version, by Houston Ballet Artistic Director, Stanton Welch.
The December 4, 2015 Jubilee of Dance once again included a wide variety of scenes from various past ballets, including:
The Sleeping Beauty – Act I, Rose Adagio; with music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and choreography by Ben Stevenson; featuring Katharine Precourt, Linnar Looris, Aaron Robison, Brian Waldrep, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama.
Maninyas – Second Movement; with music by Ross Edwards, and choreography by Stanton Welch; featuring Karina Gonzalez, Ian Casady, Jessica Collado, and Artists of Houston Ballet.
The Letter V – Second Movement; with music by Joseph Haydn, and choreography by Mark Morris; featuring Soo Youn Cho, Kaleiah Courts, Elise Elliott, Rhodes Elliott, Bridget Kuhns, Zecheng Liang, Linnar Looris, Jared Matthews, Allison Miller, Michael Ryan, Aaron Sharratt, Alyssa Springer, Natalie Varnum, Connor Walsh, Chae Eun Yang, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama.
Zodiac – Cancer; with Music by Ross Edwards, and choreography by Stanton Welch; featuring Yuriko Kajiya and Christopher Coomer.
The Sleeping Beauty – Act III Pas de Deux; with music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and choreography by Ben Stevenson; featuring Sara Webb and Jared Matthews.
Giselle – Peasant Pas de Deux; with music by Adolphe Adam, and choreography by Stanton Welch; featuring Elise Elliott and Oliver Halkowich, Katelyn May, Allison Miller, Christopher Gray, Hayden Stark.
Manon – Act I, Scene I Pas de Deux; music by Jules Massenet, and choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan; featuring Melody Mennite and Connor Walsh.
The Sleeping Beauty – Act III Finale; with Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and choreography by Ben Stevenson; featuring the Artists of Houston Ballet.
Romeo and Juliet – Capulet Ball and Juliet’s Balcony; with music by Sergei Prokofiev, and choreography by Stanton Welch; featuring Karina Gonzalez and Connor Walsh, Jessica Collado, Ian Casady, Christopher Coomer, Linnar Looris, Jared Matthews, and Artists of Houston Ballet.
Brigade – with music by Benjamin Britten, and choreography by Stanton Welch; including Matinées Musicales, with Allison Miller; Nocturne, with Nao Kusuzaki, Natalie Varnum, Chae Eun Yang, Christopher Coomer, Dylan Lackey, William Newton; Waltz, with Hayden Stark; Pantomine, with Bridget Kuhns, Jacquelyn Long, Chun Wai Chan; The March, with Shogo Hayami, Shu Kinouchi, Zecheng Liang; Canzonetta, with Elise Elliott and Ian Casady; The Tirolese, with Soo Youn Cho, Aaron Sharratt, Brian Waldrep; Bolero, with Madeline Skelly; Tarantella, with Tyler Donatelli and Christopher Gray, and Artists of Houston Ballet.
The most exciting and delightful part of the 2016 Jubilee of Dance was most certainly the Act II encore of scenes from Stanton Welch’s new version of Romeo and Juliet, from 2015. The dramatic march of the Capulet Ball attendees downstage toward the audience to the dramatic Dance of the Knights theme by Sergei Prokofiev as choreographed by Stanton Welch is still hauntingly thrilling, and the Juliet’s Balcony scene with Karina Gonzalez and Connor Walsh is as gracefully romantic as before.
There is a direct tie-in here between the encore scenes of Romeo and Juliet as presented in this year’s Jubilee of Dance, and its ironic timing during the Grand Finale final season of Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, after 29 successful years. Stanton Welch’s ambition to create his own Houston Ballet version of Romeo and Juliet was a major undertaking (read the 2015 Romeo and Juliet article), which was a fantastic success, creating a new, Modern, Period, Classic Ballet.
Now the 29-year run of Ben Stevenson’s highly successful The Nutcracker comes to a close, with a new Stanton Welch version already in the works for 2016. It is true that some loyal Houston Ballet attendees are nervous about seeing their
beloved Ben Stevenson Nutcracker changed at all, much less vanish completely; but the glorious encore scenes from the new Romeo and Juliet during this Nutcracker’s final run (as seen in Jubilee of Dance), should be a reminder of what a visionary creative talent Stanton Welch is, and should make everyone excited to see what his newly updated Nutcracker will be like. Sketches of some of the new character concepts have already started to leak out, they are very progressive and exotic, and it promises to be an amazing new production.
Once again speaking of the new Romeo and Juliet, it has been so well received, that for the first time, Stanton Welch has been invited back to his home company, the Australia Ballet, with the entire company of Houston Ballet, to give 12 performances of his superb, new Romeo and Juliet, from June 30 to July 9, 2016, in Melbourne, Australia.
In a final note, Houston Ballet took the opportunity of Jubilee of Dance and its onstage dinner for its company and supporters, to unveil its new branding campaign, which for the first time in 30 years gives Houston Ballet and new look and logo, as seen at the top of the graphic headlining this article.
A lot of wonderful things are happening at Houston Ballet in 2015, and 2016 promises to be an even more exciting year, with many more surprises to come.
Bravo, Houston Ballet!
Contact Gary Lindsay at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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