Open Studio Experience to give fans behind-the-scenes look at production
When Michael Fothergill took over Ballet Arkansas as executive and artistic director in July 2017, he set a goal of pairing world-class music with prolific classical and contemporary ballet. With one show of its 2018-19 season, the company is wrapping up its 40th anniversary season with “Forte,” a mixed repertory program that continues the realization of the director’s dream.
The show, sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, features highlights from the iconic Swan Lake Act II, with music by Tchaikovsky performed by pianist Dr. Drew Mays and choreography by Marius Petipa; “Calling,” a modern work by Tulsa Ballet’s resident choreographer Ma Cong; George Balanchine’s famous “Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux; and the world premiere of a contemporary piece by Fothergill that involves intricate and unorthodox movements, Catherine Fothergill, associate artistic director, says.
“We’re bringing in the best of classical, the best of contemporary,” she says. “We’re giving the dancers the opportunity to explore a wide range of repertoire and showcase all that they can do in one performance. They are thriving as they explore new works and styles of movement and having choreography created specifically on them.”
Fothergill said she is looking forward to seeing and hearing Mays replicate the music of several instruments on a Steinway D Concert Grand Piano, provided by Stephen Wirges and Steinway Piano Gallery.
“Typically there’s a full orchestra, but he has the responsibility of playing a full orchestra on one instrument,” she says. “It’s very challenging, but it sounds wonderful. It really makes a difference for the audience and the dancers. They can tell something special is happening as the music and the dance comes together.”
Professional company dancer Zeek Wright says, “The mixed rep in Forte has tested my strength and perseverance, and I feel it has elevated our company. We are stronger now than we have ever been.”
There will be four main stage performances, from Friday, May 3 to Sunday, May 5, at the UA – Pulaski Tech CHARTS Theater. Performance times are at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. To enable school students to view the performance, the company is providing a student matinee performance on May 3, at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for chaperones. Reservations are required.
For those interested in getting an early look at the show and a behind-the-scenes view of how it comes together, Ballet Arkansas is hosting an Open Studio Experience from 10-3 on Friday, April 19 and Friday, April 26 at their 520 Main Street location.
“We want people to come in and see, behind the scenes, us rehearsing these pieces so they can not only get accustomed to them and learn a little more about them, because I think they’ll enjoy the performance even more by seeing what it’s like to put a production like this together,” Fothergill says.
Ballet Arkansas has entertained nearly 120,000 Arkansans since it began in 1978. Fothergill says as the company moves forward, it is looking to continue to bring high-quality productions to the state and be further involved in the community.
“It’s been a fantastic 40th anniversary,” she says. “We have met so many people that have been part of the organization in the past, as well as brand new faces to the Ballet Arkansas family. We’ve felt a huge amount of support this year. We are so proud to be 40 years old and are very excited for what we have planned for the 2019-20 season.”
Tickets for Forte are $15-35 and can be purchased by calling (501) 812-2710 or at balletarkansas.org/forte.