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Joyous Jubilee of Dance Brings Houston Ballet Back to the Stage After More Than 500 Days Away — a Record Night Like No Other

Even Lina Hidalgo Gets Into the Spirit and Goes Comedian

BY // 10.04.21

After more than 500 days of COVID-19 induced exile, Houston Ballet returned to the stage at Wortham Theater Center with overwhelming exuberance for performance in the Margaret Alkek Williams “Jubilee of Dance” season opener. From the dance program to dinner for patrons that followed on stage, it was indeed an evening of jubilation.

“It’s so great to see them back on stage. When they walk on the stage, they stand a little taller. You can see the energy. It’s quite different from the rehearsal hall,” Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch says of his fiercely talented flock.

Welch could not stop beaming, his joy and pride deliciously apparent, following the celebration of the company that earned standing ovations from the audience which could not have been more thrilled to be back at the Wortham than the dancers themselves.

Special guest Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo perhaps said it best when addressing the Wortham Theater audience.

“I know that normally when you see me it means bad news,” she quips. (Huge laughs from the audience.) “It means flood, or hurricane, or pandemic, or that Houston is about to freeze over. But today is about good news. Today is about celebration. The ballet and all the performing arts feed our souls and over the past 18 months we have been missing that. So tonight is like a feast for hungry spirits.”

Amen.

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Houston Ballet Soloists Mackenzie Richter and Harper Watters with Artists of Houston Ballet in Stanton Welch’s ‘Divergence.’
(Photo by Courtesy of Houston Ballet. Lawrence Elizabeth Knox,2021)

The dance program included excerpts from fan favorites including Divergence and Play, as well as a special tribute to celebrate principal dancer Melody Mennite’s 20th anniversary with the company. She joined at age 16.

On this occasion, Welch insured that all 60 something members of the company had their time on stage. The entire company — principals, soloists, and corps de ballet — joined forces in the in-person premiere of Welch’s vibrant In Good Company, a ballet hybrid that highlighted the full versatility of Houston Ballet. In Good Company was borne of the pandemic, a series of dance films set to the music of The Dead South and underwritten by ballet patron Leticia Loya. The energetic presentation closed the dance portion of the evening and led the way to the on-stage dinner that followed.

Phoebe Tudor, Connor Walsh; Photo by Wilson Parish
Phoebe Tudor, Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh at the Margaret Alkek Williams ‘Jubilee of Dance’ on-stage dinner.

The jubilee fundraiser, chaired by Jamie and Mark Loveland, earned a record $250,000 for Houston Ballet as close to 200 cocktail-attired guests filed onto stage where Bergner & Johnson tables were dressed in striking black linens and topped with lush red centerpieces and where Jackson & Company presented a fitting late-night dinner.

PC Seen: Jim Nelson, Margaret Alkek Williams, Leticia Loya, Paul Loya, Leigh and Reggie Smith, Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Shawn Stephens and Jim Jordan, Lynn Wyatt, Melza and Ted Barr, Lilly Cullen, Kelley and Stephen Lubanko, Allison and Troy Thacker, Cabrina Owsley, Kelli Blanton, Richard Flowers and Angel Rios, Deborah and Edward Koehler; Laura and Brannon Robertson, Kent Schaffer and Shara Kuy, and Jo and Jim Furr.

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