18 Cultural Events from 2018 – Ballet Arkansas’ 40th anniversary THE NUTCRACKER

Ballet Arkansas’ 40th Anniversary Nutcracker Spectacular took the stage at the Robinson Performance Hall December 6–9, 2018 for four main stage performances and two student matinee performances. The largest holiday production in Central Arkansas, Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker has been a tradition in Little Rock for decades.

A two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is a timeless story about a young girl’s journey into a magical land, The Land of the Sweets, on one winter’s eve.

Joining Ballet Arkansas’ fourteen professional dancers onstage was a community cast made up of over 200 children and adults, including local dancers, previous Ballet Arkansas dancers, Ballet Arkansas board members.

The production is enhanced with live music provided by the talented musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Robson, and the ethereal voices of the Mount St. Mary Academy Concert Belles and the Episcopal Collegiate Choirs,

“The Nutcracker is a beloved Holiday classic that families look forward to each year as a part of their traditions, and this year’s production features fully updated choreography, a handful of holiday surprises, and much more!” says Associate Artistic Director, Catherine Fothergill.

In 2017, Michael Fothergill, Executive and Artistic Director of the organization took steps to re-vitalize the choreography in the 2nd Act. This year, Ballet Arkansas have renovated the 1st Act, while maintaining some of the time honored and fan favorite traditions. This updated show celebrates the past, breathing new life into the organization’s most beloved holiday tradition.

For the 2nd year in a row, Ballet Arkansas live streamed the matinee performances to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

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18 Cultural Events from 2018 – First Arts Advocacy Day at the Arkansas State Capitol

On Wednesday, November 7 at the Arkansas State Capitol, Arkansans for the Arts and the new Arkansas General Assembly Legislative Arts Caucus participated in the first Arkansas Arts Advocacy Day.

That morning there were sessions on the Creative Economy 101 (Dr. Lenore Shoults of the Arts & Science Center for SE Arkansas), Arts Education Advocacy (Steve Holder, Vice President of Arkansans for the Arts), and Arts Funding Opportunities 101 (Dr. Gayle Seymour of the University of Central Arkansas).  It was followed by a Creative Economy Networking Business Exchange.

Mid-day, the Legislative Arts Caucus was introduced.  The inaugural members of the caucus come from each of the Arkansas Arts Council’s eight districts. The members are: Senators Ron Caldwell, Eddie Cheatham, Breanne Davis, Joyce Elliott, Scott Flippo, Missy Thomas Irvin, Matt Pitsch, and Larry Teague. The House members are Representatives Sarah Capp, Carol Dalby, Janna Della Rosa, Deborah Ferguson, Vivian Flowers, Michael John Gray, Monte Hodges, Reginald Murdock, and Les Warren.

In addition to the sessions, there was an Arts Talent Showcase on the front steps as well as in the rotunda.  Performers came from Alma, Ashdown, Conway, Dover, Earle, Hamburg, Hot Springs, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Morrilton, Russellville, Searcy, Van Buren, and Walnut Ridge,

18 Cultural Events from 2018 – 2nd FUSION: Arts+Humanities at Clinton Center

3.  In February , the Clinton Presidential Center presented the second annual Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas, a program that promotes heritage and culture and celebrates human achievement by weaving the arts and humanities together to provide a unique and engaging experience. The theme of Fusion 2018 was Exploring the Louisiana Purchase and its Impact on Arkansas.

There was a public symposium of Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas which featured interactive conversations with historians and subject matter experts; a Cajun-Creole musical performance by Grammy-nominated fiddler, David Greely; and members of the Early Arkansaw Reenactors Association who participated in-character.

An accompanying exhibit, The Great Expedition: Exploring the Louisiana Purchase and its Impact on Arkansas, included original documents from the Louisiana Purchase, and was on display at the Clinton Center from February 2 to March 4, 2018.

The Great Exhibition: Exploring the Louisiana Purchase and its Impact on Arkansas included the following objects which are on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration, unless otherwise noted.

