Houston's Society For the Performing Arts Announces Its 2015-16 Season Today

The Hot Sardines
The Hot Sardines
Photo by Harry Fellows

In a season once again serving up an eclectic mixture of dance, music and theater as well as speakers including returning favorites such as writer/performer David Sedaris and chef/author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain, Houston's Society For the Performing Arts remains dedicated to its mission to bring the arts to Everyman.

No, everyone is not going to like everything offered here but that's the point -- pick what suits and maybe stretch your world by trying one more. Who know, you might discover a previously unknown fascination for Russian accordian playing technique. And the price of a ticket is still less than what you'd pay for a trip overseas.

Here's the season:

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain Close to the Bone Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Jones Hall Speaker Series

Anthony Bourdain is an American chef, author and television personality. He is known for his books including Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000) and Medium Raw (2011), among others, as well as hosting the Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure programs "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and "The Layover." In 2013 he joined CNN to host "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" for which he travels across the globe to uncover little-known destinations and diverse cultures.

The Rat Pack is Back! Friday, September 18, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Jones Hall Just For Fun!

What happens in Vegas...all started with The Rat Pack. This spirited show recreates one of the famous "Summit at the Sands" nights when the swingin', ring-a-ding group known as "The Rat Pack" was creating hipster legends with a free-wheeling, no-holds-barred nightclub act starring Vegas' four favorite sons: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop.

Maya Beiser, Cello* All Vows Friday, October 2, 2015 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center Music Series

Israeli-born cellist Maya Beiser has captivated audiences worldwide with her virtuosity, eclectic repertoire and relentless quest to redefine her instrument's boundaries. For her Houston debut, she will perform alongside drummer Glenn Kotche of the groundbreaking American rock band Wilco, as well as bassist Jherek Bischoff. Maya's latest project All Vows explores the dichotomy between the physical, external world we inhabit and the inner landscape of our secret selves. It premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in March 2014 and features the music from her newest album Uncovered by such rock-and-roll greats as Janis Joplin, Glenn Kotche, Howlin Wolf, David T. Little, Kurt Cobain and Led Zeppelin, plus works by Michael Gordon, Michael Harrison and original film by Bill Morrison.

A featured performer on the world's most prestigious stages, Beiser has appeared as a soloist at the Sydney Opera House and New York's Lincoln Center. She was also a featured speaker and performer at the 2011 TED conference; her TEDTalk has since garnered over half a million views online.

Compañia Flamenca José Porcel Flamenco Fire Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 8 p.m. Jones Hall International Series

Direct from Madrid, Houston favorite Compañia Flamenca José Porcel returns to Houston with his company of dancers and live orchestra to present a spectacle of classic flamenco as it was danced and performed by the great masters, including Antonio Gades and José Greco. The Company will perform its newest traditional work Flamenco Fire, a breathtaking extravaganza that represents the purity and authenticity of the golden age of flamenco. The choreography, costumes and music have been faithfully reproduced preserving the style, customs and experiences of the Spanish region. Seville-born Porcel, who began dancing at 13, performed with Ballet de Valencia, Ballet Nacional de España and as a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl before starting his own company.

Voca People Friday, October 16, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center Family Series

The Voca People are friendly aliens from the planet Voca, somewhere behind the sun... where all communication is made by music and vocal expressions. The Voca People believe that life is music and music is life. They are coming back to planet Earth and they have a lot to sing about! Voca People, the show, is a thrilling and original musical adventure unlike anything you experienced before. Full of energy and bursting with comedy and fun, this international hit features more than 80 a cappella and beat box versions of all-time favorite hits including music by Madonna, Michael Jackson and even Mozart! No instruments, no sound effects--just eight incredible talents breathing life into the greatest music on earth.

Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India* The Spirit of India Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center International Series

The Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India will makes its Houston debut with "The Spirit of India," a performance that will take audience members on a lively musical journey from Rajasthan to Mumbai. With 17 professional artists onstage, Houston audiences will experience the soul of a veritable feast of Indian sounds, featuring a mix of Indian and Western instruments such as bass drums, side drums, trombone, tabla, dholak, harmonium and clarinet, many others. This musical extravaganza combines traditional and contemporary music with mesmerizing rhythms and colorful costumes for a show that characterizes the India of today. Founded by artistic director Rahis Bharti, the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India give an authentic taste of the richness and excitement of Indian music.

