Forte is finale for Ballet Arkansas 40th season

Image result for ballet arkansas forteForte, the season ender for Ballet Arkansas in many ways encapsulates the work of the company over its first 40 years.  The combination of classical and modern styles of dance performed with both live and pre-recorded accompaniment played to the company’s strengths.

(A frustration I have with ballet is that different dancers alternate roles at different performances – I want to see all of them, but I cannot attend all performances. So my comments are based solely on the performers I saw.)

The first half was “Act II” from Swan Lake. As the central couple Odette and Siegfried, Lauren Bodenheimer Hill and Zeek Wright were well-matched. During their pas de deux, they were graceful as the executed their movements.  Because it was not the full ballet, one did not get the chance to fully explore the chemistry between the couple.

The swans were beautifully attired in the classic white, feathered tutus one would expect from Swan Lake (kudos to designer/creator Callie Rew). And the ladies dancing as the birds had movements that both honored the choreography and the birds they were evoking.

The highlight was (as it usually is when considering Act II), the Danse des petits cygnes. And it did not disappoint. Meredith Short Loy, Amanda Sewell, Hannah Bradshaw and Isabelle Urben danced as one unit. But though the movements were in sync, one was aware that it was four individual dancers and not four automatons. The audience was so appreciative of their talent that it broke out into spontaneous applause at least twice during the section.

An added bonus to the Swan Lake performance was the presence of Dr. Drew Mays, the Van Cliburn winning pianist, providing live accompaniment.  Having the live music provided an additional layer of richness ot the piece.

After intermission, Tchaikovsky returned, this time by way of George Balanchine.  The “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux” featured Paul Tillman and Meredith Short Loy. The couple exhibited true partnering. Whereas in more classical ballet, often the male dancer may be there to merely support the ballerina, in the Balanchine piece, it is a symbiotic partnership with definite interplay.  The piece allowed Tillman to showcase his graceful athleticism, while Loy displayed her elegant footwork, especially during some delicate and fast moments.  Artistic Director Michael Fothergill wisely put this moment to open the act as a transition from the pure classical piece to the works yet to come.

Fothergill’s “Forma” was next up. It was a very kinetic dance with Toby Lewellen and Amanda Sewell at the center of it. Together with Deanna Stanton, Deanna Gerde, and Isabelle Urben, the dancers employed a variety of movements often so interconnected they resembled cogs in a machine. But even with the mechanical nature of the movements, Lewellen and Sewell displayed an emotional connectivity. These were not just dancers going through the paces of executing modern movements.

The performance concluded with Ma Cong’s “Calling.” Set to music inspired by a variety of Mediterranean and lower European cultures, it put its six dancers through their paces. As the styles of music changed, the dancers changed from more brisk movements to more fluid motions.  The work allowed the dancers to showcase a variety of styles of dance without seeming like it was saying “look what else we can do.”

While the partnering of the three male dancers with their ballerina partners was nice throughout the work, what was most striking was the opening moments when it was just Zeek Wright, Paul Tillman, and Matthew Larson on stage. These three are different heights and different builds. To see them move in sync with these varied physiques was a lesson in movement. No one was overshadowing the others, but one was much more aware that these were three distinct dancers working together. Likewise when they were partnering with Lauren Bodenheimer Hill, Megan Hustel, and Lynsie Jo Ogden (respectively), the juxtaposition highlighted each dancer’s abilities.

As the latest in the long line of Ballet Arkansas leaders, Artistic Director Fothergill and Associate Artistic Director Catherine Garratt Fothergill have both honored the legacy of the past while putting their own stamp on the company.

Throughout the 2000s the company wandered through the wilderness of a revolving door of plans that, more often than not, failed to materialize. At a time it had no staff, it was held together largely due to the grit and determination of Jana Beard, her daughter Allison Stodola Wilson, a few supporters, and an annual presentation of The Nutcracker. Emerging from that cocoon, the company now has a presence on Main Street. It is pleasing to see the Fothergills build on the work of Beard and recent artistic director Michael Bearden to launch Ballet Arkansas into a new level.

