Ballet Arkansas’ 2017/18 season “Reborn” has been an exciting new adventure for the entire company. The year was full of changes, a new Artistic Director and Associate Artistic Director brought a fresh take on our classic programming, while also building new and innovative performances. The “Motion on Main” series brought audience members into our studio to experience ballet in a more intimate setting, our children’s series was focused on sharing the art of dance with our youngest and most enthusiastic patrons and “Ballet Arkansas in Concert” brought a Van Cliburn International pianist to amaze audiences with beautiful music.
The company’s most beloved ballet “The Nutcracker” is a tradition for me. My love of nutcracker goes back to when I was 4 years old and I watched my older sister, Erin, perform in our local production. I was so excited to see my sister up on the big shiny stage where graceful ballerinas spun through the magical snow, where angels (just a year or two older than me) glided through the clouds and where the sparkly Sugar Plum Fairy was carried above it all by a dashing cavalier. The next year, I was one of those angels and I loved every second of it. Now, when I perform in “The Nutcracker” I try and capture the magic of my very first time onstage and share it with the audience. This season, Michael re-choreographed most of the 2nd act, this meant that things were fresh, new and exciting while still upholding the nutcracker traditions we all know and love. I also finally got to perform in the one divertissement that I never have before, Russian!
Some of my most memorable moments this season have happened during our children’s series. In “Peter and the Wolf” I got to portray the Duck, I had such a great time being silly onstage and hearing the kids laugh from the audience! When the show was over, the children and their parents got to come onstage and say hello to the characters. Seeing the joy and excitement on their faces when they said hello was such a great moment for me as a performer. I hope that someday those sweet kids will want to try taking ballet, watch another ballet, or listen to classical music. I know experiencing the arts as a child was what made me who I am today, so sharing dance with young people is something I’m very passionate about.
The most difficult piece I had the pleasure to perform this season was Michael Fothergill’s “Chiaroscuro”. The piece involved all the women wearing long dresses with a lot of fabric to them which we used within the dancing. We would wrap the skirts around our arms, toss them out or hand them to a partner to manipulate, making almost every movement more complicated. Instead of just lifting your hand, you would lift your hand, hold your skirt with two fingers while wrapping it around the left side of your arm as you went and ending with it draped perfectly. The rehearsal process was incredibly detailed in order to make everyone’s skirt look exactly the same. I danced a solo in the ballet where I needed to feel a lot of emotion, feeling honest emotions like pain, hope or hopelessness in front of a group of people can be terrifying. I found that even when I thought I was giving everything to the audience, I still had more to give. I loved working on the ballet in the studio, then letting go and pouring my heart out on stage.
Looking ahead, I am excited about what Ballet Arkansas has in store for the 40th Anniversary season!