Volunteer Ballet Company Performs for Children

Volunteer Ballet Company Performs for Children
By Terrah Baker
There’s something magical about a group of children watching professional dancers in multi-colored ballet dresses, tiaras and fairy wings, move gracefully in front of them while enchanting music plays. One of the founding members of The Pineapple Tree Dance Company said she saw that magic when she performed for over 200 children at a literacy event at Crystal Bridges during The Fairy-Tale Ball in spring 2013.

Pictured left to right: Anna Buck, Sierra Wagner, Cece Benson, Yuriko Roby*, Erin Basnett, Grace Dyer, Tessa Cockrell. (Sitting) Mary Trulock, Lindsey Strok*, Sally Ashcraft. *Guest Artists from the Northwest Arkansas Ballet

While a small orchestra played parts of familiar songs like the Blue Danube, the “real-life fairies” in ballet slippers moved in unison in soft, gentle movements forming lines, shapes and art with their well-trained bodies.

Once this performance was complete, local dancer Sally Ashcroft and friends didn’t want the magic to stop. They began discussing the possibility of a nonprofit dance company that performed for children and those who may not otherwise be exposed to the arts.

“We wanted to work with artists that really wanted to do things with the community, and work with artists that have an interest in collaborating in a positive environment,” Ashcroft said. “We feel like we’ll produce the best thing for the community if all of our hearts and minds are aligned.”

Their first move was to bring in Mary Trulock, a well-known and trained choreographer, recognized by the Arkansas Arts Council and winner of the Governor’s Arts Award for dancing. They brought in more talented choreographers, like Karen Castlemen who teaches dance in NWA, and Roselyn Cicerone who owned the Fayetteville Dance Center since 1991.

Then it was time to recruit the dancers. They invited 16 to join, and they all accepted. Together, Ashcroft said they have over 60 years of experience, and are all willing to donate their time for the cause.

“Everybody we invited we knew we wanted to work with. Since then we’ve invited a few more dancers … It’s great to see so many people willing to volunteer their time,” she said.

Once the group was formed, they looked to familiar area agencies that assist women and children for their first audiences.

“We knew the (EOA) Children’s House had a need for events there. We identified that as something we wanted to put together this year,” Ashcroft explained.

And they did. On Feb. 19, The Pineapple Tree Dance Company will hold a performance and interactive art project for children at EOA Children’s House in Springdale.

The children will hear the story of “Hey Chicken Little …. The Sky Begins at Your Feet!” The dancers will perform the ballet number to the song “Child’s Play,” by Govi, in bright, colorful dance dresses. Once the dance ends, music will play while children are encouraged to dance with the company, followed by a craft they can take home.

But this is just the beginning of their fairy-tale ballet story. On March 28 and 29, they will hold their first concert, set to be annual, at the Starr Theater at the Walton Arts Center, and are giving away all of the tickets for one night’s show — a whole house of people watching ballet who may not have had the chance otherwise. Nonprofits given tickets to the event will include the Girl Scouts, Peace at Home Family Shelter, EOA Children’s House and NWA Women’s Shelter.

Why is spreading ballet and art so important to Ashcroft and the slew of talented, professional dancers and choreographers she’s gathered together?

“Especially for children, exposure to the arts helps overall with their educational development. Children who are involved with arts do better in their academic pursuits. There are so many skills that help them with life. They learn discipline and how to work on a thing and how you have to go about life to succeed. It’s success training,” Ashcroft said.

To learn more about the company, purchase tickets to their upcoming performance and to watch an amazing video of the group dancing in the studio of the Fayetteville Dance Center, visit their website at www.pineappletreedancecompany.org.


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