“We are so excited for this season to begin,” said Karen Bassett, Executive Director of Ballet Arkansas since May of this year. “The company members, artistic and production staff and Board of Directors have worked very hard over the past several seasons to attain the high caliber of skill and choreography we are now able to present to our audiences all over the state. While we are proud that most people know us from The Nutcracker, we are so much more and this season’s line up truly demonstrates that.” Artistic Director Michael Bearden, a former Principal Dancer with Ballet West in Salt Lake City, is delighted to announce that, for the first time, an Arkansas dance company has been authorized by the George Balanchine Trust to perform a piece from his extensive, world renown collection of works. “By authorizing Ballet Arkansas to perform one of its works, the George Balanchine Trust has put a stamp of approval on the growth our company has made. This is a huge honor and accomplishment!”
Ballet Arkansas will present three productions this season, starting off with their first annual Visions Choreographic Competition to be held in the CALS Ron Robinson Theater in the Rivermarket on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. Thirty-six emerging choreographers from around the country competed for five spots in this competition. The winner will receive a commission to create a complete new work on Ballet Arkansas’s company dancers for their 2015 spring show. The five choreographers selected for the competition are: Sayoko Knode, former principal dancer with Idaho Dance Theatre; Jerry Opdenaker, former principal dancer for ballet companies such as Milwaukee Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Kansas City Ballet and Ballet Florida; Brandon Ragland, dancer with the Louisville Ballet; Christopher Stuart dancer with Nashville Ballet; and Hilary Fullmer Wolfley who graduated in 2013 from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in Ballet. The five pieces will be judged by Adam Sklute, Artistic Director of Ballet West, Rhythm McCarthy with UALR’s Theatre and Dance Program, former Ballet Arkansas Principal Dancer Michael Tidwell with the Tidwell Project and the audience will be the fourth judge.
“I am very pleased with the talent level of our five guest choreographers” said Artistic Director, Michael Bearden “Their abilities in collaboration with our beautiful dancers will make for an evening you won’t want to miss.”
In 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, Ballet Arkansas company members and Youth Division, The Nutcracker will continue its tradition as a holiday must-see. The Nutcracker performance week includes student matinees for statewide school groups on Dec. 11-12, along with the four public performances on Dec. 12-14. The Nutcracker Tea at the Capitol Hotel provides a wonderful complement to the performances.
In April, Ballet Arkansas will present its mixed rep show titled Who Cares? after the production’s finale piece. Dancers will be performing the concert version of Balanchine’s Who Cares? set to music by George Gershwin on the stage of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in downtown Little Rock April 17-19, 2015, with student matinees scheduled for April 16 and 17 for statewide school groups. The concert will also feature the expanded winning choreography from the Visions competition, an excerpt from Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Raymonda, and a new piece by former Hubbard Street dancer Greg Sample, who will be expanding one of his existing works.
Ballet Arkansas’ performances in the 2014-2015 Season will also include an appearance at the ACANSA Arts Festival on Sept. 28 at Wildwood Performing Arts Center, a joint collaboration with the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra and Ballet Arkansas’s Youth Division at the Albert Pike Scottish Rite Temple November 14 & 15, a Master Class Series featuring Ballet Arkansas’ guest artists offering classes which can be attended by the general public, a gala in the spring of 2015, a state-wide touring program and a Student Matinee program, including student matinees at tour sites around the state.
Ballet Arkansas is supported in part by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.