  • The American original of the treaty between the United States of America and the French Republic ceding the province of Louisiana to the United States, signed for the U.S. by Robert Livingston and James Monroe, and for the French by Finance Minister François de Barbé-Marbois
  • The exchange copy of the convention for payment of sums due to U.S. citizens signed by future French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
  • The American original of the convention for payment of 60 million francs signed for the U.S. by Robert Livingston and James Monroe, and for the French by Finance Minister François de Barbé-Marbois
  • William Dunbar’s journal, eyeglasses, compass, and other objects from the Dunbar-Hunter expedition of Louisiana and Arkansas (on loan from Ouachita Baptist University)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte death mask (On loan from the Tennessee Historical Society Collection at the Tennessee State Museum)
  • A portrait of Napoleon by John C. Grimes (On loan from the Tennessee Historical Society Collection at the Tennessee State Museum)
  • The “Aux Arc” keelboat, which is a forty-foot-long replica of the boat used during the Dunbar-Hunter expedition, will be displayed in the Clinton Center’s fountain (On loan from the Early Arkansaw Reenactors Association)

Additional objects on display in the exhibit were on loan from the Arkansas State Archives, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, and Historic Arkansas Museum.

FUSION is spearheaded by Kaki Hockersmith and Stephanie S. Streett.

Little Rock Look Back: 1968 THE NUTCRACKER is largest production to date at Robinson

In December 1968, the final stretch of Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Memphis was completed. (Little did anyone know that milestone merely meant work would change from construction to non-stop reconstruction.)  Talks were underway about merging private Little Rock University with the University of Arkansas system.  On the TV on December 19, “The Little Drummer Boy” TV special was being shown for the first time.  Also, Arkansan Glen Campbell was one of the guest stars on Bob Hope’s Christmas TV special.

For those who did not sit at home watching TV, at Robinson Auditorium on December 19 and 20, 1968, the nascent Little Rock Civic Ballet (a forerunner to today’s Ballet Arkansas) presented its first production of THE NUTCRACKER. (There appears to be some debate as to whether this was the first complete production of this ballet in Little Rock.)

Under the direction and choreography of D. Cater Cranford, this production featured 135 performers, a fifty piece orchestra under the direction of Vasilios Priakos, and the largest number of stagehands in Robinson Auditorium’s history.  The production cost $25,000 to mount.  That would be the equivalent of just over $181,000 in 2018.

A large portion of the money went to renting sets from Dallas for the production.  The costumes were designed and sewn by Cranford.  He also appeared as Drosselmeyer in the production.  His wife Lorraine, assisted with the choreography and also appeared on stage.

Though most of the dancers were local, the leading roles were danced by Bill Martin-Viscont, Nathalie Krassovak, Linda DiBona, Margo Dean and Carl Tressler.  Some of the dancers who had rehearsed for the production were unable to participate due to several cast members coming down with flu in the days immediately prior to the production.

The production sold out both public performances as well as the daytime matinee for school children.  The dress rehearsal on December 18 was opened up for children with disabilities to attend.

Though The Nutcracker has not been presented in Little Rock every year since 1968, the overwhelming response to this production set the stage for it to become a much-loved holiday tradition in the city.

 

Little Rock Look Back: First Ballet Arkansas production of THE NUTCRACKER

Burton and Tuzer

One of the sure signs of the Christmas season is the return of The Nutcracker to ballet companies across America.  Though the Little Rock Civic Ballet had first presented this ballet in 1968, by the mid-1970s, it was no longer performing the complete ballet.

In 1978, the Little Rock Civic Ballet was reorganized and re-christened Ballet Arkansas.  That first year, it did not perform The Nutcracker.  But on December 11, 1979, the tradition returned as Ballet Arkansas presented its first production of The Nutcracker.  It was once again at Robinson Center Music Hall.

The production was directed and choreographed by Lorraine Cranford, Ballet Arkansas’ Artistic Director.  The music was provided by musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of guest conductor David Schimmell.  This was the first time in several years that the ballet had been accompanied by the ASO.

The guest artists were Anne Burton and Tanju Tuzer, both from Dallas.  The local dancers including David Twillie, Mirana, Peggy Howard, Carol Campbell, Jeffrey Stuart, Haven Cooper, Buddy Harris, Chris Clarke and Jeff Johns.

Tickets were $3.00 for the matinee. Evening performances ranged from $5 to $10 a person.

Little Rock Look Back: LR voters overwhelming support bid to Restore Robinson in 2013

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, voters of Little Rock overwhelmingly chose to renovate the historic Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

By a vote of 5,183 For and 1,800 Against, Little Rock citizens approved a plan to use a portion of the city’s existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for a renovation of Robinson Center.  The campaign was chaired by businessman Charles Stewart, restaurateur Capi Peck and former LR Mayor Jim Dailey.

