The Houston Ballet, operated by the Houston Ballet Foundation, is the fourth-largest professional ballet company in the United States, based in Houston, Texas. The foundation also maintains a ballet academy, the Ben Stevenson Academy, which trains more than half of the company's dancers. As of 2011, the Houston Ballet's endowment at more than $55 million is considered among the largest endowments held for a dance company in the US. The company produces over 75 performances each year and consists of 51 dancers.
The Houston Ballet has its origins in the Houston Ballet Academy, which was established in 1955 under the leadership of Tatiana Semenova, a former dancer with the Ballets Russes. In 1969, the foundation formed a professional ballet company under the direction of Nina Popova, also a former dancer with the Ballet Russes and the American Ballet Theatre.
From 1976–2003, Englishman Ben Stevenson, a former dancer with Britain's Royal Ballet and English National Ballet, served as artistic director of Houston Ballet. Under Stevenson's leadership, the ballet transformed "from regional to international prominence".
In 1989, Kenneth MacMillan joined the company as artistic associate and worked with the company from 1989 until his death in 1992. Christopher Bruce was named resident choreographer. Bruce, who currently holds the title of associate choreographer, has set nine works on the company, including four pieces created especially for Houston Ballet. In March 1995, Trey McIntyre assumed the position of choreographic associate. McIntyre has created seven world premieres for the company, including his first full-length production of Peter Pan. In 2003, Australian choreographer Stanton Welch was appointed as Artistic Director and has created numerous works for Houston Ballet.
In 1982, Sandra Organ, a Nebraska native, joined the Houston Ballet and became its first African American ballerina at the age of 19. She was promoted to soloist, and remained with the Houston Ballet until her retirement, fifteen years later. In 1990 Lauren Anderson became the Houston Ballet's African-American principal dancer. Anderson continued to dance with the Houston Ballet until her retirement in 2006 at the age of 41.
In July 1995, the Houston Ballet became the first full American ballet company invited by the Chinese government to tour the country. An estimated 500 million people witnessed Houston Ballet's production of Romeo and Juliet when the company's opening night performance was telecast live on Chinese television.
In 2011 the company was the first company to win the Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance, allowing the company to purchase a new piece by Jorma Elo.
Center for Dance
The Houston Ballet administrative headquarters are in Downtown Houston, in the Center for Dance. In 2011, the Company moved into the Center for Dance, which had its grand opening on April 9, 2011. The facility increased the number of dance studios from six to nine, including a "black box dance laboratory" for presentations as well as rehearsals. The Center more than doubled the space that Houston Ballet had at its previous location. Upon its completion, it was the largest dance facility of its kind in the United States and cost $46 million.
Prior to moving into the Center for Dance, the ballet's headquarters and training facilities and the Ben Stevenson Academy were located east of the River Oaks Shopping Center.