The new temporary exhibition, The Art of American Dance, opens at Crystal Bridges on Saturday, October 22. This multi-faceted exhibition contemplates the long-standing relationship between visual art and dance in America, and features paintings, sculpture, photographs, and video inspired by dance of all kinds.
To give Crystal Bridges’ guests the opportunity to experience both sides of the intersection of visual art and dance, Crystal Bridges’ public programming team is offering a dance performance series featuring professional dancers and dance companies from across the country. Performances will be coupled with opportunities for guests to meet and interact with the dancers through gallery conversations, performance labs, spotlight talks, and workshops. You can see a full schedule of offerings here.
The series begins with a performance and gallery conversation with Ballet Arkansas, a professional company based in Little Rock, and its Artistic Director, Michael Bearden. For Bearden, dance and visual art are branches of the same tree: “Art and dance both have the same foundation of non-verbal communication,” he explained. “There something in all of us that has a desire to communicate in a nonverbal way. Their roots are the same: dance is the physical embodiment, visual art creates its message through the canvas.” Bearden will be presenting a gallery conversation in the temporary exhibition gallery on Saturday, October 22, at 1 p.m. , which will focus on the migration of ballet to the United States. Prior to his talk, members of the Ballet Arkansas company will perform in the Art of American Dance exhibition every 15 minutes between noon and 1 p.m.
Bearden is an Arkansas native from Searcy who received his early dance training at the Academy of Ballet Arkansas. After a single year at the University of Utah School of Dance (where he now serves as Assistant Professor in Ballet), Bearden became a member of the Ballet West company in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he performed for 14 years, six of them as a principal dancer. From 2011 to 2013 he served as Artistic Advisor for Ballet Arkansas, and became Artistic Director of the company in 2013.
Bearden has committed himself to building an audience for dance throughout Arkansas through a policy he refers to as “good art well marketed.” He has brought a wealth of choreographic talent to Arkansas by creating VISIONS, a choreography competition that receives entries from emerging choreographers around the country. Four are chosen to compete, using the Ballet Arkansas company members as their cast, in a public performance venue. The winner is selected by a panel of four judges: three professionals from the dance world…and the audience as the fourth. It has been a highly successful way of getting the community involved in the program.
“We are creating a good quality professional dance company in Arkansas, so that people who love this community can be proud as we help to make it a more beautiful place to live,” Bearden said.
Ballet Arkansas in Performance at Crystal Bridges
For their public performance at Crystal Bridges, Ballet Arkansas will be presenting eMotions, the winner of the 2015 Visions choreography competition, along with other selections from the spring season, and Under the Lights: a ballet created by Chris Stewart, a dancer for the Nashville Ballet, and adapted for Ballet Arkansas. This ballet is particularly well-suited for our region: It is danced entirely to Johnny Cash tunes.
How does one adapt classical ballet to Johnny Cash? “It’s amazing what classical ballet can do,” Bearden says. “It’s similar to when you see a gymnast or an ice-skater do a floor routine to more contemporary music: it shows some of the same sort of footwork, it’s all based in ballet.”
Come see Ballet Arkansas in action on Sunday, October 23, from 4 to 5 p.m. in Crystal Bridges’ Great Hall. Tickets are available here.