Ballet Hispanico, Carmen.maquia Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 8 p.m. Jones Hall Dance Series

Founded by Tina Ramirez and led by Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro, Ballet Hispanico explores, preserves and celebrates Latino cultures through dance. For its return to Houston, the company will perform its first full-length narrative work - Gustavo Ramírez Sansano's CARMEN.maquia. Riveting from start to finish, this work is a bold and electrifying reimagining of Georges Bizet's iconic opera about a passionate gypsy. The physically charged and sensual choreography fuses contemporary dance with hints of Spanish paso doble and flamenco, while a stunning set design by Luis Crespo and minimalist black-and-white costumes by fashion designer David Delfin evoke the paintings of Pablo Picasso. The Company holds a rich and diverse repertory of more than 100 works by the foremost choreographers and artists of our time. The works expand on founder Tina Ramirez's legacy of exploring the diversity of Latino culture through a fusion of classical, Latin and contemporary dance powered by theatricality and passion.

Ina Garten, "The Barefoot Contessa"* Wednesday, November 4, 2015 at 8 p.m. Jones Hall Speaker Series

Ina Garten is an American author, Emmy Award winning host of the Food Network program "Barefoot Contessa" and a former White House nuclear policy analyst. Known for designing recipes with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and time-saving tips, she has been noted by Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and Patricia Wells for her cooking and home entertaining. Ina Garten's first book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, was published in 1999 and was one of the best-selling cookbooks of the year. She has since gone on to write seven phenomenally successful cookbooks including Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Barefoot in Paris, Barefoot Contessa at Home, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics and Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That? Released in 2012, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof was an instant bestseller. Ina Garten's ninth book, Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook was released in October 2014.

Daniil Simkin's Intensio * Friday, November 6, 2015 at 8 p.m. Jones Hall Dance Series

Critics compare American Ballet Theatre's Daniil Simkin to the likes of Baryshnikov and Nureyev. In this much-anticipated dance and multimedia performance to live piano accompaniment, Simkin is joined on stage by fellow stars of ABT - Isabella Boylston, Alexandre Hammoudi, Blaine Hoven, Calvin Royal III, Hee Seo, Cassandra Trenary and James Whiteside - as well as special guest Céline Cassone of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Intensio features this ensemble of dancers performing four innovative, newly commissioned works from four of today's finest modern and contemporary ballet choreographers: Alexander Ekman, Gregory Dolbashian, Jorma Elo and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. In addition, original real-time video technology, created by Simkin's father, Dmitrij Simkin, will be integrated into the Ochoa piece. INTENSIO will make its world premiere at Jacob's Pillow on July 22, 2015.

David Sedaris Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 7 p.m. Jones Hall Speaker Series

One of America's pre-eminent humor writers, David Sedaris returns to Houston to share readings of new and unpublished works. With his sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, Sedaris slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness to observantly address the human condition today. Sedaris is the author of Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice, as well as collections of personal essays, Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames, each of which became a bestseller. Translated into 25 languages, there are a total of seven million copies of his books in print. Sedaris's pieces appear regularly in The New Yorker and have twice been included in "The Best American Essays." A collection of fables entitled Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (with illustrations by Ian Falconer), was published in September 2010 and immediately hit The New York Times Bestseller Fiction List. His most recent book, Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, was published in April 2013.

Accordion Virtuosi of Russia* Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center International Series

The accordion takes center stage when this ensemble makes its Houston debut. The Accordion Virtuosi of Russia thrills audiences around the globe with a diverse repertoire ranging from folk music to arrangements of rock songs. This unique group was founded in 1943 during the Leningrad siege by Professor Pavel Smirnov. Since its inception, the Accordion Virtuosi of Russia has been led by three generations of the Smirnov family: founder, Pavel Smirnov, and now by his sons Yuri and Vladimir and grandson, Yaroslav. The Accordion Virtuosi of Russia has performed at venues around the world including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Verona's Arena, Olympia Hall in Paris and the Great Philharmonic Hall in St. Petersburg, as well as at the Olympic Games in Munich (1972), Montreal (1976) and Moscow (1980).

THE HOT SARDINES' Holiday Stomp* Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 8 p.m. Jones Hall Just For Fun!

