The debut of DEBUT presented tonight by Ballet Arkansas featuring 5 new works

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Debut highlights the choreographic abilities of the professional dancers of Ballet Arkansas. Company dancers who possess an exceptional talent for choreography will create an innovative contemporary world-premiere work.

The dancers who are choreographing the pieces for the fellow company members are Matt Larson, Hannah Bradshaw, Paul Tillman, Meredith Loy, and Deanna Stanton.

Attendees are invited to compare and contrast the works, and observe the creative process of each choreographer through a series of performances and special events.

2 nights only!
Friday, November 8th and Saturday, November 9th at 8:00 pm
Argenta Community Theater

Advanced Tickets ($25) on sale now!
$2.00 online ticket processing fee

Ballet Arkansas hosts another Open Studio on November 1 from 9am to 3pm

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Ballet Arkansas’ 520 Main Street Studio will be open to the public (FREE) on Friday, November 1st from 9am-3pm.

Come watch their professional dancers warm up for the day and rehearse for our upcoming production, DEBUT on November 8-9th.

Catch each of their five choreographers (Hannah Bradshaw, Paul Tillman, Matt Larson, Deanna Stanton, Meredith Loy) in the studio rehearsing their brand new contemporary creations.

Drop by on your lunch break or take the day off and spend it with Ballet Arkansas. It’s the perfect way to meet the dancers and staff, see us in action behind the scenes. We hope to see you there!

Artober – Spotted. In two senses of the word, Ballet Arkansas dancers during ACANSA 2019

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October is Arts and Humanities Month nationally and in Little Rock. Americans for the Arts has identified a different arts topic to be posted for each day in the month.  Today’s feature is “Spotted.”

Americans for the Arts does not define if that is the adjective or the past-tense verb.  But these photos of Ballet Arkansas dancers at the kick off of ACANSA 2019 fulfills both.

They were spotted (seen) performing in two alleys of the CALS Library Square campus.  And the dancers’ bodies became spotted as they used them to apply paint to four large canvases.

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Six main stage performances highlight 41st season of Ballet Arkansas

Following a successful 40th Anniversary season, Ballet Arkansas is excited to reveal plans for the upcoming 2019/2020 season. With six main stage performances and a variety of special and collaborative events, 2019/20 is designed to appeal to a broader audience base and to foster more community involvement in Ballet Arkansas productions.

Main Stage Performances
Sleepy Hollow, October 17-20, 2019, UA-PTC CHARTS Theater – The kickoff to this upcoming season will be a mixed multimedia world-premiere, full-length production of Sleepy Hollow. Designed in collaboration with the creative team with Cranford Co., the production will start the season with a spooky tone, similar to the tone set by last season’s wildly popular production of Dracula.

Debut, November 2019, Argenta Community Theater – Debut is a bold mixed repertory program that highlights the choreographic skills of the professional dancers of Ballet Arkansas, placing their works alongside the work of celebrated neoclassical and contemporary choreographers. Stretching the boundaries of contemporary dance, Debut explores new territories of movement and will leave audiences wanting more.

Nutcracker Spectacular, December 13-15, 2019, Robinson Performance Hall – The holiday tradition for many families in Arkansas, the Nutcracker Spectacular is the largest holiday production in Central Arkansas. Featuring the professional dancers of Ballet Arkansas, performing alongside a community cast of over 200 local children and adults, the production engages the community in the celebration of a holiday classic. Performances will include live accompaniment from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and at least 2 local choral ensembles. Ballet Arkansas’ discounted student matinee performances, serving over 2,200 children each year, will be held on December 12-13, 2019.

Cinderella, February 20-23, 2020, UA-PTC CHARTS Theater – Audiences will have a ball at one of 4 performances of Ballet Arkansas’ world-premiere Cinderella.  Perfect for families, this iconic ballet has a comedic twist, and is paired with drama and virtuoso dancing. This production will feature a community cast of 40 dancers – the first Ballet Arkansas production outside of The Nutcracker to do so in many years. Cinderella is a “must-see” this season!

