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story.lead_photo.caption Toby Lewellen lifts Amanda Sewell in a rehearsal for Ballet Arkansas’ program this weekend. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

You can do ballet without music, but it's a lot harder.

The folks at Ballet Arkansas are recognizing the important role of music to ballet with a three-year spring "Ballet Arkansas in Concert" series, in partnership with the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, "pairing high profile works of classical and contemporary dance with musical accompaniment from world-renowned musicians," according to a news release.

“Ballet Arkansas

in Concert”

7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main St., Little Rock. Mixed-repertory program includes the work of Tony Award-winning choreographers Agnes de Mille and Christopher Wheeldon and the world premiere of Ink, a piece in four movements by Ballet Arkansas’ Artistic Director Michael Fothergill. Featuring Drew Mays, winner of the 2007 Van Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition, as accompanist and soloist.

Tickets: $40

(501) 223-5150;

The series' inaugural concert, 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in Little Rock, catty-corner from the ballet company's downtown studios, will feature a mixed-repertory program that includes pas de deux by Tony Award-winning choreographers Agnes de Mille and Christopher Wheeldon and the world premiere of Ink, a piece in four movements, by Ballet Arkansas' Artistic Director Michael Fothergill.

It's one of the last official performances at the Rep, which announced last week that it was suspending operations, but would honor its commitment to host the dance concerts as scheduled.

The inaugural world-renowned musician is Drew Mays, winner of the 2007 Van Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition. He will accompany two of the works on stage (on a Steinway provided by Little Rock's Steinway Piano Gallery) and discuss the lives of the composers, the finer points of their music and the fine points of the collaboration. He will also play one or more solo piano works at each performance.

He'll play Franz Liszt's arrangement of Franz Schubert's song "Du bist die Ruh" as company members Toby Lewellen and Amanda Sewell (Friday, Saturday) and Paul Tillman and Meredith Loy (Sunday) dance the pas de deux from de Mille's The Other in costumes courtesy of American Ballet Theatre.

"We are grateful for the support of the de Mille Working Group," says Associate Artistic Director Catherine Fothergill, who describes The Other as "de Mille's final and most sentimental ballet."

On Friday it'll be Lewellen and Loy dancing an excerpt from The American, which Wheeldon set on music from Antonin Dvorak's "American" String Quartet, with staging by Michele Gifford. Tillman and Kaley Kirkman will do the honors Saturday and Sunday.

The Ballet Arkansas company will take the stage for the world premiere of Ink, Michael Fothergill's four-part contemporary ballet. Mays will play five minutes from Ludwig van Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata; Frederic Chopin's Nocturne in c-sharp minor, op. 27, No. 1; the fifth (supplemental) variation from Robert Schumann's Symphonic Etudes; and Reverie by Claude Debussy.

As part of Friday's concert, Mays will play, solo, Chopin's Nocturne in D-flat major, op.27, No. 2, and "Heroic" Polonaise in A-flat major, op.53. Saturday's program will feature the Piano Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp major, op.30, by Alexander Scriabin. And for the Sunday matinee he'll play Franz Liszt's dramatic and beloved Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in c-sharp minor.

The chance to perform works by de Mille and Wheeldon for the first time, as well as Fothergill's premiere work, "places Ballet Arkansas on par with the repertoire of larger ballet companies on the national scale," says Catherine Fothergill. "This is exactly the type of programming that we want to bring to the state."

Following the Saturday performance, a special VIP event at Fosters, the bar on the Rep's first mezzanine level, patrons can socialize with Mays and the ballet's staff and company artists. Tickets, $50, include admission to the Saturday performance.

Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun
Pianist Drew Mays runs through the music for a rehearsal at Ballet Arkansas’ Main Street studio.

Weekend on 05/03/2018

Print Headline: Ballet's 'In Concert' program focuses on music


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