Excitement about the 2011–2012 season finale performance of Cinderella, this weekend at Centennial Hall, has been building for some time.
At Ballet Tucson’s annual fundraising event, Urban Picnic on April 15—a delightful mix of al fresco dining at La Encantada, live dance performance, live music, and an art auction of works by highly-respected artists—principal female dancer Jenna Johnson gave an entertaining talk about the mechanics of ballet shoes. Many will be surprised to learn that professional quality hand-made ballet footwear, as worn by a dancer of Jenna’s caliber, can run to $100 a pair. While, under normal use, they might last for a week of rehearsals, Jenna went on to admit that during a particularly energetic period of practice she might demolish a pair of said shoes in a single day. Multiply that by the number of dancers in a company, and the number of rehearsals required to prepare for a single program, and you will get a very small glimpse into how expensive and challenging it is to keep a cutting-edge professional ballet troupe working and performing in the modern world.
Following her talk, Jenna auctioned off a pair of her own shoes, used during rehearsals for Cinderella, to the fascinated crowd. With all proceeds going directly towards funding Ballet Tucson’s operating costs, the winning bid of $1,150 received an enthusiastic round of applause. That is how you support the arts.
Ballet Tucson’s Artistic Director, Mary Beth Cabana, has, during her impressive career, appeared as a principal dancer with Cleveland Ballet, Ballet Oklahoma, Arizona Dance Theater, and San Diego Ballet. She is to be admired and commended for fighting to keep her dream of a regularly-performing ballet company in Tucson, alive and well. In addition to the surprisingly high cost of just the shoes, there are always ongoing expenses associated with original costumery, complicated stage sets, salaries for dancers and the administrative staff, dance studio fees, and so on. In the current political climate, with arts funding being cut, left and right, Ballet Tucson, and other leading arts groups in Tucson cannot rely on grants and Federal funding; they need direct support from arts patrons and aficionados.
Ballet Tucson’s repertoire is much more sophisticated that one might expect from a regional company. During the 2011–2012 “Season of Transformation” they have boldly performed rarely-seen work by influential choreographer Anthony Tudor, original pieces by local choreographers associated with the company, as well as established favorites such as The Nutcracker. Original choreography for this weekend’s Cinderella—a ballet in three acts, and one of the world’s most popular dance pieces—is by Assistant Artistic Director Chieko Imada and Mark Schneider, who has worked as a Principal Artist with Ballet Met in Columbus, Ohio, and numerous other companies. Additional staging is by Artistic Associates and internationally renowned dancers Amanda McKerrow and John Gardiner, and by Mary Beth Cabana herself. That list represents a remarkable amount of talent and expertise devoted to the staging of a single piece, and “this magnificent and critically-acclaimed ballet,” set to Prokofiev’s alluring and—at times, almost magical—score, should delight art lovers of all ages.
There will be only two performances of Cinderella: Saturday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 6 at 2 p.m., both at U of A’s Centennial Hall—one of the finest venues in town. Ticket prices range from $26 to $41, with group discounts available, and may be ordered through the Centennial Hall Ticket Office at (520) 621-3341, or online at www.uapresents.org.
When I decided to move my operation to Tucson, from New York City, years ago, my choice of a new home was largely based on the exceptional arts community that our small city enjoys. The preponderance of visual artists, performing artists, musicians, and independent cinema and filmmakers, is joyously out of proportion to the size of our town. Such an environment can exist only with vigorous and continued support from our citizens. Last year, my company, Aerolite Meteorites LLC, became an official corporate sponsor of Ballet Tucson, because it is one thing to say “support the arts” in my column, and another thing to actually do it.
Ballet Tucson is actively seeking new corporate and private sponsorships. Donations of any amount are gratefully accepted and will go directly towards keeping engaging live performance thriving in Tucson. Corporate sponsors receive complimentary tickets to performances, invitations to VIP events and rehearsals, and—most importantly—they have the amazing opportunity to bring a young dancer’s dreams to life.
If you play your cards right, you might even end up with a pair of Cinderella’s slippers.