Street closures around the NAC during Ottawa Race Weekend

Political Pawn. Teenage Queen. Lover. Victim. Marie-Antoinette. National Arts Centre Inaugurates the 2012-2013 Ballet Season with the Canadian Premiere of Marie by Houston Ballet

OTTAWA, October 3, 2012 — Ottawa hosts the Canadian premiere of Artistic Director Stanton Welch's Marie.

Thursday October 18, Friday October 19, and Saturday October 20, 2012 at 8 p.m. Southam Hall. All performances feature the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Internationally acclaimed Houston Ballet performs a three-act narrative ballet inspired by the life of the legendary French queen, Marie Antoinette.

Bursting with spectacle, Marie is an absorbing tale of pomp and circumstance and a moving portrait of a woman whose intrigue, infamy, and loss continue to fascinate us more than two centuries after her execution. This majestic ballet, choreographed by one of the most sought-after choreographers of his generation, Stanton Welch, is a probing psychological portrait which charts the legendary queen’s progression from child bride and frustrated young wife to spoiled socialite to victim of the French Revolution.

Famously known as the 18th-century French queen whose extravagant excesses have become legend, Marie Antoinette was blamed for instigating the French Revolution. Choreographer Stanton Welch, however, sees the heroine as a victim, and his meticulously researched ballet explores Marie Antoinette’s emotional journey. Welch saw striking parallels with contemporary celebrity-obsessed culture in the ruinous court gossip and incendiary 18th-century pamphlets circulated by the Queen’s enemies.

“All of the things we know about her, they’re innuendo,” says Welch, citing Marie Antoinette as the first victim of the paparazzi of the ancien régime. "I was intrigued to learn that Marie Antoinette wasn't as superficial as she is often portrayed and found a true character arc in her transition from young princess to spoiled queen to mother to Revolutionary victim. All the intense gossip and scrutiny of the Queen's life mirrors our society: how we become fixated on some pretty girl and how through gossip and tabloids, we create a distorted image of someone."

Decadent court scenes and intimate pas de deux with Marie and her husband -- and Marie and her lover -- are set to music by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).

"We felt Shostakovich would be a wonderful composer for Marie. He was one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century for both the stage and concert hall. Stanton made the 24 selections of music and I felt the music he had chosen worked extremely well in telling the dramatic and tragic story he has in mind," says Ballet Music Director Ermanno Florio.


The ballet features set and costume design by Canadian designer Kandis Cook who stylized minimalist sets and more than 170 historically accurate costumes. Ms. Cook has designed costumes for the London Royal Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens to name a few.

With more than 30 historical characters, Marie could easily have become bogged down in dance variations -- but it has virtually none. One recognizes the Queen's indecisive and immature husband Louis XVI, her dashing Swedish lover, Count Axel von Fersen, her saucy court enemy, Comtesse Du Barry, her confidante the Princesse de Lamballe, and others by their costumes, attitudes and brief solos, but the focus remains firmly on Marie Antoinette. The heroine is onstage for the duration of the ballet, surrounded by a frothy ocean of court gossips, fussy relatives, frivolous pals, and brutal revolutionaries.


Ballet pre-show chat

Friday Oct 19, 2012

7pm, Le Salon (off NAC main foyer) (in English only)

'Ballet in the days of Marie Antoinette'

Join Kathryn Jones, former instructor of art and dance history at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, for a pre-show chat about ballet before the Revolution. The talk will speak to the evolution of ballet within the French Opera Ballet form, its stars and theatrical conventions and the role of the Paris Opera as the leading ballet company of the day in Europe.


Houston Ballet Master Class

With Steven Woodgate

Saturday October 20th, 2012


Thanks to the generous support of The Embassy of The United States of America, the Houston Ballet will be teaching a dance master class to local Ottawa and Gatineau students. The class is for pre-professional/professional ballet dancers and advanced level ballet students (aged 16 and up).

  • Saturday, October 20th, 2012 9:30-11:00am.
  • Rehearsal Hall B, National Arts Centre, 53 Elgin Street, Ottawa (enter by stage door).
  • REGISTER in advance, as space is limited, at kirsten.andersen@nac-cna or 613-947-7000 ext 588 – Kirsten Andersen, Dance Outreach Coordinator
  • BALLET TEACHERS AND DANCE STUDIOS: You are invited to select your top TWO students for the opportunity to take this class. Registrations will be accepted through your recommendation only. Adult professional dancers may register themselves.  


Inspired by the life of Marie Antoinette (1755-1793)

MUSIC: Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), arranged by Ermanno Florio
CHOREOGRAPHY: Stanton Welch, Houston Ballet Artistic Director

WORLD PREMIERE: February 26, 2009 in Houston, Texas

DURATION: 2 hours, 15 minutes, with two 20-minute intermissions

"Welch’s brilliant choice of a Shostakovich score ... resonates emotionally. Really, it’s ravishing, culled from diverse sources that blend seamlessly. Mime sweeps the story along briskly; six inventive, unabashedly classical pas de deux build steam as the story progresses, expressing Marie’s emotional journey; and the tumultuous corps dances stir up grand-scale tension .... This is powerful stuff. Marie works so well partly because major moments are offset by seemingly minor ones in which magic comes in small gestures — the quick flick of a foot, a deep arch of the back, a peck on the cheek. Marie makes great use of Houston Ballet’s acting and dancing depth."

