Nao Kusuzaki is making her HGO debut. Kusuzaki joined the Houston Ballet in 2004, became a soloist with the company in 2009, and has supported in their development department and as faculty at The Houston Ballet Academy. Today, she serves on the ballet faculty at The University of St. Thomas and teaches across the Greater Houston area. She has danced numerous leading roles in both classical and contemporary repertoire, from the title role in Madame Butterfly to Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. In March 2023 she presented her new ballet Genji at the Asia Society Texas Center in partnership with The Houston Ballet. In 2019 she staged Swan Lake and performed Odette/Odile with Victoria Ballet Theater. In 2011 she produced Dance for Hope, a benefit concert for Japan following the devastating earthquake that hit the country. Kuzusaki co-created TSURU with Asia Society Texas Center in 2015, and two years later directed and performed in the work for the 45th Anniversary Ballet Performance celebrating Houston and Chiba Sister City Relations. Later that year she directed and danced in TSURU again at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, where she was commended by the Consulate General of Japan. Kusuzaki is the founder of Creative Minds Collaborative Inc., a nonprofit organization seeking to create meaning across artists, educators, and the community by utilizing the medium of dance.