Groundbreaking ballerina Lauren Anderson inspires a new scholarship fund at Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet Principal Lauren Anderson as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker / Photo by Jim Caldwell (2005), courtesy of Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet has announced the company’s first endowed scholarship to be named for a dancer.

Established in honor of the company’s first African American Principal Dancer, the new Lauren Anderson Young Dancer Scholarship Fund will provide yearly scholarships “for up to four underrepresented artists who aspire to be professional ballet dancers and show great promise in their physical and artistic abilities,” according to a press release.

The scholarships will cover full annual tuition costs at Houston Ballet Academy and aim to help develop the next generation of elite ballet dancers.

The company says that incoming and current students in the Academy’s Professional Program may be considered for the award, and the first scholarship will be presented at the Academy Spring Showcase in late April 2022.

Former Houston Ballet Principals Lauren Anderson as Kitri and Carlos Acosta as Bastilio in Ben Stevenson’s Don Quixote / Photo by Geoff Winningham (1995), courtesy of Houston Ballet.

Native Houstonian Lauren Anderson danced with Houston Ballet from 1983 to 2006, during which she became the first African American promoted to Principal Dancer at the company in 1990. She remains one of the few African American ballerinas to hold the highest rank at a major U.S. ballet company.

Anderson’s critically acclaimed 23-year career with Houston Ballet spanned performances of leading roles in all the great classical ballets, as well as roles created for her including Ben Stevenson’s Cleopatra – though her deep relationship with the company goes back to when she began training there at age 7.

“Fifty years ago, I started at the Houston Ballet Academy on scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to begin my journey towards becoming a professional dancer,” said Anderson in a statement.

“To now have a scholarship named after me means everything,” she continued. “Houston Ballet is the foundation of my life … It’s where my dreams came true, and I am so proud that this scholarship will give the next generation of aspiring young dancers from underrepresented communities an opportunity to reach further than they ever thought they could go.”

Houston Ballet Education and Community Engagement Associate Director Lauren Anderson guest teaching students during the Academy Summer Intensive Program / Photo by Chenay Newton (2019), courtesy of Houston Ballet

The Lauren Anderson Young Dancer Scholarship becomes the Academy’s 9th endowed scholarship. Information about donating to the fund can be found here.

“It is our mission that our student body reflects the city of Houston, the most diverse city in the country. This will allow us to reward deserving students based on their merit to receive the highest level of training,” said Jennifer Sommers, Houston Ballet Academy director, in a statement.

Lauren Anderson continues to serve the Houston community through master classes and lectures in her role as the Academy’s Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement, and she continues to inspire the ballet world and beyond.

A Lauren Anderson Scholarship was also established at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago in May 2021.

Anderson’s life story has been adapted into a World Premiere stage work, Plumshuga: The Rise of Lauren Anderson, by Deborah DEEP Mouton, with music by Jasmine Barnes, choreography by Stanton Welch and Harrison Guy, and featuring Houston Ballet dancers. Plumshuga will debut in October 2022 at Stages.

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