Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


The Nutcracker returns to Robinson Center this weekend with Ballet Arkansas and ASO musicians

2016-nutcrackerCelebrate the season with your professional ballet company as Ballet Arkansas continues a favorite Christmas tradition performing The Nutcracker accompanied by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Geoffrey Robson.  After two years in Maumelle, The Nutcracker returns to the gloriously reimaginined Robinson Center Performance Hall!

Under the direction of Artistic Director Michael Bearden, Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker will be the highlight of the holiday season.  Join Clara at her family’s home as guests arrive for a festive Christmas Eve celebration where her godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, gives her a very special present, a Nutcracker doll. As the hour becomes late, the magic in the air begins to grow, along with Clara’s house and everything in it. Suddenly, there is a battle between an army of giant mice and life-sized toy soldiers. When the leaders of the mice have Clara cornered, The Nutcracker appears and with Clara’s help, they defeat the army of mice and escape to the Land of Snow, where the Snow Queen and King are presented to Clara and The Nutcracker amongst the flurries of beautiful dancing snowflakes.

The magic continues as Clara and The Nutcracker take an enchanted sleigh ride to the Land of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy presents Clara with delightful acts by a host of characters such as Spanish Chocolate, Arabian Coffee, and the Dew Drop Fairy in the Waltz of the Flowers. After a spectacular show of grace and athleticism, performed just for Clara, the characters and magical lands begin to fade and like waking from a dream, Clara is returned to her home, under her family’s Christmas tree, in the arms of Herr Drosselmeyer, with the magical story of The Nutcracker forever in her heart

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 9th, 10th or 11th public shows to The Nutcracker, visit balletarkansas.org or call 501-666-1761. Tickets range from $25-$70.

 

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Creative Class 2016: Gretchen Hall

cc16-hallA hardhat and reflective vest have been part of Gretchen Hall‘s work wardrobe almost every day for the past 30 months.  As the President and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, she has been actively overseeing the deconstruction and reconstruction of Robinson Center Music Hall. Taking a New Deal era assembly hall and making it into a state-of-the-art performance facility is not an easy task. Gretchen and her team have worked with the architects, engineers, designers and consultants to make it happen.

Gretchen joined LRCVB in 2001 and has worked her way up through the organization.  In May 2011, she was named to her current position.  Since that time, the LRCVB has undertaken numerous efforts to enhance Little Rock’s cultural life including a new amphitheatre in Riverfront Park, enhanced programming at the River Market, and increased financial support of cultural organizations.  In addition, she helped lead the effort to see the additional penny of the hotel tax be dedicated to support the Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. That tax was approved by voters earlier in 2016.

The new Robinson Center will feature seats that are closer to the stage and acoustics that can be adjusted to maximize the different needs of a symphony performance and a Broadway musical.  The changes in the facility have already attracted bookings by the national tours of The Phantom of the Opera (in 2017) and The Lion King (in 2018).  In addition, there will be new special event space including a ballroom and meeting rooms.  The historic lobby at the top of the iconic front steps is being restored to its original appearance — much of which was stripped away or covered up in the early 1970s.

After the November 10 ribbon cutting, Robinson Center will be re-opened.  As Hall points out, almost all residents of Central Arkansas have a connection to Robinson Center. She notes in her family alone, her mother played basketball there, her own high school graduation was there, and her niece has appeared in Ballet Arkansas’ The Nutcracker there.


Creative Class 2016: Erin Anson-Ellis

cc16-anson-ellisToday’s member of the Creative Class is Erin Anson-Ellis, General Manager of Ballet Arkansas.  A native of Little Rock, she earned her B.A. in Theatre Arts from UALR and graduated with honors in May of 2012. In the fall of 2012, she stage managed the educational tour of Lily and the Appleseed which was presented by Wildwood Park for the Arts; and in December of 2012, she served as the production stage manager for Ballet Arkansas’ production of The Nutcracker.

Erin became Ballet Arkansas’ production, company, and stage manager in the spring of 2013, and has managed all of Ballet Arkansas’ productions since that time. In addition to her work at Ballet Arkansas, Erin’s credits include stage managing the the 2015 “Back to School” and 2016 “Happy Feet” Shuffles and Ballet II Dance Recitals, 2015 ACANSA performances by PUSH Physical Theatre and Urban Bush Woman, and the Bill Bowers’ 2014 ACANSA performances of “It Goes Without Saying.”

While at UALR, Erin directed the 2012 UALR production of Criminal Hearts, several student fringe productions between 2008 and 2013, and served as the lighting designer for the Artists in Resonance summer dance concert for three years. Her acting credits include the roles of Viola in Twelfth Night, The Jester in Once Upon a Mattress, Yvonne in The Ladies Man, Kate in Kate Crackernuts, Roberta in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and in 2008 she traveled to Canterbury, England to perform various roles from the works of Christopher Marlowe for the International Marlowe Conference at the University of Kent.


15 Highlights of 2015 – Robinson Center Renovation Tops Out

LRCV 1The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB), members of the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission (LRA&P), local officials, and members of the design and construction teams hosted a topping out ceremony July 1, 2015 at 10:00 AM for the Robinson Center’s new conference facility, signifying a one–‐year milestone in the 28–‐month, $70 million renovation and expansion project.

