Every once in a while, audiences witness a performance that goes beyond being excellent, but that actually moves the art form forward. Such was the case for this year's Marie, presented by the Houston Ballet. Based on the life of French queen Marie Antoinette, Marie is not the stuff that fairy tales are made of: A young queen embroiled in court politics has a fractious relationship with her husband — and her countrymen — and is eventually beheaded during a bloody revolution. Finding the tender side of the woman who supposedly said, "Let them eat cake" wasn't easy. But in the hands of Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch, Marie is a beautifully danced, moving story showing Marie as a vulnerable young woman thrown into high-stake politics, ill-prepared for the cruelty and loneliness that awaited her but who nonetheless faces her fate with dignity. The world-premiere performance enthralled the crowd, earning a lengthy standing ovation for prima ballerina Melody Herrera and company. The production was even more notable considering that very few American ballet companies are mounting new narrative ballets with original scenarios.