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To paraphrase its guest artist and director, the Arkansas Festival Ballet hopes to mimic the prince and give the “kiss of life” to the 6-year-old company with its ambitious project “Snow White,” to be performed at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre this weekend.
Showtimes are 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 14, at The Rep, 601 Main St. Tickets are $20 and available through the Arkansas Festival Ballet office, 227-5320, or at the door.
Mark Bush, who moved to the Arkansas Festival Ballet from Ballet Arkansas last year, is staging the challenging Ballet Austin version (with some changes) of the show. For the show, Bush said, “I’m driving [the dancers] pretty hard. I expect a lot. Or, how we say it around here, all I want is everything.”
Bush is bringing Brian Williamson from the Nashville Ballet Co. to dance the role of Prince Charles. Julia Aronson and Allison Stearns, both 17 and from Little Rock, will share the role of Snow White. (See Stearns Saturday afternoon and Aronson Saturday night and Sunday.)
Most of the dancers in the cast of 55 are members of the Arkansas Academy of Dance, which is run in concert with Arkansas Festival Ballet.
Lead dancer (or danseur, to use the proper term) Williamson, 24, took up ballet late, after he broke both ankles at the same time in gymnastics in his hometown of Franklin, Ill. In one year, he was performing in the Springfield (Illinois) Ballet, but he moved to Nashville after his director told him, “I don’t think you have what my dancers must have,” Williamson said in an interview.
Williamson took the criticism as motivation — “Every dancer has heard that at some point in their career,” Bush said — and told him, “I’m going to show you I can do this.”
So the graduate of tiny Tracy’s Dance Techniques in Franklin, Ill., put his all into his career; now he’s toured South America with the Nashville Ballet and last November performed at Wildwood Park with Arkansas Festival Ballet.
He’s joined by Chris Stuart, also of the Nashville Ballet, who has roles as a woodsman, a winter cavalier and one of the queen’s monsters. The costumes include some fascinating lizard heads for the monsters.
“The show is very colorful, very visual,” said Bush, who has created his own sets with Susie Watts. But it’s the dancing that will hold the audience, he said: “The dancing will speak volumes.”
Bush said his friendship with Laura and Bob Hupp, the producing artistic director at The Rep, led to the staging at the downtown venue. “Laura Hupp is a former dancer herself,” Bush noted.
Aronson and Stearns have danced with Arkansas Festival Ballet since its inception. Both have landed prestigious summer dance internships, Stearns with the Nashville Ballet, Aronson with the Houston Ballet Co. Stearns is home-schooled and practices five hours a day, except for Fridays. Aronson attends Central High School and works with a private instructor.
“I get them back for another year,” Bush said, smiling.