Dance concerts April 1 showcase Conservatory of Classical Ballet, Ballet Theatre

Dance concerts April 1 showcase Conservatory of Classical Ballet, Ballet Theatre

“This is a full-circle moment for me,” says Kaley Kirkman Althausen.

Althausen returns to Northwest Arkansas to dance for the first time since 2015. After spending time with Texas Ballet Theater and and five seasons with Ballet Arkansas, the Fayetteville native moved to San Antonio with her husband, who is in the military. There she joined the San Antonio Ballet and has just wrapped her second season with the company.

The 26-year-old ballerina returns to the stage as Aurora for “Aurora’s Wedding,” presented by Northwest Arkansas Conservatory of Classical Ballet. As a student, she says that joined the conservatory in 2011 during the school’s early days when she was part of Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theater. For her final performance in Northwest Arkansas, she danced the role of Aurora.

Zeek Wright and Kaley Kirkman Althausen will dance in “Aurora’s Wedding,” from Act. III of the ballet “Sleeping Beauty” on April 1 at Arend Arts Center in Bentonville. (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s kind of neat that I get to come back and perform the same role,” she says. “I am really excited to come back and see my old teachers, but it is a little bit nerve wracking because I’ve been away.”

For the two performances on April 1, Althausen will perform with Zeek Wright, with whom she danced for Ballet Arkansas. Wright will dance the role of Prince Désiré in Act 3 of “Sleeping Beauty,” which includes both pas de deux (a dance for two) and solos as well as dances with 90 Conservatory of Classical Ballet students.

Althausen says the dances are difficult, but it’s worth the work to bring the dance to the stage.

“It’s really iconic and fun to dance, and the music is beautiful,” she adds.

As she continues in her career, Althausen offers the following advice for young dancers looking to their future: “Know your worth. Know that “perfect”technique isn’t always what makes a great dancer. Is it important to strive to be the best you can be every day? Yes, but take ‘perfection’ out of your vocabulary,” she says. “Don’t let other’s opinions shape how you see yourself. It’s OK to fail and find joy in the process of growing and learning. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and that’s what makes something beautiful to watch on stage.”

As part of the same performance, Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theatre will present a preview of its upcoming series called “Radiant.” Choreographed by artistic director Stephen Wynne and featuring four dancers from the company, it will pay tribute to composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“I grew up with his music, and I just absolutely adore how he approaches the ethereal qualities of music — the richness, the dramatics, the emotional, the actual soul-bearing and longing — that he portrays in his music,” Wynne says. “He’s always been one my favorite contemporary composers. As the new artistic director of Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theater, I wanted to share that passion with our fans.”

NWA Conservatory of Classical Ballet presents “Aurora’s Wedding,” at 2 & 7 p.m. April 1 at Arend Arts Center in Bentonville. (Courtesy Photos/Katie Cole Photography)

“Weber has a way of connecting to all of our universal longings as human beings. He just puts it out there, and we all just melt, so I just thought that would be a wonderful way to introduce myself and my direction as a choreographer.”

Wynne also sees this as an opportunity for students and parents to see the transition “from a childhood passion or childhood joy into a professional career.”

“You begin as a student with a love for movement, and you go through all those challenges of developing your technique, being a person who finds this joy or this passion or this connection to live performance and where that can go,” Wynne explains.

“Then you have the company dancers who studied dance professionally, not only in very different conservatories across the country, but also have a four-year degree in dance. So it’s a great opportunity for parents to make that bridge between ‘this is my 3-year-olds’ passion, and she loves doing it,’ [to] here are eight 30-year-olds who are doing this professionally.”

The April 1 showcase at Arend Arts Center will also feature a “Jazz Jam,” choreographed by Rebecca Cannan, who just moved here from Florida in August of 2022 after dancing and choreographing professionally for several years. She previously taught at New World School of the Arts, an arts high school and college in Miami for the last 20 years. Now she teaches at the Arkansas Arts Academy and is an occasional guest teacher at the Conservatory.

“The title of the piece is ‘Jazz Jam’ because of the music, not the style or genre of dance,” she explains. “The style of the choreography is considered modern or contemporary dance. The music is of the jazz genre. I chose this music and the style because of the energy of the music.” Cannan adds that modern dance is offered on a limited basis at the Conservatory.

“There are so many styles or types of modern dance. That’s one of the things I love most about modern or contemporary dance. It’s so wide open, it frees the choreographer to do almost anything he or she can imagine,” she says.

“In today’s professional dance world, dancers need to be versatile,” Cannan adds. “Many major ballet companies are performing modern and contemporary works as part of their repertoire. Dancers need to be able to adapt to different choreographers and styles of movement.

“The Conservatory is giving these young dancers a chance to experience this by having me choreograph a piece for them. My piece challenges the dancers to step out of their comfort zone and go beyond what they already know. I so appreciate their enthusiasm and willingness to push themselves further than I think many of them thought possible,” she adds.


FAQ – ‘Aurora’s Wedding’ And Other Selections

WHAT — A ballet featuring “Sleeping Beauty, Act 3, Aurora’s Wedding” presented by the Northwest Arkansas Conservatory of Classical Ballet; a new contemporary work choreographed by Rebecca Cannan; and a special feature ballet by Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theatre and choreographed by Artistic Director Stephen Wynne.

WHEN — 2 & 7 p.m. April 1

WHERE — Arend Arts Center in Bentonville

COST — $20


BONUS — Registration for summer 2023 programs at Northwest Arkansas Conservatory of Classical Ballet opens April 10. Registration for the 2023-24 school year will open in August. More information at

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