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Benefit Brings Together Dance Stars to Raise Money—and Awareness—for Hurricane Harvey Victims

Houston Ballet's Jared Matthews and Sara Webb in"The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Despite the devastation and pain that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left in their wake this fall, it's been encouraging to see dancers step up in aid of their communities: When the future of Houston Ballet's Nutcracker seemed uncertain, venues around the city pulled together to allow the company to produce the show on a "hometown tour." And when Florida ballet companies had to evacuate, Atlanta Ballet and Charlotte Ballet welcomed them with open arms. In addition, New York City-based studio Broadway Dance Center offered community classes in September with proceeds donated to the American Red Cross.

The next in this series of good deeds is Hearts for Houston, a benefit performance bringing dancers from seven major companies together at New York City's Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater to raise money for the United Way of Greater Houston's Harvey Relief Fund. Scheduled for Sunday, October 22, the evening will feature members of the Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, The Washington Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Hearts for Houston is imagined and produced by Houston Ballet principal dancers Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews (both formerly of ABT) and funded by patrons Phoebe and Bobby Tudor and sponsor Neiman Marcus.



The Hearts for Houston Instagram page has been releasing the program over the past week, and so far it looks like a pretty powerful lineup.

The benefit will feature a world premiere by Texas Ballet Theater director and former Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson O.B.E., titled Martinů Pieces. TBT dancers Carolyn Judson and Alexander Kotelenets will dance the second movement, "Harvey," inspired by the affect of the storm on Stevenson's friends in Houston. Houston Ballet principals Sara Webb and Jared Matthews will dance the La Bayadère Act I pas de deux, and Yuriko Kajiya and Connor Walsh will dance the Madame Butterfly pas de deux choreographed by Stanton Welch. Companies outside of Texas include The Washington Ballet in Alexei Ratmansky's Bolero and Pennsylvania Ballet principals Arian Molina Soca and Mayara Pineiro in the Don Quixote pas de deux. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers Ashley Mayeux and Sean Aaron Carmon (both Texas natives) will dance "Fix Me, Jesus" from Revelations, and AAADT's Kanji Segawa will perform artistic director Robert Battle's Takademe. Another Ailey dancer, Jacquelin Harris, will be joined by NYCB's Ask La Cour in Christopher Wheeldon's touching (and aptly named) pas de deux, After the Rain. Hearts for Houston has also teased that NYCB's Daniel Ulbricht (no stranger to benefits as the director of the annual Dance Against Cancer) and ABT's Daniil Simkin will be involved, though what they'll be dancing has yet to be announced.

Tickets range from $150-$500. One hundred percent of funds raised will be donated directly to the cause, helping individuals and families with otherwise unmet relief needs including home repair and case management. VIP tickets also include a pre-show reception with a Dance Talk/Demonstration by former NYCB star Merrill Ashley, and Premium Access tickets include entry to the tech rehearsals and a backstage post-show toast. It's heartwarming to see this outpouring of support from the dance community, and we're sure the combined star power of this group of dancers will bring Houston one step closer to recovery.

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The Royal Ballet's Alexander Campbell and Yasmine Naghdi in Ashton's The Two Pigeons. Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

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