Snow White, April 25-26, 2020 Matinee Performances, UA-PTC CHARTS Theater – Another popular tale, Ballet Arkansas’ telling of Snow White is a fresh take on a beloved classic and will feature a community cast of 20 local dancers. Performed at the intimate UA – Pulaski Tech CHARTS Theater, Snow White will be the final performance of the season.

Masterworks, April 24-26, 2020 Evening Performances, UA-PTC CHARTS Theater – Composed of high profile repertory from acclaimed international choreographers, and live accompaniment by a world renowned musician, Masterworks is the perfect climax to the 2019/20 season. Presented by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Masterworks brings the best repertory that dance has to offer to Central Arkansas.

Michael Fothergill is the Executive and Artistic Director, Catherine Garratt Fothergill is the Associate Artistic Director and Erin Anson is the General Manager.  Dancers for the 2019-2020 season include Hannah Bradshaw, Lauren Hill, Kaley Kirkman, Matthew Larson, Toby Lewellen, Meredith Loy, Amanda Sewell, Deanna Stanton, Megan Tillman, Paul Tillman, Isabelle Urben, and Zeek Wright.  New for the 2019-2020 season are Leah Morris, Adrian Vendt, and Lauren Yordanich.

Under the Lights raises the barre for Ballet Arkansas

UndertheLights_ProgramCover_27july2015a-183x300Ballet Arkansas’ 2015-16 season concludes with the concert Under the Lights, currently on stage at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre through Sunday, May 22. In what has become a hallmark of Artistic Director Michael Bearden’s leadership, it offers an eclectic mix of styles of dance and music which not only highlight the strengths of the dancers, but also allow the dancers to push themselves in new directions.

The concert takes its name from Chris Stuart’s Under the Lights, which is set to the music of Johnny Cash. Created for Nashville Ballet, this piece receives its Arkansas premiere just one hour north of Cash’s birthplace in Kingsland. Being the scion of a longtime Cleveland County family, I grew up listening to Cash’s music. I approached this piece with a great deal of excitement, but also wondering exactly how ballet would meld with Cash. The answer is, they fuse very well.

Ballet is, at its heart, about expression. So are Cash’s songs. At Ballet Arkansas’ performances, the songs are performed live by Sugar + the Hi-Lows, which played them in the premiere. The central dancer, in black of course, is Toby Lewellen. He does not try to mimic Cash in any way, but instead combines lyricism and athleticism as he leads the company in “Walk the Line.” He and Amanda Sewell partner nicely on the piece’s penultimate song, “I’ve Got You Covered.

Deanna Karlheim and Paul Tillman perform a pas de deux to “Ring of Fire” which captures the raw longing of that song. Megan Hustel leads the company in a poignant “Hurt.”

After all the emotions of the piece, it ends in the joyous “Jackson” which allows each of the dancers a moment to showcase their talents. This is no balletic hoedown with forced folksiness; it is a true “let down your hair” moment of release for the dancers at the end of the piece and of the concert.

The concert starts with George Balanchine’s Glinka Pas de Trois which featured Justin Rustle, Megan Hustel and Lauren Bodenheimer at Friday evening’s performance. This 1955 piece requires the dancers to show not only classical ballet training, but also speed and subtle movements which are more inspired by modern dance. The three dancers perform alone and in various combinations. Intricate and challenging, the three dancers were up to the task.

Harrison McEldowney’s Group Therapy was an audience favorite. The four couples portrayed different sets of phobias, neuroses, or other problems. Set to pop standards of the 1930s and 1940s, each couple got a chance to display not only dancing prowess, but also a flair for comedy. In “Treat Me Rough” thankfully Toby Lewellen and Lynsie Ogden were not called upon to actually abuse each other that in this enlightened day would not be funny. But they aptly captured the on-again, off-again status of some couples with a comic edge. Justin Rustle’s uptight “Mr. Clean” was paired with Meredith Loy in a pas de deux set to Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” which was both witty but also filled with longing as Loy tried to break through Rustle’s veneer. His expert lift work was on display throughout the piece.