(Ballet Arkansas’ emergence as a full-fledged professional dance company is complemented by the burgeoning dance program at UA Little Rock. It is kismet that these two tracks are happening parallel considering that both programs were coincidentally at their nadirs in the early 2000s.)

Completing their second season of leadership, the Fothergills have expanded Ballet Arkansas’ number of performances, number of dancers, and community outreach. In so doing, they have forged new partnerships and unsurprisingly attracted new patrons.  But they have not let the quest for “the new” move them away from the core mission. After forty years, Ballet Arkansas is focused now, more than ever, on providing quality ballet performances and experiences to audiences throughout Arkansas.

Ballet Arkansas closes out 40th season with FORTE

Presented by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Ballet Arkansas’ “Forte” celebrates the 2018/2019 season, with the return of our wildly popular collaboration with internationally acclaimed pianist, Dr. Drew Mays. This dynamic mixed repertory program is a refreshing mix of contemporary and classical dance that is the perfect season finale for the 40th anniversary season.

“Forte” features the iconic Swan Lake Act II, with music by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, a prolific contemporary work by Tulsa Ballet’s resident choreographer Ma Cong, “Calling”, Balanchine’s famous “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux”, and a contemporary world premiere by Executive and Artistic Director, Michael Fothergill. Swan Lake Act II will be accompanied by Dr. Drew Mays, who won the Van Cliburn Foundation’s Fifth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs playing Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata and Liszt’s “Mephisto” Walz.

“We are thrilled to continue the Ballet Arkansas in Concert series, sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, which pairs high profile works of classical and contemporary dance with musical accompaniment from world renowned musicians. This series brings works to the State of Arkansas not ever performed within the region, while also placing Ballet Arkansas on par with the repertoire of larger ballet companies on the national scale,” says Catherine Fothergill, Associate Artistic Director.

A brilliant finish to the 2018/19 40th Anniversary Season, Forte! offers the audience a new and rich experience, providing powerful artistic collaborations that will elevate the arts in our community. “Forte” premieres at UA Pulaski Tech CHARTS Theater on the weekend of May 3-5, 2019.

Public performances four main stage performances, Friday, May 3rd at 7:00 pm, Saturday, May 4th at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and Sunday, May 5th at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $15-35, and are available online at balletarkansas.org/tickets, http://charts.uaptc.edu/ballet-arkansas, or in person or over the phone at the UA-Pulaski Tech CHARTS Theater Box office (501) 812-2710. Discounted tickets are available at the box office or by calling (501)812-2387. Discounted ticket prices: Students ($20), senior citizen ($25), and children 12 and under ($15).

Beethoven, Blue Jeans, Beer & Brats this weekend with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

Image result for beethoven blue jeansThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, present the fifth concert of the 2018-2019 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks season, Beethoven & Blue Jeans, on Saturday, April 13th and Sunday, April 14th at the Robinson Center.

The annual Beer & Brats Street Party features beer from Stone’s Throw Brewery, free brats cooked on-site, t-shirts from Hillcrest Waterbugs, live music from the Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Band, and a food drive in partnership with Arkansas Foodbank. The party, located on the 400 block of West Markham in front of the Robinson Center, begins at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, and is free for anyone with a ticket to Beethoven & Blue Jeans.

The League of American Orchestras and Feeding America are partners in a program called Orchestras Feeding America. As part of this program, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Arkansas Foodbank work together each year for a food drive at Beethoven & Blue Jeans and other concerts. Any patron who brings at least 12 food items to the Beer & Brats Street Party will be given a voucher good for two free tickets to any future symphony subscription concert.

The concerts feature a casually dressed orchestra performing music from Beethoven, Saint-Saëns, Ravel, Enesco, and Tchaikovsky. Violinist Gareth Johnson is featured performing Ravel’s Tzigane and Beethoven’s Romance No. 2.

All concert ticket holders are also invited to Concert Conversations, a pre-concert talk one hour before each Masterworks concert in the Upper Tier Lobby of the Robinson Center. These talks feature insights from the Maestro and guest artists, and feature musical examples to enrich the concert experience.

Tickets are $16, $36, $57, and $68; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Robinson Center street-level box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at https://www.arkansassymphony.org/freekids.

