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Ben Stevenson, a native of Portsmouth, England, received his dance training at the Arts Educational School in London. Upon his graduation, Mr. Stevenson was awarded the prestigious Adeline Genee Gold Medal, the highest award give to a dancer by the Royal Academy of Dancing. At the age of eighteen, Mr. Stevenson performed with Alicia Markova in Where the Rainbow Ends, and soon after was invited to join the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet by Dame Ninette de Valois, where he worked with Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, and John Cranko. A few years later, Sir Anton Dolin invited him to dance with the London Festival Ballet, where, as a principal dancer, he performed leading roles in all the classics.
Mr. Stevenson also veered to London’s West End where he performed the juvenile lead in The Music Man, and appeared in the original casts of Half a Sixpence and The Boys From Syracuse. For British television’s “Sunday Night at the Palladium,” he danced in musical numbers 52 weeks a year with such stars as Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, and Cleo Laine.
In 1967, the London Festival Ballet asked him to stage his first, and highly successful, production of The Sleeping Beauty which starred Margot Fonteyn. In 1968, Rebekah Harkness invited him to New York to direct the newly-formed Harkness Youth Dancers. After choreographing Cinderella in 1970 for the National Ballet in Washington, D.C., he joined the company in 1971 as co-director with Frederick Franklin. That same year, he staged a new production of The Sleeping Beauty in observance of the inaugural season of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In 1976, Mr. Stevenson was appointed Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet, and since that time, he has built the Houston Ballet into one of America’s leading ballet companies. During his tenure, he has developed the company’s repertory by acquiring the works of the world’s most respected choreographers, commissioning new works, staging the classics and choreographing original works. At the Mr. Stevenson’s invitation, Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Christopher Bruce joined the Houston Ballet in 1989 as Artistic Associate and Resident Choreographer respectively, thereby establishing a permanent core of choreographers whose works contribute to the diversity of the Houston Ballet’s repertory.
Mr. Stevenson has received numerous awards for his choreography, including three gold medals at the International Ballet Competitions of 1972, 1982, and 1986. In addition, he has staged his ballets for the English National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala in Milan, the Munich State Opera Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, London City Ballet, Ballet de Santiago, and for many companies in the United States.
In 1978, Mr. Stevenson travelled to China on behalf of the United States government as part of a cultural exchange program. At the invitation of the Chinese government, he has returned almost every year since to teach at the Beijing Dance Academy. To expose the Chinese students to Western dance forms, Mr. Stevenson has brought with him teachers of jazz and modern dance, including Gwen Verdon. In 1985, he was instrumental in the creation of the Choreographic Department at the Beijing Dance Academy. He is the only foreigner to have been made an Honorary Faculty Member of the Beijing Dance Academy and the Shenyang Conservatory of Music. Mr. Stevenson has also taught for American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, and the English National Ballet. In addition, Mr. Stevenson oversees the development of the Houston Ballet Academy as its director.
Mr. Stevenson’s friends and colleagues know him as a world-class wit and raconteur, a lavish and generous host who delights in cooking and entertaining. He is married to Joan Tostavine, a former classmate, who teaches at her own ballet school in England.
During the 1995-96 season, Ben Stevenson celebrated twenty years as the head of the Houston Ballet. Over the past decades, Mr. Stevenson has nurtured Houston Ballet from a small provincial ensemble to one of the nation’s largest dance companies that has performed to critical acclaim throughout the world. In July, 1995, Mr. Stevenson led the Houston Ballet on a two-week tour of the People’s Republic of China with performances in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. The Houston Ballet is the first full American ballet company to be invited by the Chinese government to tour the People’s Republic. The company’s invitation to perform in China is a direct result of the Mr. Stevenson’s international reputation as a choreographer and teacher. Over 500 million Chinese witnessed Mr. Stevenson’s production of Romeo and Juliet when the Houston Ballet’s opening night performance in Beijing was telecast live on Chinese television.