Robinson has long been a landmark in central Arkansas. Construction of the Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium began in 1938 (after a December 1937 groundbreaking under a deadline) and officially opened February 1940. The structure was a PWA (Public Works Administration) project, and is an excellent example of the Art Deco style architecture of the time. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The facility is owned by the City of Little Rock and managed by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 1940 structure suffered from a wide array of deficiencies, including stage loading and unloading, stage size, acoustical insufficiency, dressing room access and inadequate wing space within the performance hall. Also, structural, mechanical and electrical issues, public circulation and outdated conference center spaces existed within the facility.

Knowing the center is in need of major upgrades if the facility is to continue to serve central Arkansas into the future, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission (LRA&P) empanelled a Robinson Center Concept Team in October 2011. The group was tasked with evaluating all aspects of the existing facility, researching user needs, proposing conceptual solutions and estimating the cost and construction schedule of the proposed additions and renovations. The concept team was led by Mike Steelman of SCM Architects, PLLC, and included representatives from WD&D Architects, Shuler Shook Theatre Planners, Jaffe-Holden Acoustical Consultants, TME Inc. Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, ECI Inc. Structural Engineers, McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. Civil Engineers, East Harding Construction, HVS Consulting and Hunt Construction Group.

Additionally, stakeholder and tenant organizations representing the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Celebrity Attractions of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Double Tree Hotel participated in the planning. The concept team findings were presented publicly on June 5, 2012.

On January 17, 2013 the LRA&P announced the selection of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, partnered with Ennead Architects, as the architectural and design team for the future renovations. On March 28, 2013 CDI Contractors LLC, partnered with Hunt Construction Group, were selected by LRA&P as the general contractors and construction managers.

On September 23, 2013 the final schematic renderings and cost estimates were presented publicly. The schematic plans depict major interior upgrades within the performance hall including additional volume to create a two-balcony setup, increased lobby space, acoustical improvements, theatrical upgrades, loading dock expansion, a larger stage area, and new dressing room facilities. Additionally, an enhanced modern ballroom and small conference center was unveiled. New technology, mechanical systems, and outdoor plaza spaces were included in the presentation.

Construction would begin on July 1, 2014.  It reopened on schedule and on budget on November 10, 2016.

40th Anniversary production of Ballet Arkansas’ THE NUTCRACKER this weekend!

Ballet Arkansas’ 40th Anniversary Nutcracker Spectacular takes the stage at the Robinson Performance Hall this December 6th – 9th , 2018 for four main stage performances and two student matinee performances. The largest holiday production in Central Arkansas, Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker has been a tradition in Little Rock for decades.

A two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is a timeless story about a young girl’s journey into a magical land, The Land of the Sweets, on one winter’s eve.

Joining Ballet Arkansas’ fourteen professional dancers onstage is a community cast made up of over 200 children and adults, including local dancers, previous Ballet Arkansas dancers, Ballet Arkansas board members, and local celebrities.

The production is enhanced with live music provided by the talented musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Robson, and the ethereal voices of the Mount St. Mary Academy Concert Belles or the Episcopal Collegiate Choirs,

“The Nutcracker is a beloved Holiday classic that families look forward to each year as a part of their traditions, and this year’s production features fully updated choreography, a handful of holiday surprises, and much more!” says Associate Artistic Director, Catherine Fothergill.

In 2017, Michael Fothergill, Executive and Artistic Director of the organization took steps to re-vitalize the choreography in the 2nd Act. This year, Ballet Arkansas have renovated the 1st Act, while maintaining some of the time honored and fan favorite traditions. This updated show celebrates the past, breathing new life into the organization’s most beloved holiday tradition.

For the 2nd year in a row, Ballet Arkansas will be live streaming the matinee performances at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Performances Friday, December 7, 7:00 pm, Saturday, December 8, 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and Sunday, December 9, 2:00pm.

This year’s performance includes an opportunity to purchase ‘sweet seats’ for $99 which includes the best seats in house and a special gift with purchase. Tickets range from $20-99 and are available by calling Celebrity Attractions Box Office at (501)-244- 8800 or by visiting Ticketmaster at https://www1.ticketmaster.com/event/1B0054BEE444598E.