Program
SAINT-SAËNS                     Samson et Dalila: Bacchanale
RAVEL                                  Tzigane, rhapsodie de concert for Violin & Orchestra
BEETHOVEN                      Romance No. 2 in F Major, Op. 50

Intermission

TCHAIKOVSY                     Sleeping Beauty Suite, Op. 66a, TH 234
ENESCO                               Romanian Rhapsody in A Major, Op. 11, No. 1

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra launches 2019 Intimate Neighborhood Concerts tonight

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, opens the 2019-2020 Intimate Neighborhood Concerts (INC) series with Songs from the Heart, Thursday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (310 W 17th St, Little Rock).

Michael Underwood (ASO principal trombone) and Susan Bell León (ASO principal bassoon) perform music from Albrechtsberger and Lars-Erik Larsson, respectively. The program concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.

ASO, I.N.C.: Intimate Neighborhood Concerts are presented in acoustically unique venues around Little Rock. The programs feature works suited to the acoustic and aesthetic space of each venue, giving patrons the opportunity to hear these works as the composers imagined them.

General Admission tickets are $29; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the venue beginning 60 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 1.

Program
LARSSON, Lars-Erik — Concertino for Bassoon and String Orchestra, Op. 45, No. 4
Susan Bell León, bassoon

ALBRECHTSBERGER — Trombone Concerto in B-flat Major
Michael Underwood, trombone

TCHAIKOVSKY — Serenade for Strings, Op. 48

About Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 53rd full season in 2018-2019, under the leadership of Music Director Philip Mann. ASO is the resident orchestra of Robinson Center Music Hall, to which the ASO returned in November of 2016 after a two-year renovation of the historic structure. ASO performs more than sixty concerts each year for more than 165,000 people through its Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series, ACXIOM Pops LIVE! Series, River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Series, Intimate Neighborhood Concerts, and numerous concerts performed around the state of Arkansas, in addition to serving central Arkansas through community outreach programs and bringing live symphonic music education to over 26,000 school children and over 200 schools. ASO is a member of the League of American Orchestras.

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.

Home for the Holidays with the ASO and Maestro Philip Mann this weekend

Maestro Philip Mann and the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra welcome singers Maria Fasciano and Vernon Di Carlo, Arkansas Chamber Singers, and the Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Drum Band to take the Robinson Center Performance Hall stage on December 14-16.

Kids aged one to one hundred will enjoy fun holiday favorites like “Silver Bells,” “O Holy Night,” and “White Christmas,” fun selections from The Nutcracker featuring steel drums, brassy Henry Mancini arrangements and winter-themed orchestral music.

Concerts are tonight at 7:30, Saturday, December 15 at 7:30 and Sunday, December 16 at 3:00.  Because Sunday’s show is nearly sold out, the Entergy Kids’ Ticket program has been extended to tonight’s concert.

ANDERSON – Sleigh Ride
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV – Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maiden Suite
LIVINGSTON/EVANS arr. Holcombe – Silver Bells (Vernon Di Carlo, vocal)
MANCINI – Joy
ADAMS/Ryden – O Holy Night (Maria Fasciano, vocal)
BERLIN/Moss – White Christmas (Vernon Di Carlo, vocal)
BIZET – IV. Farandole from L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2
TYZIK – Twelve Gifts of Christmas (Maria Fasciano, vocal)

~INTERMISSION~

MANCINI/Hayes – Christmas Rhapsody
TCHAIKOVSKY – Selections from The Nutracker (with the Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Drum Band)
RICHMAN – Hanukkah Festival Overture
STYNE/Hayes – The Christmas Waltz (with chorus)
COURTNEY – Festival Gloria (with chorus)
HERMAN/Hayes – We Need a Little Christmas (with chorus)
FINNEGAN – Singalong

Extras!
Pre-concert happenings in the marble lobby:

  • Friday: Concertmaster Andrew Irvin’s violin caroling ensemble
  • Saturday: Brent Shires (ASO horn) leads his Hornaments ensemble
  • Sunday: Annual Children’s Fair (begins at 2 p.m.)

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.