Houston Ballet Marks a Momentous Anniversary with a Gilded Celebration

This year’s Houston Ballet Ball honors fifty years of fundraising and a generous benefactor

PHOTO CREDIT:  Wilson Parish, Dave Rossman,

Gary Fountain, Jacalyn Lawton and Alida Bonifaz 

General Editor: Margaret MacMillan

Publisher: Connie Kwan-Wong

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The Celebration

The 2020 Houston Ballet Ball: 50th Anniversary was held at Houston Ballet’s performance home, the Wortham Theatre Center, for the first time since Hurricane Harvey. Beth and Nick Zdeblick chaired the glittering event and Phoebe and Bobby Tudor were the honorary chairs. Devoted supporter Margaret Alkek Williams was the evening’s honoree.

The Story

The over 400 black-tie-clad guests entered the Wortham Theater Center via a red-carpeted runway lined with glittering spotlights. Once inside the venue, which had been transformed by Richard Flowers of The Events Company into a golden palace, they were greeted by dancers from Houston Ballet Academy who were draped in gold costumes representing past Houston Ballet performances. While enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, celebrants scanned the select offerings of the silent auction. Moving to the ballroom, whose lush cream floors were complimented by a profusion of crystal and gold chandeliers, attendees were seated at tables dressed in elegant gold linens and accented with mirrors. Prepared by Jackson and Company, dinner featured such specialties as golden caviar French macaron, hand-poured lobster bisque, perfectly aged Angus beef tenderloin, and gorgonzola tart. A gold-painted chocolate sphere filled with chocolate mousse, hazelnut dacquoise, and galcé raspberries, called Chocolat a la Margaret, was served for dessert. The tantalizing treat was named for honoree Margaret Alkek Williams.

The Moments

As dessert was being served, company dancers emerged from their seats and surrounding entrances surprising guests with a seemingly spontaneous performance of a number choregraphed by Houston Ballet first soloist Oliver Halkowich. Already delighted by the moment, the crowed erupted in further applause when the company’s artistic director, Stanton Welch AM, and its executive director, Jim Nelson, joined in. For the grand finale, a commemorative nine-foot prop cake, adorned with 50 “birthday” candles, was rolled onto the dance floor followed by a shower of gold confetti. After the exciting performance, party-goers filled the dance floor moving to the music of Sound House and The Tribute presented by Élan Artists. As a final treat, guests received a custom cookie in the shape of the commemorative prop cake when they called it a night. And what a night it was.

The extraordinary fête raised nearly $1.8 million for Houston Ballet, making it the most successful ball in the company’s history.

Guests: Tony Bradfield and Kevin Black, Anne and Albert Chao, Lilly and Harrison Cullen, Liz Schwarze, Richard Flowers, Claudia and David Hatcher, Milton Townsend, Elise and Russell Joseph, Carroll and Hugh Ray, Alicia Smith, Kelly Barnhart and Sean Wheeler, Deborah and Edward Koehler, Chad Libertus, Kelley and Stephen Lubanko, Melanie and Jerry Martin, Beth Madison, Anne Neeson, Akemi and Yasuhiko Saitoh, Allison and Troy Thacker, Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Hallie Vanderhider, Gillian Hobson, Margaret Alkek Williams, Beth and Nick Zdeblick, Rose Cullen, Jo and Jim Furr, Jesse H. Jones II and Terry Wayne Jones, Elizabeth and Charlie Leykum, Jean and Henry May, Jim Nelson, Cabrina and Steven Owsley, Laura and Brannon Robertson, Leigh Smith, S. Shawn Stephens and James M. Jordan, Bill and Courtney Toomey, Stanton Welch AM, and 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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