Megan Hustel dances not only with Tony Sewer but also with a peripatetic cigarette.   She constantly hides it from Sewer in a movement that never stops throughout the number. Sewer gets his chance to shine in a response to her, which is infused with equal parts jazz and ballet. Narcolepsy has never been so funny as when danced by Paul Tillman and Amanda Sewell in “Narcoleptic.”   Sewell goes limp in a variety of poses while Tillman tries to keep her up. This creates opportunities to show the gracefulness and strength of both dancers as Sewell sweeps and Tillman juggles her throughout the number.

The evening also contained two world premieres. The first, (e)motions by Ilya Kozadayev, was the winner of the 2015 Visions choreography contest. Featuring three couples, it was abstract and athletic. Yet each couple created a connection as they partnered. Deanna Karlheim and Paul Tillman, Meredith Loy and Toby Lewellen, and Lynsie Ogden and Tony Sewer, were definitely put through the paces on this piece.

Kiyon Gaines’ Memoryhaus was at its best when it created stark pictures whether it was Amanda Sewell alone in a spotlight, Paul Tillman approaching Deanna Karlheim, or the entire company dancing in unison. Its style is a blend of classical and modern, which is matched by the music of Max Richter.

Ballet Arkansas continues to be a company on the move. Less than a decade ago, the company was on life support existing to produce The Nutcracker in December. Now it is firmly establishing itself as an innovative member of Arkansas’ arts scene with a resident company which tours throughout the state. Not content to be a mediocre provincial dance troupe, Artistic Director Michael Bearden has programmed work that explores the depth and breadth of the ballet world and brings it to Arkansas.

The fact that the company has been granted permission to perform Balanchine selections two years in a row is no accident. It is a testament to the vision and hard work of Bearden and the dancers. Ballet Mistress Laura Hood Babcock and Production & Company Manager Erin Anson-Ellis aid Bearden in this effort. It is exciting to have seen dancers return over several seasons and have the opportunity to dance a variety of styles. Under the Lights is the culmination of a great deal of hard work, not only for the rehearsal process this season, but also for the company over several years.

Ballet Arkansas’ THE NUTCRACKER continues through Sunday

Celebrate the season with Ballet Arkansas, the state’s professional ballet company, as they continue a favorite Christmas tradition performing The Nutcracker accompanied by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Geoffrey Robson. The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll and their wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and Kingdom of Sweets.

Every year this fun filled production creates lifelong memories for hundreds of Arkansas families. With gorgeous scenery, enchanting costumes and original choreography, Ballet Arkansas opened The Nutcracker at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center last night and continues today at 2pm, tonight at 7:30pm and tomorrow at 2pm.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Michael Bearden with choreography by Ballet Mistress Laura Hood Babcock and choreographers Allison Wilson, Jana Beard, and Traci Presley, Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker will be the highlight of the holiday season.

Accompanied by the largest ever cast of local actors and dance students from across Arkansas, this year’s production will feature Ballet Arkansas company members Toby Lewellen, Justin Metcalf-Burton, Lauren McCarty Horak, Paul Tillman, Amanda Sewell, Lauren Bodenheimer, Deanna Karlheim, Tony Sewer, Hannah Bradshaw, Lynsie Ogden  and Meredith Loy.

This year’s guest artists include audience favorites Stephen K. Stone as Herr Drosselmeyer, Eric Harrison as Mother Ginger and Ballet Memphis’ Brandon Ramey as Arabian Prince.

The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift, the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season.

Make Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker part of your holiday celebration this December! To purchase tickets for the December 11th, 12th or 13th public shows to The Nutcracker, visit balletarkansas.org or call 501-666-1761. Tickets range from $20-$52.