Lauren Anderson to host Florida dance gala

Lauren Anderson of Houston BalletMauricio Cañete, founder and director of MC Dance Productions, recently announced that the highly acclaimed Lauren Anderson, the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer at Houston Ballet, will host the third annual Florida Youth Dance Gala that will be held at the Duncan Theatre, located on the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College, on Saturday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m. She will also teach a master class on the stage for participating young dancers from leading dance academies throughout the state.


“To have a dancer with her award-winning reputation agree to host the next Florida Youth Dance Gala is a big, big deal in the ballet world and a tremendous learning opportunity for our talented young dancers,” said Cañete, who used to dance alongside Anderson during his years as a dancer at Houston Ballet. 


Anderson danced with Houston Ballet from 1983 to 2006, performing leading roles in all the great classical ballets, appearing across the world to critical acclaim. In 1990, she became the first African-American to be promoted to principal dancer at Houston Ballet, and one of the few black ballerinas at the head of a major ballet company anywhere in the world.


Anderson danced leading roles in most of the classics. She created the title role in Ben Stevenson’s Cleopatra, and her performance as Cleopatra received accolades from international critics. Anna Kisselgoff, dance critic for The New York Times, compared her to the great Italian actress Eleanora Duse. Christine Temin of The Boston Globe pronounced her “a powerhouse in interpreting the role that Stevenson created on her.” Anderson performed across the globe as a guest artist.


Black Ballerina Lauren AndersonIn 1990, she received The Special Jury Award in the USA International Ballet Competition and in 1996, the International Critics Award in Chile. She has been honored by The Martin Luther King Foundation, Coalition of 100 Black Women, YWCA, by the Urban League, Asian Chamber of Commerce, Delta Gamma Foundation, Texas Woman’s Chamber of Commerce, National Council of Jewish Women, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Houston City Council, Texas Legislature and the United States Congress – and the list goes on.


In 2007, she assumed her new role of Artistic Outreach Associate in Houston Ballet’s Education Department where she teaches ballet classes at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, conducts master classes at area schools, and lectures to students on dance and her historic career.


Anderson was a member of the 2014 International Dance School held in conjunction with the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS, and next year she will be a permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.


This extraordinary artist will be a perfect fit to lead the exciting Florida Youth Dance Gala, which will feature 40 extraordinarily talented dancers in a romantic, high-stepping salute to Valentine’s Day.


Florida Youth Dance GalaDedicated to “celebrating and gathering talented dancers” from all over the state, the gala will “showcase new choreography, finalists from major dance competitions and some electrifying young dancers, resulting in one of the most memorable dance events of the coming season,” said Cañete, a former dancer who has wowed audiences in England, Russia, Hong Kong, Canada, Austria, Germany, Japan, China and all over the Far East.


“My goal is to give the next generation of dancers the opportunity to perform in a professional environment. In fact, we have already confirmed participation of dance academies in Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Brandon, Fort Myers, Hallandale Beach, Jacksonville, Jupiter, Miami, Oakland Park, Orlando, Palm Beach Gardens, Port St. Lucie, Sarasota, Tampa and West Palm Beach,” Cañete added.


What is most gratifying to Cañete – not only as a dancer but as producer of the annual gala – is that so many of his participating dancers have already gone on to major dance schools around the world: Francisco Serrano from Sarasota Cuban Ballet School went to The Royal Ballet School in London; Aran Bell from The Arts of Classical Ballet went to the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in New York; Tatiana Melendez from All American Classical Ballet, Madison Russo from Ballet East and Carina Castaneda from Boca Ballet Theatre all went to Houston Ballet Academy; and from the School of Ballet Arts, Victoria Volpe went to New York’s School of American Ballet and Daniela O’Neil went to the Pre-Professional Program at Pittsburg Ballet Theatre.


Tickets for the third annual Florida Youth Dance Gala are now available for purchase online at


Photo (top): Lauren Anderson. Photo by Todd Spoth. Photo (left): Anderson in Don Quixote. Photo by Drew Donovan. Photo (right): Boca Ballet Theatre at the first Florida Youth Dance Gala performing Voyage Classique choreographed by Dan Guin. Photo by Neil Cohen Photography.