Western Arkansas Ballet dances down the yellow brick road Aprill 6-7

Western Arkansas Ballet dances down the yellow brick road Aprill 6-7

For Fort Smith’s local ballet company, there’s no place like home. So they want to put on more than just a good show with “The Wizard of Oz” this April.

“At Western Arkansas Ballet we do so much, and a lot of times for our community, they only see tutus and tiaras. We do so much more than that,” Jared Mesa, the associate artistic director of Western Arkansas Ballet, says between the company’s dance rehearsals.

“Having the word ‘ballet’ in our name plus doing many productions like ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ tends to make people think that that’s all we do,” he says. “[But] we are diverse in what we present and our dancers are very talented. We can do it all.”

Founded as the Fort Smith Civic Ballet in 1979, Western Arkansas Ballet offers classes for company and non-company members in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop and more. They also put on an annual production of “The Nutcracker” with the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea and a spring recital in addition to regular performances and a busy schedule of classes.

For their next production, company dancers will be joined by more than 70 local adults and children for “The Wizard of Oz,” its spring production. When the company transforms the ArcBest Performing Arts Center into the merry old land of Oz, the show will contain elements of WAB’s past while showcasing the talents of the present. This the second time that the WAB has presented “The Wizard of Oz,” says Mesa, so they are reusing costumes and set pieces from nearly a decade ago, including the archway to the Emerald City.

“We’ve taken really good care of those, and they were painted exquisitely,” Mesa adds. “There was a lot of work put into them that first year to never use them again!”

Overall Mesa estimates that there are about 120 parts in the ballet, so many of the dancers play more than one character in addition to the roles of Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West — allowing the dancers to show off their acting skills too.

“We work on acting. We work on pantomime.” Mesa says. “It’s really important that we’re teaching them how to be performers as well as learning how to do the dance steps.”

The music for the ballet will encourage the audience to keep their focus on the stage too.

“The majority of the songs come from old obscure ballets. ‘La Somnambule,’ ‘La Fille de Fees’ and ‘Valkyrien,’ to name a few,” Mesa explains. “I really wanted to try to find music that wasn’t too famous. Sometimes, if you pick famous music, people will think about other times they have heard that.

“I also tried to stay in the realm of songs meant for ballet. That way, the steps in our vocabulary would match the music well.”

Next up, WAB company dancers will perform Regional Dance America National Festival later this month, which will allow them to showcase some of their contemporary dance moves.

“We love to show classical ballet, but it is fun and exciting to show new and contemporary pieces,” Mesa says.

“We do wonderful pieces that are whimsical, like the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ but we also do serious contemporary pieces, and all of these things that we do are primarily for our community,” he says. “When we perform, it’s for where we live because we want them to see what our community is capable of.”


Western Arkansas Ballet:

‘The Wizard of Oz’

WHEN — 7 p.m. April 6; 2 p.m. April 7

WHERE — ArcBest Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Smith

COST — $30 for adults and $20 for children ages infant through university student with valid I.D.

INFO — waballet.org

Categories: Family Friendly