Houston Ballet’s Morris, Welch & Kylian Features World Premieres by Mark Morris and Stanton Welch


Artists of Houston Ballet in Jiri Kylián's Svadebka. Photo by Amitava Sarkar. Image provided courtesy of Houston Ballet.

Artists of Houston Ballet in Jiri Kylián’s Svadebka. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.
Image provided courtesy of Houston Ballet.

Celebrated American Choreographer Mark Morris Creates The Letter V, His First New Work for Houston Ballet 

Stanton Welch Creates Zodiac to a Commissioned Score by Renowned Australian Composer Ross Edwards

Jiri Kylián’s Svadebka Returns to Houston

Houston, Texas — From May 28 – June 7, 2015 Houston Ballet offers up a mixed repertory program titled Morris, Welch & Kylián featuring three of today’s most dynamic and musical choreographers. A world premiere of The Letter V by acclaimed American choreographer Mark Morris, the world premiere of Stanton Welch’s Zodiac and the revival of Jiří Kylián’s iconic Svadebka make this program a must-see for all ballet lovers. Zodiac is made possible through the generosity of Leticia Loya. Houston Ballet will give six performances of Morris, Welch & Kylián at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston. Tickets start at $20, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org, or by calling 713 227 2787. 

Mark Morris Creates World Premiere Set to Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88

Mr. Welch is excited to add Houston Ballet’s first commissioned piece, titled The Letter V, by the legendary Mark Morris to the company’s repertoire. “Mark Morris is one of the landmark American choreographers, and he is a very important part of the dance scene in this country,” comments Mr. Welch. “It is important to have a work created here in Houston by one of the great dance makers of our time.”

Since the 1980s, Mr. Morris has choreographed over 150 dances. Each dance exemplifies a style that is entirely his own, formed from a background of ballet, modern, postmodern, and folk dance. His work has earned Mr. Morris a reputation for being “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical,” by The New York Times.

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. Dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov has also praised Mr. Morris, calling him, “One of the great choreographers of our time.”

Houston Ballet has three other works by Mr. Morris in its repertoire:  Pacific (created 1995, performed by Houston Ballet in 2013), Sandpaper Ballet (created 1999, performed by Houston Ballet in 2005 and 2010), and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (created 1988, performed by Houston Ballet in 2012).

Stanton Welch Creates Zodiac a World Premiere, with Original Score Composed by Ross Edwards

Mr. Welch will create a new work inspired by the Greek mythology behind the zodiac. In ancient Greece, the signs of the greek zodiac were identified with twelve groups of stars (constellations) which can be seen in the night sky at different times during the year. Behind each one of these signs lies a fascinating story. The word “zodiac” itself, comes from a Greek word meaning “the circle of animals” – “animals” referring to all living creatures. And indeed, with the exception of the sign Libra, each one of the myths is associated with living beings, either animals or humans. Zodiac will mark the twenty-fourth ballet Mr. Welch has created for Houston Ballet. 

Long-time supporter and Houston Ballet Trustee Leticia Loya has generously underwritten Mr. Welch’s new ballet Zodiac. “I am so pleased to support this production,” Ms. Loya comments. “It’s exciting to be part of the process of having Stanton create a new work in Houston, on our beautiful dancers, and with a newly commissioned score by Ross Edwards.”

Zodiac is set to a commissioned score by the famous Australian composer Ross Edwards. Mr. Edwards also composed the music for Welch’s Maninyas (created in 1996, performed by Houston Ballet in 2005 and 2014). One of Australia’s best known composers, Ross Edwards has created a unique sound world which seeks to reconnect music with elemental forces and restore its traditional association with ritual and dance. Intensely aware of his vocation since childhood, he studied in Australia and Europe, holds doctorates from the universities of Sydney and Adelaide and among many other awards has received the Order of Australia for services to composition. His music, universal in that it is concerned with age-old mysteries surrounding humanity, is at the same time deeply connected to its roots in Australia, whose cultural diversity it celebrates, and from whose natural environment it draws inspiration.

The costumes for Zodiac will be designed by Eduardo Sicangco. A native of Bacolod, Negros Occidental, Mr. Sicangco was a student of National Artist Salvador Bernal at the Ateneo de Manila University. He later became Bernal’s protégé at the Cultural Center of the Philippines where Sicangco designed Le Carnaval for Ballet Philippines. He then went to study in New York, earning a MFA in stage design at New York University where he was also awarded the J.S. Seidman Award for Excellence in Design. In addition to his work for ballet, Mr. Sicangco has over thirty years of experience as a designer and illustrator for Broadway, opera, and Hollywood film. 

