40 years since the first Ballet Arkansas production of THE NUTCRACKER

Burton and Tuzas from 1979 production

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.