Jim Jordan and Shawn Stephens with their daughter, Shelby Jordan, welcome the Houston Ballet Jubilee of Dance dinner packet from Jackson & Company.(CatchLightGroup photo)
Artists of Houston Ballet in Stanton Welch's 'Marie.' (Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy of Houston Ballet)
Houston Ballet patrons Phoebe & Bobby Tudor receive their dinner for the virtual Onstage Dinner and Jubilee of Dance presentation. (Catchlight Group photo)
Artists of Houston Ballet in Disha Zhang's 'Elapse' (Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy of Houston Ballet)
Houston Ballet board president Leigh Smith and husband Reggie Smith as they ready for the virtual Margaret Alkek Williams Jubilee of Dance. The Sugar Plum Fairy dessert from Jackson & Company for Houston Ballet's virtual 'Onstage Dinner.' (Photo by CatchLightGroup)
Yasuhiko & Akemi Saitoh participate in the 'Onstage Dinner' from Tokyo. (Photo courtesy of Akemi Saitoh)
David Underwood Jr., Elizabeth Underwood and Christine Underwood readying for the virtual 'Onstage Dinner.' The Sugar Plum Fairy dessert from Jackson & Company for Houston Ballet's virtual 'Onstage Dinner.' (Photo by CatchLightGroup)
Alison & Wade Coriell at home enjoying the virtual 'Onstage Dinner' during which board president Leigh Smith was one of several speakers. (Coriell family photo)
Margaret Alkek Williams 2020 Jubilee of Dance honorees Gary & Marian Beauchamp. (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Retired Houston Ballet principal dancer Lauren Anderson presenting the holiday trivia challenge at the virtual 'Onstage Dinner.'
Oliver Halkowich and Harper Watters joining in the 'Onstage Dinner' program. (Photo courtesy of Houston Ballet)
2020 Ballet Ball honoree Margaret Alkek Williams provided the funding for Houston Ballet's annual Jubilee of Dance. (Photo by Wilson Parish)
Liliana Soltero & Michael Hawkins are ready for the Jackson & Company first course salad. (Photo by CatchLightGroup)
Bacon wrapped chicken breast stuffed with gruyère, mushroom and herbs, topped with Pommery mustard sauce, served with orzo pilaf and haricots verts and yeast rolls. (Photo by CatchLightGroup)
The Sugar Plum Fairy dessert from Jackson & Company for Houston Ballet's virtual 'Onstage Dinner.' (Photo by CatchLightGroup)
This was one virtual event that we were seriously looking forward to and we were not disappointed. All hail Houston Ballet for its ingenious pivot on the annual Jubilee of Dance, necessary because of COVID-19. With the 2020-2021 season canceled, there would be no in-person jubilant celebration of the city’s ballet talents.
It was one great night for Houston Ballet and the Margaret Alkek Williams Jubilee of Dance that had 90 “Onstage Dinner” participants tuning in for an extra 30-minute segment exclusive to these generous patrons. In reverse order from previous evenings, the “Onstage Dinner,” the food and wine delivered to participants by Jackson & Company, preceded the performance presentation, which was a gifted invitation to Houston Ballet donors and subscribers.
Stars of the holiday pre-show were Soloist (and comedian?) Harper Watters (at one point in red stilettos) and First Soloist Oliver Halkowich, Ballet Master Ian Casady, who hosted the event via Zoom from his home, and Soloist Jacquelyn Long and Demi Soloist Natalie Varnum, who shared their holiday traditions from home.
Joining in the virtual program were ballet executive director Jim Nelson, board president Leigh Smith, Houston Ballet creative director Stanton Welch and former Houston Ballet principal Lauren Anderson.
Sounds like a lot chatter? Not when presented in such a lively and fun format. Kudos to organizers of this entertaining evening.
“This year’s program shows the full depth of our company’s talent as we perform excerpts of cherished ballets, all of which were specifically made on our company,” Welch said in a statement. “We are also proud to present a short film about how Houston Ballet continues to turn challenges presented by pandemic into creative inspiration, told through the perspective of our dedicated company members.”
The most enjoyable aspect of this annual fundraiser is the Jubilee of Dance presentation in which the entire company joins in exuberant dance vignettes that spotlight the high level of talent throughout Houston Ballet. The program included selections from Welch’s Marie and Sylvia, plus new digital projections Dancing with Myself and Restoration.
The evening honored Marian and Gary Beauchamp, who has served on the board of trustees for close to 20 years, their support of the ballet extending over three decades.
While the evening raised $75,000 in support of Houston Ballet’s crisis relief efforts, the need for financial assistance remains.
The Houston Ballet notes in a statement: “The revenue losses attributed to the impact of the pandemic present the greatest financial challenge Houston Ballet has ever faced. Currently, contributions to the nonprofit are being matched dollar for dollar by The Jerry C. Dearing Family Foundation. Supporters can contribute to the nonprofit reaching its goal by donating to the campaign here.”