Molly Glentzer, The Houston Chronicle, February 27, 2009


"An astounding work of theater and dance. As a choreographer, Welch seamlessly matched steps to music; as a director, he drew great acting from his dancers, skillfully integrating a centuries-old vocabulary of refined ballet gestures with contemporary mime to telegraph mood and meaning. As for the musicality of Welch's choreography, it was especially apparent ... equally impressive were the busy, stage-spanning court scenes, where a host of distinctive secondary characters emerged.”

mlorando, (New Orleans), March 28, 2009


Houston Ballet is "a strong, reinvigorated company whose male contingent is particularly impressive, a well-drilled corps and an enviable selection of soloists and principals."
Hilary Ostlere, The Financial Times (London), March 6, 2006

"One of the first things that hits you about this company is the technical strengths not just of the principals, but throughout the ranks."
Emma Manning, Dance Europe, November 2004



In July 2003, the acclaimed Australian choreographer Stanton Welch assumed the leadership of Houston Ballet. Mr. Welch has created works for such prestigious international companies as Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, BalletMet, Atlanta Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Moscow Dance Theatre, and Royal Danish Ballet. Mr. Welch was born in Melbourne to Marilyn Jones, O.B.E., and Garth Welch, A.M., two of Australia's most gifted dancers of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1986 he began his training at the late age of seventeen, quickly winning a scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School. In 1989 he was engaged as a dancer with The Australian Ballet, where he rose to the rank of leading soloist, performing such principal roles as Des Grieux in Sir Kenneth MacMillan`s Manon, Lensky in John Cranko's Onegin, Camille in Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow, and Alan Strang in Equus. He has also worked with internationally acclaimed choreographers such as Jiří Kylían, Nacho Duato, and Maurice Béjart. Mr. Welch’s choreographic career developed during his time with The Australian Ballet. In 1990 he received his first choreographic commission from the company, marking the beginning of a series of commissioned works over the next fourteen years and developing his diverse choreographic style. Mr. Welch has also staged works for Colorado Ballet; Cincinnati Ballet; Tulsa Ballet; Texas Ballet Theater; The Royal Ballet School; Singapore Dance Theatre; Royal New Zealand Ballet; and Fugate/Bahiri Ballet NY.


Since the founding of the company in 1969, Houston Ballet has evolved into a company of 55 dancers with a budget of $20.5 million, a state-of-the-art performance space built especially for the company, and an endowment of and an endowment of $53.7 million (as of August 2012). Houston Ballet has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. Over the last decade, the company has appeared in London at Sadler’s Wells, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, in six cities in Spain, in Montreal, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in New York at City Center, and in cities large and small across the United States. Houston Ballet has emerged as a leader in the expensive, labour-intensive task of nurturing the creation and development of new full-length narrative ballets. The company has also commissioned new one-act ballets from some of the world’s most respected choreographers, including Julia Adam, Christopher Bruce, James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley, Natalie Weir, and Lila York. In a move designed to propel Houston Ballet to the next phase of its development, the company opened the Center for Dance, a new 115,000 square-foot facility in downtown Houston, in April 2011. The six-storey $46.6 million building -- boasting nine dance studios, a dance lab, and artistic, administrative and support facilities for Houston Ballet and its Academy -- is the largest facility for dance in America. Houston Ballet Academy has reached over 20,500 Houston area students (as of the 2011-2012 season) and has had seven academy students win prizes at prestigious international ballet competitions.

  • Houston Ballet performs Marie in Southam Hall of the National Arts Centre on Thursday October 18, Friday October 19, and Saturday October 20, 2012 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50, $70, $85, and $95 for adults and $26.50, $36.50, $44, and $49 for students (upon presentation of a valid student ID card).
  • Tickets are available at the NAC Box Office (in person); tickets are also available (with service charges) at all Ticketmaster outlets, by telephone from Ticketmaster at 1-888-991-2787 (ARTS), and online through the Ticketmaster link on the NAC's website at
  • Subject to availability, full-time students (aged 13-29) with valid Trinity Live Rush™ membership may buy up to 2 tickets per performance at the discount price of $12 per ticket. Tickets are available online ( or at the NAC box office from 10 a.m. on the day before the performance until 6 p.m. on the day of the show. This includes all available seats, including the best seats in the house. Check out for information on the Trinity Live Rush program.
  • Groups of 10 or more save 15% to 20% off regular ticket prices. To reserve your seats, call 613 947-7000, ext. 634 or e-mail
  • For additional information and photos/video of the production, visit the NAC website at

NAC Dance would like to thank the Lord Elgin Hotel for their generous support as Hotel Partner for the Houston Ballet.

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Clara Wicke
National Arts Centre
Marketing and Communications Officer, Dance
Tel.: 613-947-7000 x 379
Cell: 613-617-4782