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Ballet Lovers Received the Royal Treatment at the 2024 Houston Ballet Ball

The inspiration for this year’s ballet ball, which raised over $1.6 million for Houston Ballet, was Mayerling, the story of  Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Rudolf

Photo credit: Wilson Parish, Daniel Ortiz, Ashley Patranella

The Celebration

On February 17, 2024 Houston Ballet supporters gathered in The Wortham Center for the 2024 Houston Ballet Ball. Cabrina and Steven Owsley and Margaret and Jonathan Cox chaired the lavish event, which honored Akemi and Yasuhiko Saitoh.


The Story

Dressed in white tie, the 500 guests, surrounded by balconies covered in floral draperies,  began the evening sipping handcrafted cocktails as melodies produced by an instrumental trio drifted through the air. The atmosphere of the cocktail hour perfectly mirrored that of the Hofburg Palace of the 1880s, the period during which the story of Mayerling about Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Rudolf, the inspiration for the evening, took place. While looking over the silent auction items, participants were intrigued by experiences like Ballet and Cocktails with Houston Ballet Artistic Director, Julie Kent; a photoshoot with a company dancer; a 2024 Nutcracker Market Sugar Plum Experience; a luxury stay in Snowmass, Colorado; and the chance to join Chris Shepherd on his hit show Eat Like a Local.

Stepping into the Grand Foyer, attendees were transported back to late-19th-century Vienna. Richard Flowers of the Events Company had transformed it with crystal chandeliers and dusty blue and gold hand-painted panels replicating the exquisitely decorated walls of the Hofburg Palace. They were then seated at tables draped in delicate blue linens crowned with luxurious floral centerpieces of white tulips, peonies, roses, hydrangeas, and gray dusty miller. City Kitchen treated participants like royalty with a meal fit for kings and queens, which featured medallions of prime aged beef tenderloin with marchand de vin and caramelized shallot jam for the main course and a warm mascarpone crepe served with blood orange coulis and candied orange rind for dessert. Guests later danced the night away to the tunes of Stratosphere. The band appropriately began with royal-based songs like ABBA’s Dancing Queen.

The Moments

The Saitoh’s were honored with a heartfelt presentation by Houston Ballet Artistic Director, Stanton Welch AM, and principal dancer Yuriko Kajiya. Akemi Saitoh is a long-time trustee, and with her husband, has committed to deepening relationships in Houston’s Japanese community and has welcomed many Japanese dancers to the Houston Ballet family. They have supported Houston Ballet for over a decade and were instrumental in making the company’s recent tour of Japan possible.

After dinner, guests were treated to a surprise performance by Houston Ballet Academy Pro students, which was choreographed by former company dancer turned academy instructor, Hayden Stark. The exquisite performance was set to the music of Austro-Hungarian composer Franz  Lehár. Making the surprise performance even more meaningful was the fact that it highlighted the mission of the company’s fundraising efforts, which is to support the academy and educational programs as well as artistic excellence and innovative choreography.     


The successful event raised an incredible $1.6 million for Houston Ballet’s mission to inspire a lasting love and passion for dance in Houston and beyond. 


Guests: Cabrina and Steven Owsley, Margaret and Jonathan Cox, Akemi and Yasuhiko Saitoh, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Leigh and Reggie Smith, Jim Nelson, Stanton Welch AM, Julie Kent, Margaret Alkek Williams, Deborah and Edward Koehler, Anne and Albert Chao, Beth and Nick Zdeblick,  Jordan and Dylan Seff, Marguerite Swartz, Stephanie Tsuru, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Hallie Vanderhider and Bobby Dees, Richard Flowers and Angel Rios, Rosanette S. Cullen, Marianne and Joe Geagea, Mignon and Stephen Gill, Jeffery and Alex Butt, Chad Libertus, Yana McFatter, Monica and Brad Radoff, Kent and Shara Schaffer, Alicia Smith, Fady Armanious and Bill Baldwin, Susan Binney, Zoe Cadore, Twana and Kelly Faykus, Jo Furr, Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones, Melissa Juneau, Kelley Lubanko, Kris and Richard McGee, Beth Muecke, Patti Murphy, S. Shawn Stephens and James M. Jordan, Ileana and Michael Treviño, Lynn Wyatt.

About Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet is committed to maintaining and enhancing its status as: A classically trained company with a diverse repertory whose range includes the classics as well as contemporary works; A company that attracts the world's best dancers and choreographers and provides them with an environment where they can thrive and further develop the art form; An international company that is accessible to broad and growing local, national, and international audiences; A company with a world-class Academy that provides first rate instruction for professional dancers and meaningful programs for non-professional dancers; A company with state-of-the-art facilities for performances, rehearsals, and ongoing operations. 

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