Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ballet Arkansas goes public with capital campaign

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Paul Tillman, Amanda Sewell and Lauren McCarty Horak in the space Ballet Arkansas hopes to lease and finish out.
  • Dancers Paul Tillman, Amanda Sewell and Lauren McCarty Horak in the space Ballet Arkansas hopes to lease and finish out.

Ballet Arkansas has grown in jetes and bounds since 2010, more than doubling the size of its professional company (now at 11) and nearly doubling its budget (now $472,900). Now, it would like to take the next big leap: To its own rehearsal space in the Arkansas Building on Main Street, part of the four-building redo undertaken by Scott Reed. To do that, Ballet Arkansas announced today that it hopes to raise $200,000, and it's a quarter of the way there.

Executive Director Lauren Strother got a call two years ago from Mayor Mark Stodola to talk about a Creative Corridor downtown that would concentrate the performing arts along Main Street. It sounded great, but the company had higher priorities back then. Today, with the Creative Corridor idea attracting The Rep (which has signed a letter of intent) and the Arkansas Symphony (which has a lease) to Reed's Main Street properties, Strother said it was "now or never," and the organization is negotiating with Reed to lease 1,815 square feet in the building (see architectural plans here), built in 1897 and currently stripped down to the studs.

The Ballet Arkansas studio will have a glass storefront, which means folks on the street can watch the dancers practice. Strother said she believes that pointing up the dancers' athleticism — she says they can do everything brawny sportsmen can do, and do it gracefully — will help shed ballet's elitist label and grow Little Rock's appetite for the art form. She also believes that a downtown location, with The Rep and the symphony as neighbors, will attract a higher caliber of dancer as well. Now, Ballet Arkansas rehearses in studio space generously provided for free by Jana Beard, owner of Shuffles Dance Studio.

Ballet Arkansas hopes to get a grant to help pay for the sprung floor the rehearsal space will need, but it needs money to install the floor's marley surface, mirrors, portable barres, a sound system and furnish offices and a dancer's lounge in the basement, next to the planned future home of Kent Walker's artisan cheese-making operation.

If all goes as choreographed, Ballet Arkansas will sign a five-year lease with Reed and by the end of the five years have grown so much that it will need even more space.

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