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Houston Theater Is Transformed Into a Vienna Dream Palace in a Sweeping $1.6 Million Ballet Ball Like No Other

A Divine Evening In an Unrecognizable Wortham With a Rocking Band

BY // 02.22.24

One can seldom anticipate what Richard Flowers and The Events Company has in store when tasked with decorating the Grand Foyer of Wortham Theater Center for one of the city’s premier balls. Each decor is more creative than the last. Even so, guests attending the Houston Ballet Ball, themed “Mayerling,” were astounded by the elegant transformation that took hold this time.

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Vienna’s Hofburg Imperil Palace is recreated in decor at Wortham Theater Center for the Houston Ballet Ball. (Photo by Alida Bonifaz, The Events Company)

Where was the trademark red? The question was asked over and over again as the white-tie throng of 500 people swanned through a setting convincingly reminiscent of Vienna’s Hofburg Imperial Palace. Every inch of the Grand Foyer’s crimson carpet and draping were wrapped in a shimmery gray, walls covered in soaring faux boiserie panels in dusty blue and gold that could have come straight from the palace.

The setting with glistening chandeliers overhead, some wrapped in wreaths of white orchids, and tables topped in bountiful bouquets of white flowers set a magnificent stage for a truly grand Ballet Ball. The palace decor gave a nod to the company‘s upcoming production of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling, the tragic tale of Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Rudolf.

It turned into a stellar evening for chairs Cabrina and Steven Owsley and Margaret and Jonathan Cox as the event saw ballet coffers enriched by an impressive $1.6 million.

It was an equally grand soirée for honorees Akemi and Yasuhiko Saitoh, she a longtime ballet trustee and both generous Houston Ballet patrons. The Saitohs were instrumental in the company’s recent tour to Japan and in his remarks Yasuhiko Saitoh promised there would be a return trip. During the brief program, the couple was honored with a presentation in Japanese from Houston Ballet principal dancer Yuriko Kajiya and in English from artistic director Stanton Welch AM.

Kristy Bradshaw, Phoebe Tudor and Stephanie Tsuru; Photo by Wilson Parish
Kristy Bradshaw, Phoebe Tudor, Stephanie Tsuru at the Houston Ballet Ball ‘Mayerling,’ held at Wortham Theater Center. (Photo by Wilson Parish)

And for the the glamorous clutch of guests it was a divine evening. Before the rocking dance band Stratosphere cranked up the night, a dozen students from Houston Ballet Academy swirled in couples across the dance floor to a piece by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár, whose music not coincidentally is the sound track for Mayerling.

Elizabeth Anthony

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ASSAEL
OLYMPIA LE-TAN
EMILY P. WHEELER
EMILY P. WHEELER
MARIA OLIVER
KATHERINE JETTER
MEREDITH YOUNG
LEIGH MAXWELL
MEREDITH YOUNG
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CityKitchen did its share of conjuring up Vienna in the 1880s with a menu that included beef tenderloin with caramelized shallot jam, braised red cabbage, baby green beans, potato galette and pretzel rolls. For dessert, warm mascarpone crepes were served with blood orange coulis and candied orange rind.

Special guest on this night was Houston-born fashion designer Bach Mai, accompanying Duyen and Marc Nguyen. Several ladies in the mix were dressed by Mai, one of the country’s up and coming top tier designers. They included Houston Ballet board president Kristy Bradshaw and Duyen Nguyen, who had asked for a custom black velvet cape in a nod to the 1880s.

Stanton Welch AM, Honorees Akemi and Yasuhiko Saitoh, Yuriko Kajiya; Photo by Wilson Parish
Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch AM, honorees Akemi & Yasuhiko Saitoh, Houston Principal Dancer Yuriko Kajiya at the Houston Ballet Ball ‘Mayerling,’ held at Wortham Theater Center. (Photo by Wilson Parish)

About the band, Stratosphere truly rocked the night with the dance floor packed. We loved it. What we didn’t love — the unnecessarily loud dinner music. Must we always have to shout to be heard by our dining companions? Gala chairs, please take note. Otherwise, we give this Houston Ballet Ball an A+.

Melissa Juneau, Audrey White and Jayne Johnston; Photo by Wilson Parish
Melissa Juneau, Audrey White, Jayne Johnston at the Houston Ballet Ball ‘Mayerling,’ held at Wortham Theater Center. (Photo by Wilson Parish)

PC Seen: Houston Ballet board chair Leigh Smith and Reggie Smith, artistic director Julie Kent, executive director Jim Nelson, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Margaret Alkek Williams, S. Shawn Stephens and Jim Jordan, Deborah and Edward Koehler, Anne and Albert Chao, Kelley Lubanko, Beth and Nick Zdeblick, Jordan and Dylan Seff, Lynn Wyatt, Marguerite Swartz, Stephanie Tsuru, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Hallie Vanderhider and Bobby Dees, Richard Flowers and Angel Rios, Shara and Kent Schaffer, Mignon and Stephen Gill, Twana and Kelly Faykus, and Ileana and Michael Treviño.

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