Following a press conference and ceremonial beam signing held on the western side of the Robinson Center, local media and special guests were given tours of the magnificent ballroom platform and conference center located on Robinson’s north side. This new addition not only provides some of the most dramatic enhancements of the project, but will also provide groups with spectacular views of the Arkansas River and the city’s illuminated bridges.

Along with additional meeting and pre–‐function space situated above its ballroom, the new conference center will also provide a new connection to the DoubleTree Hotel, with an adjoining lobby and additional pre–‐function space.

Robinson Center will reopen in November 2016.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra will return its Masterworks and Pops series to Robinson. Ballet Arkansas will perform The Nutcracker there in December 2016.  Celebrity Attractions will bring Broadway back to Robinson (on Broadway, no less) next season as well.  They have already announced The Phantom of the Opera for March 2017.

LRCV 5For more information on the Robinson Center Second Act renovation and expansion project, visit http://www.RobinsonCenterSecondAct.com.

Robinson Construction Facts to Date:

  • Nearly 10,000 tons of material have been recycled, representing 91% of the waste material diverted 1,216 tons of steel has been erected
  • 2,300 cubic yards of concrete has been placed
  • 470 individuals have gone through CDI/Hunt Safety Orientation
  • 73% of the project subcontractors are local


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.


Nutcracker and New Pieces are part of 2015-16 Ballet Arkansas season

BA_Visions_PromoImageWhile it is only the start of July, cultural institutions are already focused on their 2015-2016 seasons.  This is especially true for Ballet Arkansas, which has its first event on August 22nd.

Ballet Arkansas starts off with the second annual Visions Choreographic Competition to be held in the Center for Performing Arts at UALR on August 22nd at 7:00pm. Thirty-one emerging choreographers from around the country competed for five spots in this competition of which the winner will receive a commission to create a complete new work on Ballet Arkansas’s company dancers for their 2016 spring show. Selected choreographers include Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev, former Houston Ballet’s and current University of Oklahoma dance faculty member Ilya Kozadayev, former Ballet West and Visceral Dance Chicago’s Tom Mattingly, former Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Barry Kerollis and Post: Ballet’s Aidan DeYoung.  The guest judge for Visions is Glenn Edgerton, Artistic Director for Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago. Tickets for Visions will go on sale July 1st on the Ballet Arkansas website.

BA_Nutcracker_PromoImage 2In December, Ballet Arkansas joins forces with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to present the  annual holiday ballet, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.  With music provided by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, a cast of 200+ youth and adult dancers from the central Arkansas area, professional guest artists and featuring Ballet Arkansas professional company members, The Nutcracker will continue its tradition as a holiday must-see. The Nutcracker performance week includes student matinees for statewide school groups on December 10 & 11, along with the four public performances on December 11, 12 and 13th.  Tickets for The Nutcracker will go on sale in early September on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s website.

BA_UndertheLights_PromoImageOn May 20-22, 2016 Ballet Arkansas will present its annual spring mixed-repertory show,  Under the Lights at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. This year’s show contains an eclectic group of works of various dance styles including Nashville Ballet dancer Chris Stuarts’ Under the Lights set to Johnny Cash songs including “Walk the Line” and “Jackson”.  This show also features a world premier of a Kiyon Gaines work and Group Therapy, a comedy ballet created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago by Harrison McEldowney and the expanded Visions winning choreography. Ballet Arkansas is also delighted to announce that itwill again be performing a George Balanchine work, Glinka Pas de Trois. Tickets will go on sale in early fall on the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s website.

Ballet Arkansas also announced that it has engaged Kiyon Gaines, recently retired Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist, to a 3-year Resident Choreographer Contract.  He choreographed Bolero for the 2013-2014 season.  In addition, Laura Hood Babcock has been named the new ballet mistress.  She worked with Ballet Arkansas last season on the Balanchine Who Cares?  Michael Bearden is the Artistic Director and Karen Bassett is the Executive Director.


On Their Toes – Ballet Arkansas announces 2015-2016 season

BalletArkOn April 17 through 19, Ballet Arkansas will conclude the 2014-2015 season with Who Cares? featuring choreography by George Balanchine and music by George Gershwin.

Not content to rest on their laurels, they have announced their 2015-2016 season.

The season will kick off on August 22 with the second Visions Choreographic Competition.  Several choreographers will be invited to create dance pieces which will be performed that night.  A panel of experts and the audience will select a winner. The winner will be developed further and performed in the spring of 2016.
The annual Nutcracker will take place December 11, 12 and 13 at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.  (It will return to the re-opened Robinson Center Music Hall in December 2016).
The spring show will be titled Under the Lights and will be at The Rep on May 20-22. Under the Lights is the show’s headline piece set to Johnny Cash music. It was premiered in Nashville recently and now comes full circle to the state of Cash’s birth and boyhood.  Also on the bill for that evening is Glinka Pas de Trois by George Balanchine and Group Therapy by Harrison McEldowney which is a very funny piece.  In addition there will be two new pieces being performed.  Kiyon Gaines, who choreographed a new version of Bolero performed by Ballet Arkansas recently will be back in his first year as the company’s resident choreographer. He will create a new work for a world premiere. The other new piece will be the Visions winner.
Michael Bearden is the Artistic Director of Ballet Arkansas; Karen Bassett serves as Executive Director; Marla Edwards is the Ballet Mistress and Ballet Arkansas Youth Division Director; and Erin Anson is Company & Production Manager.