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Ballet Arkansas reveals season with 'Great Gatsby' opener

by Eric E. Harrison | June 12, 2021 at 3:39 a.m.
Ballet Arkansas dancers perform Friday, May 21, 2021, in North Little Rock's Argenta Plaza during the first performance of the weekend's Ballet Arkansas Presents Live at the Plaza event. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)

Ballet Arkansas will open its 2021-22 season Oct. 21-24 with a "roaring 2020s" production -- "The Great Gatsby" -- at the Center for Humanities and Arts Theater on the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College's main North Little Rock campus.

"Our unique telling of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic tale is complemented by stunning original choreography and a collision of modern and historical production elements," in collaboration with Cranford Co and the theater's production team, explained Michael Fothergill, Ballet Arkansas' executive and artistic director, in a season-announcement news release.

The piece will be set to music by Scott Joplin, Thomas "Fats" Waller, Louis Armstrong, Richard A. Whiting, Ange Lorenzo, Thomas Turpin, and other Jazz Age greats, and 20th century composer Francis Poulenc.

The rest of the lineup:

• Dec. 9-12 -- "Nutcracker Spectacular" at Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall, Peter Tchaikovsky's classic ballet pairing Ballet Arkansas' professional company with a "community cast" of children and adults and with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in the pit.

In conjunction, the ballet company will add something it is calling "Nutty Nutcracker" at Robinson, which the news release describes as "a world premiere holiday performance unlike any other -- filled with high jinks and humor for the whole family." Dates and details are pending.

• Feb. 17-20: "Coppelia," Leo Delibes' storybook ballet about a young girl who takes on a cantankerous toymaker and his magical doll, at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College CHARTS Theater. Students from across the state will join members of the professional company.

• April 21-24: "The Four Seasons + Confetti," University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College CHARTS Theater, four world premieres set by four female choreographers to Vivaldi's set of four violin concertos, plus Gerald Arpino's high-energy "Confetti."

• April 29-May 1 and May 6-8: "Live at the Plaza," Argenta Plaza, Main Street, North Little Rock, in partnership with the North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. The ballet company encores a set of performances that debuted this spring, featuring outdoor free mixed-repertory performances and education programs.

In addition, the ballet company has announced two other offerings, awaiting dates and details:

• "The Firebird," Igor Stravinsky's setting of a Russian tale about a prince, an evil sorcerer, and a bird made out of flame, which the company will tell through "a vibrant suite of dances."

• "Studio 520 -- New Works Series," at Ballet Arkansas' studio, 520 Main St., Little Rock, a new series of classes, artistic talks, "intimate performances" and special events.

And Ballet Arkansas will partner with Tanarah Luxe Floral for "Nutcracker Sweet at Juniper Hill," Dec. 4-5, which the news release describes as "a pop-up experience in Northwest Arkansas" involving "a suite of dances from 'The Nutcracker Spectacular' with themed activities and appearances by the characters from the 'Land of the Sweets.'"

Special events on the schedule include the "Land of the Sweets Nutcracker Tea," Dec. 11 at Robinson Center Performance Hall; the "Turning Pointe Gala," March 5 at Wildwood Park for the Arts in west Little Rock; and the spring 2022 "Ballet Under the Stars," at a date and location to be determined.

Community-cast auditions for children 6 and older and adults for the "Nutcracker Spectacular" will take place Aug. 13-15 at Shuffles & Ballet II in west Little Rock. And the community cast audition for children 9 and older for "Coppelia" are set for Nov. 14 at Ballet Arkansas' Main Street studio.

More information is available at www.balletarkansas.org.

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