Blackbird Academy of Arts to present ‘magical’ ballet

Carol Rolf Originally Published February 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 15, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Appearing in the Blackbird Academy of Arts’ upcoming ballet production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are Katie Hemphill, left, who plays the part of Susan, and Melodie Moore, who plays Lucy.

— Many know the story of the four siblings who enter a wardrobe in the attic and find themselves in the magical world of Narnia.

C.S. Lewis wrote the story in his classic book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Walt Disney Pictures co-produced and distributed the story in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

And now, Carrie Dicken, director of dance and performance at Blackbird Academy of Arts in Conway, has developed and choreographed an original ballet based on the classic story. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ballet will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas. The cast will repeat the performance in front of 1,100 students from across Faulkner County on Feb. 25 at Reynolds.

The ballet will be presented in two acts with an intermission.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children and may be purchased through the Reynolds Box Office, (501) 450-3265.

“This is a complete, professionally performed ballet,” said Dicken, who noted this is the third full ballet she has produced for Blackbird Academy. “We have a cast of about 50, with the majority being students at the academy. However, we held open auditions in November, so we have some cast members from the community as well.”

Dicken has studied at The American School of Ballet in Chicago under the direction of both Asaf Messerer, who was the ballet master and principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet, and Oleg Vinogredov, director of the Kirov Ballet. She has studied with the American Ballet Theatre and Steps on Broadway in New York City.

She also spent six seasons as a demi soloist with Ballet Arkansas and was a faculty member of the Academy of Ballet Arkansas. She performed four seasons with Arkansas Festival Ballet and was a faculty member of the Arkansas Academy of Dance.

She has taught classes of all levels for several academies and companies during the past 25 years and has had the opportunity to choreograph and produce several ballets.

Dicken is currently a guest teacher and choreographer for Long Lake Camp of the Arts in New York.

Assisting Dicken with the ballet are Ann Hsieh, stage and production manager, and Michael Goodbar, technical director. Hsieh has a degree in theater and stage management and has worked with several touring theater companies. Goodbar teaches theater at Blackbird Academy.

Lighting is by Full Focus Inc. of Conway.

Amy Ness and Allyson Bode, art teachers at the academy, have designed and created the set pieces for the ballet. Kevin and Cheryl Atkinson, Goodbar, Haley Turner, Susan Ablondi and Zaida Kramer are volunteers and have also assisted in creating and designing sets and costumes.

“Plus a plethora of other volunteers,” Dicken said with a smile. “We have parents who help us, especially with set construction and costumes. And the older students help as well. It is an ‘in-house’ production.

“It’s a lot of work. We have 12 weeks of rehearsal, rehearsing on weekends. But we do it. These kids are committed and know what’s expected of them. They have to be here for rehearsals if they expect to keep their roles.”

Cast members include the following:

• Kevin Atkinson and Ethan Smith operate a large puppet of Aslan, the lion, the true lord of Narnia.

• Melodie Moore plays Lucy, the youngest of the siblings who is the first to discover the land of Narnia. Hannah Smith is the understudy for this character.

• Tara Bates is Edmond, the second-youngest sibling who is tempted by the White Witch. Alexa Cormier is the understudy.

• Katie Hemphill portrays Susan, the second-oldest of the siblings, who is eventually crowned Queen of Narnia. Hayley Turner is the understudy.

• Kelsey Mattingly plays Peter, the oldest of the siblings, who helps overthrow the White Witch. Mary Stoval is the understudy.

• Junia Massey is the White Witch, who tyrannizes Narnia and casts a spell to ensure that it is “always winter and never Christmas.” Allyson Bode is the understudy.

• Todd Richard portrays Mr. Tumnus, a faun, and the first person Lucy meets.

• Kelly Green plays Mr. Beaver, a friend of Tumnus who hides the siblings and leads them to Aslan. Michael Goodbar is the understudy.

• Mary Dean Johnston is Mrs. Beaver, a friend of Tumnus who hides the siblings and leads them to Aslan. Jessica Borden is the understudy.

• Hayley Turner and Hannah Smith are unicorns.

• Abigail Gant portrays Maugrim, a wolf and the chief of the White Witch’s secret police. Madison Atkinson is the understudy.

• Abby Shourd is the evil dwarf.

• Ed Boyer plays Father Christmas, who arrives when the witch’s magical spell begins to break and brings gifts to some of the characters.

• Madison Atkinson, Hannah Smith, Hayley Turner, Mary Stoval and Tara Adams are life spirits.

• Amy Lamb, Alexa Cormier, Madison Lipscomb, Maria Casavechia, Hayley Hayes, Elizabeth Ablondi, Jessica Borden, Abigail Gant, Allyson Bode and Todd Richard are dark spirits.

• Amy Lamb, Grace Harris, Alison Cecil, Anne Ryan Johnston, Madison Lipscomb, Maria Casavechia and Elizabeth Ablondi are Naiads.

• Madison Atkinson and Hayley Hayes play tree women.

• Rebecca Dillon, Sasha Neilson, Emma Gifford, Kathryn Parrack, Mattie Grace Bufford, Ashley Henninger, Annabel Spayde and Price Gerritsen are Dryads.

• Anne Ryan Johnston, William Parrack, Hayley Turner, Kathryn Parrack, Madison Atkinson, Mary Stoval, Tara Adams, Michael Goodbar and Hannah Smith are stone statues.

• William Parrack, Drew Clements, Ella Grace Baumgarten and Hunter Norris play dwarfs.

• Taylor Tinsley and Elizabeth Bartholomew portray faun.

• Kinsley Sofas and Reilly McCann are bunnies.

• Selah Bentz and Scout Andersen are squirrels.

• Selah Bentz, Zabai Frank, Scout Anderson and Kinsley Sofas play mice.

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