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Houston Ballet spring showcase: dancers of the future

Photograph from Serenade, Choreography by George Balanchine, © The George Balanchine Trust. Artists of Houston Ballet Academy. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.
Photograph from Serenade, Choreography by George Balanchine, © The George Balanchine Trust. Artists of Houston Ballet Academy. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.
Photograph from Serenade, Choreography by George Balanchine, © The George Balanchine Trust. Artists of Houston Ballet Academy. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

This past, Friday and Saturday, the Houston Ballet had their spring showcase highlighting the best of the future of ballet. The shows included fun and entertaining performances for patrons to enjoy and for parents to beam proudly at their children's accomplishments. Houston Ballet II and the entire school took part in this showcase.

Houston Ballet II is the second company of the Houston Ballet, which is fourth largest in the nation. This showcase allows the busy company to perform at home. Academy Director Shelly Power carefully chooses the pieces for the performances with Houston Ballet II’s Ballet Master Claudio Muñoz and Ballet Mistress Sabrina Lenzi to display the best of each dancer and highlight the academy’s strengths. The three pieces that were selected this year were “Serenade”, “Graduation Ball” and “Studies”.

Leslie Peck coached “Serenade”, the opening piece. “Serenade” was the first ballet that George Balanchine choreographed upon his arrival to America in 1934. The performance is meant to show the difference of dancing on stage and that of rehearsal or working in class. Peck was a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet in the 70s. Today she is a recognized authority on Balanchine ballets and is one of the few dancers authorized by the Balanchine Trust. She is an associate professor in the dance department of Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.

The second piece “Graduation Ball” was a revival of David Lichine’s comic ballet. This performance was a highlight of the night, with a clear story and amazing execution by all the dancers. The staging by Claudio Muñoz creates the perfect setting for the performance. The story is set in 1840s Vienna, when a group of young cadets from a military academy visits a girl’s boarding school for their gradation ball. Overall, this has both story, heart and audience appeal. Not only does this highlight the strengths of the dancers, but it also allows for the audience to simply sit back and watch a story unfold before their eyes.

The final piece of the night “Studies” was choreographed by Stanton Welch, the ballet’s Artistic Director. This unique performance included all 226 students from all levels of the academy. Audiences got the chance to see not only trainer, seasoned students but also got to enjoy the refreshing presence of children just getting their feet wet. This is a perfect way to highlight the transition from beginner to advanced ballet dancer. It’s a treat to see just where the ballet and their dancers are going.

Each year, the Houston Ballet showcases their academy to encourage donations and show just where the future of ballet is heading. Audiences can see the power, grace and strength in these dancers and know that the ballet's future is in good hands, or feet should we say. If you missed your chance to see these performances, there are still other chances to see the beauty of the ballet before this season ends. Also while at the ballet's website, be sure to check out their upcoming 2014-2015 season.