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the Christmas performance season will occur when New York City's Hot Sardines performs its Holiday Stomp - a "hot jazz" performance that gives voice to the history-defining jazz of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. The program will include "White Christmas," "Le Noël de la Rue," "Mele Kelikimaka," "Please Come Home for Christmas" and more. In a short time, the Hot Sardines have gone from their first gig at a coffee shop on the last Q train stop in Queens, to selling out Joe's Pub 11 times in a year, headlining at Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing, and opening for the Bad Plus, Lulu Gainsbourg and French gypsy-jazz artist Zaz. Through it all, the band has been a regular at the Shanghai Mermaid speakeasy and turned The Standard, where they play regularly, into their own "saloon in the sky" (The Wall Street Journal) - complete with a tap dancer on the bar.

Blue Man Group Friday, January 15, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, January 16, 2016 at 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sunday January 17, 2016 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. Jones Hall Family Series

Experience the phenomenon when Blue Man Group returns to Houston.Blue Man Group is best known for their wildly popular theatrical shows and concerts, which combine comedy, music and technology to produce a totally unique form of entertainment. Although the performances are impossible to describe, people of all ages agree that Blue Man Group is an intensely exciting and wildly outrageous show that leaves the entire audience in a blissful, euphoric state. With no spoken language,Blue Man Group is perfect for people of all ages, languages and cultures. This unique experience is a form of entertainment like nothing else; guaranteed to be an outing you will never forget.

BodyTraffic* Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center Dance Series

BodyTraffic is known for dynamic theatricality and refreshing abandon. Based in Los Angeles and founded by Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett in 2007, BodyTraffic has surged to the forefront of the concert dance world and was named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" in 2013 and the "company of the future" by the Joyce Theater Foundation. Known for commissioning today's most distinctive choreographers, BodyTraffic's Houston debut will include works by Barak Marshall, Hofesh Shecter and Richard Siegal.

BalletBoyz* Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center New Now Series

Direct from London, BalletBoyz is considered one of the most original and innovative forces in modern dance. Formed in 2001 by former Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, the duo leads this company of 10 dancers and its distinctive style, fusing spectacular dance with stunning music and film. This show features two new commissions from leading British choreographers, including The Murmuring choreographed by rising talent Alexander Whitley (affiliate choreographer of The Royal Ballet 2012-2014 and a New Wave Associate at Sadler's Wells Theatre), and Mesmerics choreographed by the highly acclaimed Christopher Wheeldon (Artistic Associate at The Royal Ballet). Described by The Guardian as "a paradox of muscular impact and weightless flight," the company has an evocative style. BalletBoyz sets new standards for dance as the company graces the stage with ferocity, strength and determination, as well as tremendous elegance and poise.

The Band of the Royal Marines and The Pipes and Drums of the Scots Guards Friday, February 19, 2016 at 8 p.m. Jones Hall Music Series

The sound of the pipes has long instilled a great sense of pride and passion, inspiring Scottish soldiers in the heat of battle and driving fear into the enemy as the kilted highlanders advanced towards them. Houston audiences will be awe-inspired as the Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes and Drums of the Scots Guards take over the Jones Hall stage in a grand display of pageantry and ancient military traditions highlighted by precision marches, haunting bagpipes and energetic Highland dancing.

Blaze: The International Dance Spectacular* Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. Jones Hall Family Series

Blaze delivers an unforgettable, core-shaking bolt of twisted dance vibe, guaranteed to leave your body, mind and soul rushing for weeks. Following critically acclaimed tours in Europe, Russia, Australia and Asia, Blaze finally comes to the United States with a cast of 16 of the world's best dancers ready to pop, lock and break dance their way into Houston to entertain dance and music fans. Featuring music by Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, David Guett and Snoop Dogg this family-friendly show takes the raw energy and athleticism of street dance and combines it with high-end production values. Blaze unites a creative and performance team that, together, has worked with the world's top performers including The Rolling Stones, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé.

Cameron Carpenter, Featuring the International Touring Organ Friday, March 4, 2016 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center New Now Series

Cameron Carpenter is a maverick organist who blends brilliant playing technique with the heart of a rock star. He returns to Houston for one night only, performing on his visionary new International Touring Organ - one of the most ambitious musical instrument design projects of the 21st century. This instrument is the culmination of Cameron's vision to bring his music to the world no matter where he performs. A virtuoso composer-performer unique among keyboardists, Cameron's approach to the organ is shifting the stereotypes of organists and organ music while generating a level of acclaim, exposure and controversy unprecedented for an organist. His repertoire - from the complete works of J. S. Bach and César Franck, to his hundreds of transcriptions of non-organ works, his original compositions and his collaborations with jazz and pop artists - is perhaps the largest and most diverse of any organist. He is also the first organist to be nominated for a Grammy Award for a solo album.

