two ballet dancers on stage

Sara Webb and Nicholas Leschke in Kenneth MacMillan's Manon Photo: Jim Caldwell

HOUSTON, TX – Houston Ballet’s Principal Dancers Connor Walsh and Sara Webb have been invited to travel to Japan to perform the leading roles in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon with The National Ballet of Japan. Houston’s dancers will be featured in two performances, which will be held June 24th and 26th at New National Theatre, Tokyo. Manon is a three-act ballet characterized by dramatic expression and a meticulously crafted structure, and one which also highlights the magnetism of the individual dancers. For tickets and information please visit the website.


Ms. Webb has performed the title role in Manon in Houston to acclaim on several occasions. Manon first entered Houston Ballet’s repertory in 1994, and its choreographer, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, served as Houston Ballet’s artistic associate from 1989 until his death in 1992.


The National Ballet of Japan Artistic Director David Bintley invited Connor Walsh and Sara Webb to dance in the lead roles of Des Grieux and Manon amongst The National Ballet of Japan company. At the heart of the narrative lies the pure love between Manon and Des Grieux. This ballet features several duets which incorporate many of the breathtaking lifts that are a characteristic of MacMillian’s work. These elements, set against the lovely melodies of Jules Massenet, combine to exert a powerful emotional impact on the viewer. After a nine-year absence, anticipation is building for this revival of Manon.


Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, Connor Walsh trained at some of the best schools in the nation including The Kirov Academy of Ballet, The Harid Conservatory, and Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy. During his time at Houston Ballet he has received awards such as the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Scholarship and the Ben Stevenson Scholarship award. In 2004, he won the first annual gold award from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA), and was given the award of encouragement at the Shanghai International Ballet Competition. Mr. Walsh was promoted to soloist in March 2006 and then to principal dancer in September 2007.


Over the last five years, he has been in demand as a guest star, making appearances in Argentina, Australia, and The Philippines, as well as appearing in galas in New York City, Mexico and Malaysia. Mr. Walsh commented on his excitement about performing with the company. “It is nice to work with other companies and see the different dancers. You learn so much from their approaches and styles. It’s a fresh and new adventure.”

Sara Webb joined Houston Ballet in 1997 and promoted to principal in 2003. She received her early training at the Academy of Nevada Dance Theatre and at The Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, from which she graduated in 1996. She was a finalist at the 2002 International Ballet Competition, performing Ben Stevenson’s Twilight. In the summer of 2004, Ms. Webb guested with The Australian Ballet performing La Fille mal gardée. In the fall of 2008, Ms. Webb gave guest performances at Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah, performing the role of Miranda in Michael Smuin’s The Tempest and Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes in their annual gala. She also performed in the Stars of the 21st Century Gala in Panama City in February 2012 with Mr. Walsh.

This will be Mrs. Webb’s first time in Japan, which will make this trip an important and memorable experience. “I have never been to Japan, so I am looking forward to seeing the country and experiencing the culture. I expect to be inspired with a different energy by a new company and group of dancers. A dancer learns and grows with each guesting experience.  It is good to see what is out there in the dance world,” comments Ms. Webb.


Houston Ballet, under the leadership of Artistic Director Stanton Welch, remains “…one of the nation’s best ballet companies” according to The New York Times. Houston Ballet dancers perform as guest artists with other ballet companies across the world, making appearances in Australia, Chile, the United Kingdom, Europe, and Japan.


After more than a quarter century of planning, the New National Theatre Tokyo had its grand opening in 1997, as Japan’s new center of the performing arts. The National Ballet of Japan was established in the opening year of the theatre on October 24, 1997. There was a fateful encounter for the company when it first worked with David Bintley in performing his Carmina Burana. Through this opportunity, the company and the choreographer built a firm relationship. Then two years later, David Bintley came back to Tokyo to create a huge, new full-length ballet, Aladdin for the company. He was welcomed to the company and appointed Artistic Consultant in 2008. David Bintley took over as Artistic Director starting with the 2010-2011 season, and the company set off in a new direction to explore further challenges.

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