Could the supremely talented, seven-year-old dance protege Lauren Anderson possibly know she’d someday become a worldwide success story and dance icon when she started classes at Houston Ballet 50 years ago?
No telling, but the first Black principal dancer in Houston Ballet history — and one of the few Black ballerinas to head a major ballet company anywhere in the world – has just been honored with a new scholarship fund in her name.
Houston Ballet announced the establishment of the Lauren Anderson Young Dancer Scholarship Fund, which aims to support (in perpetuity) up to four underrepresented artists who aspire to be professional ballet dancers and show great promise in their physical and artistic abilities, per a release. This scholarship will cover the full annual tuition costs and is meant to develop the next generation of elite ballet dancers, the company notes.
Notably, the endowed scholarship — the ballet’s ninth — is the first to be named for a dancer.
“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,” Anderson said in a statement.
“I never dreamt that I would reach the rank of principal and wouldn’t have made it that far without that initial scholarship assistance. To now have a scholarship named after me means everything. Houston Ballet is the foundation of my life. I wouldn’t be me without this place. 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.”
And what dreams came true for native Houstonian Anderson, who burst onto the national stage in 1990 when she was appointed principal Houston Ballet dancer. She would go on to dance leading roles in all of the classical ballets and perform across the globe, an inspiration to generations of dance hopefuls.
Her pioneering prominence prompted the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to create a permanent exhibit of her in 2016.
Currently, Anderson teaches at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, conducts master classes at area schools, lectures to students on dance and her historic career, and appears as a celebrated and charismatic media personality.
“Lauren’s legacy in the world of classical ballet is unparalleled,” said Houston Ballet Academy director Jennifer Sommer in a statement. “She didn’t just get to the top, she burst through the ceiling. She made it possible for the generation that followed her to believe that level of success was possible. Not just to dance, but to achieve greatness as an artist.”
Those interested in donating to Anderson’s new scholarship fund, which is matched dollar-for-dollar by Deborah and Edward Koehler can do so here.