Ballet Arkansas Introduces a New, Interactive Series for Youth

By Amy Gordy

Ballet Arkansas childrens programming

According to the National Endowment of the Arts, exposure to the arts (music, dance, theater and visual) in children has been found produce “better academic results, better workforce opportunities and more civic engagement.” Ballet Arkansas offers families an artistic outlet as it introduces an exciting new Children’s Series this season. These Saturday matinee performances are geared toward little ones with interactive elements to help fully engage them and captivate their attention.

This series of three specialized productions include “Peter and the Wolf” at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College’s Charts Theater; “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” at 2 p.m. on Feb. 17 at Charts Theater Pulaski Tech; and “The Toymaker” at 2 p.m. on May 5 at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Each production is designed especially for children and provides a unique and immersive experience for audience members. You’ll find pre-show hands-on crafting events, interactive storytelling and opportunities to meet the cast, ask questions and learn about what goes on behind the scenes after each performance.

“We wanted to expand our accessibility to the community, reach out to people with all different interests and do more for children with this programming,” said associate artistic director Catherine Fothergill. “The first two productions—performed by the company—interactive, which is interesting because typically with ballet there’s no spoken word—you tell the story with movement. ‘Peter and the Wolf’ is fully narrated and provides prompts throughout where kids can interact and become part of the show,” Fothergill said.

Music takes on a new life with the company’s production of “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” based on the 1945 musical composition by Benjamin Britten. Ballet Arkansas’s production will introduce each character as a musical instrument that will sound each time the performer comes on stage. “Children will learn the instruments. For example, we will introduce a dancer as a violin and in the end when you see the dancers come together, you see how instruments come together in symphony. It’s a very interesting take on a classic fairy tale,” Fothergill said.

The third production, “The Toymaker,” which is an abbreviated version of the classic story of “Coppelia,” will open up auditions to the community in January. With the introduction of the Children’s Series, Fothergill hopes to reach those in the community who may be unfamiliar with ballet or who have not had an opportunity or ability to enjoy it as well, as well as to expose potential young dancers to professional productions.

“With ballet or any performing arts, there’s something moving about seeing something live and sitting with others who are experiencing the same emotions. There is a feeling of community in that, and children can see new ways to express emotions. Children enjoy seeing live action and a live story come to life. The ballet really reaches them in a different way.”

Like all athletic endeavors, ballet teaches children discipline, and the hard work and dedication shows through in captivating performances. “In children’s terms, a ballet performance is very magical—it’s something when they leave, they remember for a very long time,” Fothergill said.