Blackbird Academy’s fundraiser to feature ‘swing’ atmosphere

Carol Rolf Originally Published January 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 30, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.
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Carrie Dicken, director of dance at the Blackbird Academy of Arts, and Stephen Stone, dance professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, demonstrate swing-dance movements during a class Jan. 12 at the academy’s studio in Conway. Blackbird Academy will sponsor a swing-dance ball Saturday at the Centennial Center of Centennial Valley Country Club in Conway.

— Patrons of the arts will be asked to get in the “swing” of things Friday and Saturday as the Blackbird Academy of Arts Inc. presents its annual fundraiser.

A 1940s Style Family Carnival will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, and the fourth annual Masquerade Ball, with a 1940s swing-dance theme, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Both events will be at the Centennial Center of Centennial Valley Country Club in Conway.

“For the past three years, we have had the masquerade ball,” said Jennie Strange, executive director of the academy. “Everyone’s really enjoyed it, but this year we wanted to try something different, something with a 1940s swing atmosphere.

“We’ve offered three pre-event swing-dance classes taught by Stephen Stone of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s dance program,” she said. “We thought some people might want to brush up on their swing-dance techniques before the ball.”

Strange said the ball will feature live music by the Little Big Band, part of the Hot Springs Jazz Society.

“We are really excited about having them here in Conway,” she said.

Tickets to the ball are $40 per person; drink tickets will be available. VIP tables are also available, from $250 to $2,500. The event will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and games of chance.

Dress for the ball is cocktail or 1940s-inspired attire.

The family carnival will feature carnival games, prizes, face painting, cotton candy, popcorn and live-DJ music for dancing. Costumes are welcome.

“Come as your favorite character from the 1940s,” Strange said.

“We added the family carnival last year, and it was a huge success,” she said. “It makes the kids feel like they’re included. They love it.”

General-admission tickets to the family carnival are $3; ages 2 and under will be admitted free. Food and game tickets are $1 per ticket. Family discount packages are available at the academy in Conway.

“This is our largest fundraising event for the 2012-2013 season,” Strange said. “All proceeds go toward our arts education and scholarship programs.”

Blackbird Academy recently relocated to 1058 Front St., Suite 102.

“We went from 6,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet,” Strange said. “That’s quite a jump for us. It’s been great.”

Moving to a larger location has allowed the academy to add more classes.

“We’ve added musical theater and 3-D art and have expanded our adult classes in watercolor and ballet,” said Strange, who has a degree in creative writing from the University of Central Arkansas and has been a dancer most of her life. “We are also working with Joe Dull in the UCA filmmaking department in offering a 10- to 12-week course in digital filmmaking. That’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The Blackbird Academy of Arts is now in its fourth year of operation. It offers classes in music, creative writing, dance, theater, visual arts, digital

filmmaking and sewing.

“We have almost 400 students,” Strange said. “We’ve grown so much quicker than I would have ever expected.

“Our goal is to put all of the arts together and show how they interact. We offer pre-professional training in all of the arts. We offer a foundation for a professional career if the student chooses to pursue it.”

For more information on the upcoming events or on the Blackbird Academy of Arts, call (501) 336-8200.

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