Jiří Kylián’s Svadebka Returns

Jiří Kylián’s abstract ballet for eight couples, Svadebka, rounds out the program. Russian for “wedding,” Svadebka is Kylián’s version of Les Noces, Igor Stravinsky’s powerful cantata about a peasant wedding. The work’s title has roots in the Russian peasant name for the wedding ceremony or wedding play, svádebnaya igrá. In the ballet, a young bride and groom become betrothed through the workings of matchmakers, bid farewell to their parents, and are married in an ecstatic wedding ceremony.

Mr. Welch comments, “Svadebka is one of Kylián’s masterpieces. I find it a work that I can watch multiple times and not grow tired of it. The role of the bride is one of the most coveted in the Kylián repertoire.”

First soloist Jessica Collado, who will dance the lead role of the bride, says, “So much of the ballet is about the ensemble and the unity of the group. But yet, as the bride, it is still such a personal experience to be a part of. Right from the start, a sense of urgency and anticipation is set, not only from Stravinsky’s epic score, but from Kylián’s athletic and expansive movement.  It continues to build with excitement until the very end, leaving you feeling completely accomplished and fulfilled.”

Svadebka is set to Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky’s memorable Les Noces, considered to be one of the landmark works in dance history. One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Stravinsky (1882-1971) composed daring and innovative pieces that changed the dance world. In 1913, the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky to create a new work for his influential company Ballets Russes. Ten years later, the Russian dancer and choreographer Bronislava Nijinska created a ballet for Diaghilev’s company to Stravinsky’s Les Noces. The resulting work, Les Noces, has been performed around the world ever since, and it has been hailed by The Oxford Dictionary of Dance as “without doubt one of the greatest works of the twentieth century.” Jiří Kylián choreographed his version of Les Noces for Netherlands Dance Theater in 1982, creating a powerful reinterpretation of the ballet.

Houston Ballet is pleased to work with Houston Chamber Choir on a musical collaboration for Svadebka. Prepared by Robert Simpson, founder and artistic director of Houston Chamber Choir, Les Noces will be performed by four extraordinary soloists: Nicole Heaston, Carolyn Sproule, Robert McPherson, and Liam Bonner. These performances mark the first collaboration between Houston Ballet and Houston Chamber Choir.

Jiří Kylián has proven to be one of the world’s most influential choreographers and has had a profound impact on the world of dance. Jack Anderson, writing in The New York Times about Kylián, observed, “Ballets choreographed by Jiří Kylián are passionate, rhapsodic, even tempestuous. The Czech-born artistic director of Netherlands Dance Theater likes to send dancers surging in great waves across the stage, and he is not afraid to make strong choreographic statements in the theater.” (June 21, 1987)

Born in Prague, Jiří Kylián studied at Prague National Theatre, Prague Conservatory and The Royal Ballet School in London before joining Stuttgart Ballet in 1968 under the direction of John Cranko. There Mr. Cranko helped cultivate Mr. Kylián as a student and choreographer which lead to him setting his first work for Stuttgart Ballet in 1970. Mr. Kylián joined Nederlands Dans Theater in 1973 as a guest choreographer, and was appointed artistic director in 1978. After joining Nederlands Dans Theater he created and realized over 60 productions for the company, including such works as: Sinfonietta (1978), Forgotten Land (1981), Bella Figura (1995), and Last Touch (2003). In 1995 Mr. Kylián celebrated 20 years as artistic director with Nederlands Dans Theater with the large-scale production Arcimboldo as well as receiving Holland’s highest honor, Officier in de Orde van Oranje Nassau. In 1999 Mr. Kylián retired as artistic director, but still has an active role as resident choreographer and artistic advisor with the company.

Houston Ballet has seven works by Mr. Kylián in its repertoire, including Symphony in D (created in 1977, performed by Houston Ballet in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1994), Sinfonietta (created in 1978, performed by Houston Ballet in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2013), Forgotten Land (created in 1981, performed by Houston Ballet 2005 and 2010), Svadebka (created in 1982, performed by Houston Ballet in 2007), Falling Angels (created in 1989, performed by Houston Ballet in 2009 and 2011), Soldiers’ Mass (created in 1980, performed by Houston Ballet in 2009), Petite Mort (created in 1991, performed by Houston Ballet in 2007 and 2014) and Sechs Tanze (created in 1986, performed by Houston Ballet in 2014).


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