Vilde Frang, Violin* Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 7 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center Music Series

Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang has been in demand since her debut with the Oslo Philharmonic at age 12. Now, at 28, her list of concert and recital credits reads like that of artists many years her senior.

Noted particularly for her superb musical expression, as well as her well-developed virtuosity and musicality, Vilde Frang has established herself as one of the leading young violinists of her generation. Performance highlights include the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Oslo Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony and the Basel Kammerorchester. In 2010 she was named the classical music talent of the year and received a grant by Statoil. In 2012 she was the recipient of the Credit Suisse Young Artists Award and made her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink at the Lucerne Summer Music Festival. She plays a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin lent by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Freundeskreis Stiftung.

La Compagnie Hervé Koubi* Friday, March 18, 2016 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center New Now Series

Founded in 2001 by French choreographer Hervé Koubi, a graduate of Rosella Hightower's dance center in Cannes with a background in pharmaceutical biology, this all-male company of 12 Algerian and African dancers has been touring extensively all over France, Europe and Russia. Drawing his creative strength from his Algerian roots, Koubi's latest full-length work, What the day owes to the night, combines copeira, martial arts, urban and contemporary dance with powerful imagery and is making its way to the United States for the first time during SPA's 2015-2016 season.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 2 & 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 3 p.m. Jones Hall Dance Series

A Houston favorite returns. Experience the power of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and see for yourself why this extraordinary company is hailed as America's cultural ambassador to the world. From the pulse-racing thrill of contemporary favorites to the spirit-lifting joy of beloved classics, these magnificent dancers offer something for every taste. Closing the program will be Alvin Ailey's masterpiece, Revelations, called "one of the great works of the human spirit" (The New York Times).

Malpaso Dance Company with Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble* Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center International Series

From Havana, Cuba, Malpaso Dance Company is committed to bringing Cuban contemporary dance into the 21st Century by collaborating with top international choreographers and nurturing new voices in Cuban choreography. Founded in 2012 by Osnel Delgado, Dailedys Carrazana and Fernando Saéz, the company of 10 dancers expresses the passion and uncertainties that define Cuban life and are embodied in the country's rich dance tradition. For its Houston debut, the company will exhibit its trademark fresh, contemporary spirit in a program that will include works by Trey McIntyre and artistic director Osnel Delgado, set to music by Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer Arturo O'Farrill, who will perform LIVE with members of his Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. The son of famous Cuban composer, arranger and conductor Chico O'Farrill, Arturo founded The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) in 2002 to perform compositions of masters such as Machito, Tito Puente, Astor Piazzola, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal, his father and others.

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage* Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. Jones Hall Family Series

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage brings five decades of Star Trek to concert halls for the first time in this galaxy or any other. This lavish production includes an impressive live symphony orchestra and international solo instruments. People of all ages and backgrounds will experience the franchise's groundbreaking and wildly popular musical achievements while the most iconic Star Trek film and TV footage is simultaneously beamed in high definition to a 40-foot wide screen. The concert will feature some of the greatest music written for the franchise including music from Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager. This never-before-seen concert event is perfect for music lovers, filmgoers, science-fiction fans and anyone looking for an exciting and unique concert experience.

Charlie Albright, Piano* Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center Music Series

Hailed as being "among the most gifted musicians of his generation" by the Washington Post and praised for his "jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity meshed with a distinctive musicality" by The New York Times, pianist Charlie Albright will be making his Houston debut during SPA's 2015-2016 season. Albright was the recipient of a prestigious 2014 Avery Fisher Career Grant; the 2013 Arthur W. Foote Award; the 2010 Gilmore Young Artist Award; and was a winner at the 2009 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. As he continues to garner accolades and prizes, this captivating, multi-talented young pianist/composer is also blazing his way to fame with his nuanced and coloristic readings. A Steinway artist, Albright has collaborated five times with revered cellist Yo-Yo Ma. As if his pre-med and economics studies at Harvard and master's degree from the New England Conservatory were not impressive enough, he also received an Artist Diploma at The Juilliard School.

*Houston Debut


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