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story.lead_photo.caption Everything from classical ballet to theatrical styles comes together in one show for Big Bands & Ballet, the first performance of Ballet Arkansas’ 2017-18 season.

Ballet Arkansas is twirling into new territory this season: new venue, new shows and a new series aimed at children.

That's thanks to the organization's new leaders, husband-and-wife team Artistic Director Michael Fothergill and Associate Artistic Director Catherine Garratt Fothergill, who took over the helm this summer.

Ballet Arkansas

CHARTS Theater, University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech, 3000 W. Scenic Drive, North Little Rock

Big Bands & Ballet

7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $15-$35

Peter & the Wolf

2 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $10-$25

(501) 223-5150

"When we came on, a huge thing we wanted to do was expand our accessibility to Little Rock, to the state, to children, to different demographics," Garratt Fothergill says.

The outreach starts with a weekend full of performances, Friday-Sunday at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech CHARTS Theater in North Little Rock. Traditionally, Ballet Arkansas has performed The Nutcracker at Robinson Center Performance Hall and the spring show at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, but this season's fall and winter productions will be at CHARTS.

Garratt Fothergill says, "It's not only technologically advanced, but it also has a black box theater and a gallery and a lot of opportunity for us to not only do these performances but to add in some special events."

One of those special events is Peter & the Wolf, the first production of Ballet Arkansas' new Children's Series. Starting this season, on every Ballet Arkansas weekend, the Saturday matinee performance will be geared to a much younger audience.

The 45-minute ballet has something for everyone, with adult-aimed sarcastic humor and visuals, narrated storytelling for very young children, she says, but is particularly good for elementary-school-aged children.

"It's a classic, comedic story that encourages a lot of audience interaction. We'll have prompts and cards for the kids that we'll hold up during the performance that gets them to not only move in their seats and interact with us, but also they can vocalize and kind of be a part of the story coming to life. Not just watching it."

Afterward, there will be chances to meet the characters and participate in craft activities.

The rest of the weekend's performances will be Big Bands & Ballet, a three-part production that runs the gamut of styles.

Performances start with the Little Rock premiere of "Stabat Mater," a piece created by 2017 Winter Visions Choreographic Competition Winner Mariana Oliveira. It was first performed last month in Fayetteville's Walton Arts Center.

"It was really well-received and we're really excited to show Little Rock this piece of work," Garratt Fothergill says.

That will be followed by excerpts from the classic Sleeping Beauty.

The second act takes a lively, more modern turn with Big Bands & Ballet, a new work by Michael Fothergill that mixes contemporary movement and theatrical dance with a blend of big band hits and contemporary music.

"Big Bands & Ballet is just so much fun. That music fills the theater. I think it's a different take on something that people may be surprised."

The Saturday night performance will include music from the 15-member University of Arkansas at Little Rock Jazz Ensemble. Other performances rely solely on recorded music.

"Of course, nothing quite beats the originals like Louis Armstrong," Garratt Fothergill says. "So we know that will be just as enjoyable."

Garratt Fothergill says the staff and company are excited to share a varied, mixed experience with audiences and to get the Children's Series up and running.

"The dancers really like that interaction with the audience and the kids who come to see the shows," she says.

Weekend on 11/09/2017

Print Headline: Ballet Arkansas adds shows for kids at new venue

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