ANNOUNCING GUEST ARTISTS – THE NUTCRACKER!
Ballet West is thrilled to welcome guest Principal Artist Yuriko Kajiya and First Soloist Artist Harper Watters from Houston Ballet! Both dancers have wide followings and hold winning records at the world renowned Prix De Lausanne Ballet Competition. These dancers are brought to us by an exchange made for Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell for this special weekend.
You will not want to miss these artists as they join us in The Nutcracker performances this weekend Dec 17 at 7PM and Dec 18 at 7PM, as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. This is a limited opportunity – get your tickets NOW!
Check out their bios here or below.
Principal Dancer with Houston Ballet
Born in Aichi, Japan, Yuriko Kajiya began her training at the age of eight. At ten, she moved to China and became one of the first foreign students to study with and graduate from the Shanghai Ballet School on scholarship. In January 2000, she won the renowned Prix de Lausanne Scholarship, leading to her study at the National Ballet of Canada School in Toronto.
Kajiya joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in September 2001 and was promoted to the main Company as an apprentice in 2002. She performed with ABT for fifteen years, seven of those as a Soloist. In 2014, she joined Houston Ballet as a First Soloist and was quickly promoted to Principal in November 2014 following her performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker.
She has danced leading roles from many classical full-length ballets and has worked with some of the world’s greatest choreographers, coaches, teachers and dancers including Stanton Welch AM, Ben Stevenson OBE, George Balanchine, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Jerome Robbins, Mark Morris, Jorma Elo, John Cranko, Ronald Hynd, Jiří Kylián, Antony Tudor, Michel Fokine, Twyla Tharp, Sir Frederick Ashton, Kevin McKenzie, Alexei Ratmansky, James Kudelka and Martha Graham.
Kajiya has danced lead roles in many of Stanton Welch’s ballets, including Giselle in Giselle, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya, Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly, Comtesse de Noailles in Marie, Artemis in Sylvia, and Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara and Arabian in The Nutcracker. She has also danced lead roles in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty and Coppélia, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, John Cranko’s The Taming of The Shrew and Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon. Her repertoire also includes Dumbarton, Baker’s Dozen, Ballo della Regina, Birthday Offering, Brief Fling, Chamber Symphony, Dark Elegies, Désir, Diversion of Angels, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, In the Upper Room, The Leaves Are Fading, Overgrown Path, Petite Mort, Rabbit and Rogue, Seven Sonatas, Sinfonietta, Symphony in C and Theme and Variations.
Outside of performances, Kajiya has led and participated in several international benefit projects. She performed as part of the United Way’s “Hearts for Houston” in New York City to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. In 2020, she produced Hearts for Artists, an online benefit project to support the performing arts in Japan. She also joined 32 dancers from leading ballet companies around the world in the “Swans for Relief” project to raise money for their companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, she received an Art Award from Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs for her guest performance in Le Corsaire and her work with Hearts for Artists.
She has received many accolades for her performances and leadership work, including the Artistic Ambassador Award of Japan in 2012, Time Magazine’s “One of the next generation leaders” in 2015 and Pointe Magazine’s “One of the best performances for Giselle” in 2019.
First Soloist Dancer with Houston Ballet
Originally from Dover, New Hampshire, Harper Watters trained at Portsmouth School of Ballet, Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts, Washington Ballet and Houston Ballet Summer intensives. He was a member of Houston Ballet II from 2009 – 2011. In 2011, he competed at the Prix de Lausanne Ballet Competition where he won 6th overall as well as the contemporary dance award. Watters joined Houston Ballet as an apprentice in 2011. He rose through the ranks from corps de ballet in 2012 to demi soloist in 2016. Watters was promoted to soloist in 2017.
Since then, Watters has danced a variety of roles from the world’s leading dance choreographers. He has enjoyed dancing roles such as the Prince in Stanton Welch’s The Nutcracker, Performer in Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère, Gopak and Lead Flower in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, Sancho Panza and Espada in Stevenson’s Don Quixote as well as roles in Stevenson’s Giselle and Romeo and Juliet. He has danced in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Theme and Variations, Jewels and Ballet Imperial. His repertory includes Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes; Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations; Stanton Welch’s Divergence, Clear, Of Blessed Memory, Sons de L’âme, Maninyas and Play; Jerome Robbin’s The Concert; Camille in Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow; Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan; Hans Van Manen’s Grosse Fuge; William Forsythe’s Artifact Suite and Jiří Kylián’s Stepping Stones, Sinfonietta and Petite Mort. He danced in the world premiere of Edwaard Liang’s Murmuration and created roles in Aszure Barton’s Angular Momentum and Come In; Garret Smith’s Return; Justin Peck’s Reflections and Apollo in Stanton Welch’s Sylvia, The Rite of Spring and Trumpet in The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra.
Watters has performed in several tours including Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake in Dubai, UAE and Minneapolis, MN (2018); Welch’s Tapestry and Velocity in Bonn and Ludwigshafen, Germany (2017) and Welch’s world premiere of Just, Clear, Sons de L’âme and Trey McIntyre’s In Dreams at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, MA (2018). As part of the Company’s 50th tour in October of 2019, he traveled to New York City’s City Center to reprise his original role in Justin Peck’s Reflections.