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Ben Stevenson to head Fort Worth Dallas Ballet

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Guess he wasn't really ready to retire :)

This is the press release from FWD Ballet:

Ben Stevenson Named Artistic Director, Fort Worth Dallas Ballet

Stevenson, Currently FWDB Artistic Advisor, to Assume Artistic Director Position July 2003

(Fort Worth and Dallas, TX?) Robert C. Grable, chairman of the board of directors of Fort Worth Dallas Ballet (FWDB), has announced their selection of Ben Stevenson for the post of permanent artistic director effective July 1, 2003. Mr. Stevenson, the illustrious artistic director of Houston Ballet, will conclude his active tenure at Houston Ballet at the end of Houston?s 2002-2003 season.

Mr. Grable made the announcement at a meeting of the organization?s board of directors held on Tuesday, June 18, in Fort Worth.

Mr. Stevenson is currently FWDB?s artistic advisor for the 2002-2003 season while serving as artistic director of Houston Ballet, a post he has held since 1976. Mr. Stevenson announced in April that he would assume the position of artistic director emeritus of Houston Ballet at the end of that company?s 2002-2003 season.

"Mr. Stevenson?s proven ability to propel the success of a ballet company signals a most promising future for Fort Worth Dallas Ballet," said Mr. Grable at the meeting. "We are thrilled to have Ben take our company to the next stage in its evolution."

Ben Stevenson nurtured Houston Ballet from an emerging regional ensemble to one of the nation?s largest dance companies that has performed to critical acclaim throughout the world. With strong corporate and community support of Houston Ballet under his leadership? evidenced by a $12 million budget and 52 dancers? Mr. Stevenson also built a recognized ballet school, trained many of the top dancers in the ballet world, and choreographed some of the best loved and most critically successful ballets of the 20th century.

"This is an incredibly exciting opportunity. The Board?s leadership, the energy and enthusiasm of both Fort Worth and Dallas supporters, and the dedication of dancers and staff provide the building blocks for growth as we enhance and expand this company," said Mr. Stevenson from Los Angeles, where he is departing midweek to choreograph a new ballet ? Fountain of Tears ? at the invitation of The National Ballet of China.

"With the existing high standards as a point of departure, I hope to enliven the repertoire with world premieres, solidify and strengthen the existing repertoire and corps de ballet, and add exciting new works as time goes on," he said. "And, I love being in Texas!"

"Dallas and Fort Worth are both incredible cities with many untapped opportunities in our large metropolitan area," said Ann Woessner, chairman of the Dallas Supporters of FWDB. "FWDB is in a unique position to serve them both equally.

"We all take great pride in Ben Stevenson?s proven track record," she continued. "His exceptional talent and creativity will move the company to the next level of artistry and growth."

Ben Stevenson, a native of Portsmouth, England, has been dancer, choreographer, teacher, artistic director, and consultant for over half a century. He received his early dance training at the Arts Educational School in London before joining Sadler?s Wells Royal Ballet, London Festival Ballet, Harkness Ballet, and the National Ballet in Washington, for whom he served as director. He was appointed artistic director of Houston Ballet in 1976. Mr. Stevenson has built Houston Ballet into one of America?s leading ballet companies.

He received numerous awards for his choreography, including three gold medals at the International Ballet Competitions of 1972, 1982, and 1986. Mr. Stevenson was the first Western choreographer to set a work for the Russian Bolshoi ballet company, and he has staged his ballets for the English National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, La Scala in Milan, the Munich State Opera Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, London City Ballet, Ballet de Santiago, and many companies in the United States.

For his contributions to the world of international dance, Mr. Stevenson was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year?s Honors List in December 1999.

Tim O?Keefe, another Houston Ballet veteran, will also join FWDB as assistant to the artistic advisor, effective this July. He will serve as ballet master and artistic administrator for FWDB. A native Houstonian, Mr. O?Keefe was the dancer for whom Mr. Stevenson created the title role of Dracula in 1997. In addition to working with Ben Stevenson for more than two decades, Mr. O?Keefe has also worked with choreographic luminaries including Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Christopher Bruce, and Jerome Robbins.

"I am very pleased that such an opportunity has come at this point in Ben?s career," said Nicholas Swyka, president of Houston Ballet Foundation. "Ben has made a monumental contribution to the success of Houston Ballet. He will enjoy the challenge of working with a new ballet organization.

"We will cherish his role as artistic director of Houston Ballet through our next season ending in June 2003," he said. "After Ben steps down from his role with Houston Ballet, both he and the entire Fort Worth Dallas Ballet organization will benefit."

Fort Worth Dallas Ballet was founded in 1961 as Fort Worth Ballet and reorganized as a fully professional ballet company in 1985. The company has performed seasons in Dallas since 1994. Fort Worth season sponsors include American Airlines, NBC5, Star-Telegram, and The Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Dallas season sponsors are Brierley & Partners, The Dallas Morning News, ExxonMobil, The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and Texas Commission on the Arts. The website is www.fwdballet.com.

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What wonderful news about FWDB! They really deserve a good artistic director. It was such a beautiful company when Paul Mejia was there. I just read this note and called my daughter right away. She and my son-in-law have many friends there and feel this is a great move for the company.

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Mr. Stevenson certainly has had a most impressive career :) - what made him decide to leave Houston, who is taking over the reins and what are the implications for Houston now?

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It has not yet been decided who will be taking over in Houston. Ben is there for one more year, technically. So, there really are no implications yet. It will be interesting to see what develops in the next year.

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