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Ben Stevenson exits spotlight as Texas Ballet Theater artistic director after 2 decades

Ben Stevenson exits spotlight as TBT artistic director after 2 decades

Karen Kain and Ben Stevenson
Ben Stevenson (with Karen Kain) at a TBT Opening Night Dinner in 2019. Photo by Andy Keye

Fort Worth-based Texas Ballet Theater is lifting the curtain on a significant change of artistic leadership: Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., the company's artistic director of nearly two decades, will transition to a new role as artistic director laureate starting July 1. TBT associate artistic director Tim O’Keefe will serve as acting artistic director while the board of governors searches for a permanent hire.

TBT announced the moves in a June 7 news release.

Stevenson joined the company July 2003 and has been the longest-serving artistic director in its history; the new title is meant to honor of his accomplishments during his lengthy tenure, they say.

In addition, TBT's 2022-2023 season will celebrate his work, they say, beginning with his new, family-friendly production Cirque du Ballet, and ending with his renowned production of Alice in Wonderland. The nonprofit dance company's new season also will include a world premiere, mixed repertoire performances, and of course, Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker — spread out, per tradition, across Fort Worth and Dallas.

As artistic director laureate — a lifetime appointment — he will continue to be in the studio, working with the dancers as he sets his ballets the company performs next season, a spokeswoman explains. Texas Ballet Theater will continue to program his works and will always consider him part of the TBT family, she says.

“Ben Stevenson is one of the great storytellers of ballet who has brought magic to the stages of Dallas and Fort Worth," says Anne Bass, TBT board of governors chairman, in a statement. "It is impossible to overstate his importance in elevating our company to the internationally acclaimed ensemble that it is today.” 

Stevenson, who hails from Portsmouth, England, began his training at the Arts Education School in London. The release notes that he appeared with the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet and English National Ballet where, as a principal dancer, he performed leading roles in all the classics.

He has received numerous awards for his choreography throughout his long career, including three gold medals at the International Ballet Competitions of 1972, 1982, and 1986. Queen Elizabeth II named Stevenson an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in December 1999.

Today, his choreography is performed by ballet companies around the globe.

Incoming acting artistic director O'Keefe has been with TBT since 2002. The release notes that he began his professional ballet career at Houston Ballet in 1982. In 1997, he originated the titular role in Stevenson’s Dracula. At TBE, he has choreographed such acclaimed works such as Love Thing, Ragtime Dance, and Violin Concerto in D

“We are extraordinarily fortunate to have someone with the talent and experience of Tim O’Keefe to serve as Acting Artistic Director," Bass says. "Tim has been a key part of this company for nearly two decades, and we are looking forward to his leadership.”