The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

October 1, 2012

NY group to perform at ECC

Staff Writer

TARBORO — Edgecombe County residents will have a rare opportunity to see the New York Theatre Ballet perform without having to travel to a major city when the ballet comes to Edgecombe Community College’s (ECC) Keihin Auditorium for a special performance Thursday,  Oct. 18.

Admission to the ballet is free of charge, thanks to funding from the Furman-Mathewson Trust.

“It’s going to be something different,” said James Marrow, chairman of the trust’s advisory board. “We really want to fund things that are special for our community.”

“I think every community should be able to see the arts entertainment,” said Diana Byer, artistic director for the ballet. “I think the arts touch a person’s soul and that’s an important part of living.”

Byer said the audience at the ballet would get a “real taste of different styles.” Jose Limon’s “The Moor’s Pavane,” a famous telling of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” showcases a modern style of dance. “A Rugged Flourish,” the 2011 abstract telling of a “young man showing his courage and determination,” is a contemporary dance score, said Byer. “Soiree Musical” (1938) is an upbeat showcase of 19th-century dance styles.

The ballet will also give the audience a taste of Broadway musical-style dance with Agnes de Mille’s 1942 Broadway musical “Oklahoma.”

“There will be something in it for everyone,” said Anderson Ferrell, member of the De Mille working group and former dancer for the Ballet Company at New York City Opera. “It will give everybody a little example of the various kinds of serious dancing there is.”

While the audience will see plenty of pointe shoes and tutus on stage, cowboy and Indian costumes will appear in De Mille’s “Oklahoma,” said Ferrell. He said De Mille changed musical theatre with “Oklahoma” by making the dancers an essential part of the plot and making the plot “driven by character.” Born in New York City, De Mille had family in Washington, N.C., and was instrumental in founding the North Carolina School of the Arts.

As in all Broadway musicals, the dancers in the ballet will tell the audience a story through their fluidity of movement and the live music that accompanies that movement.

“The company is designed to be an intimate experience. You become very involved with the story that the dancers are telling,” said Byer.

Dancing is “the most direct and effective form of communication,” said Ferrell. “It’s all about movement and gesture.”

Second and third-grade schoolchildren will also have a chance to experience the ballet as well. The ballet will do a special performance of “Goose,” an original dance score incorporating various nursery rhymes, on Oct. 19 at 10 a.m.

Byer said she thinks the children will learn a lot from watching the choreographically sophisticated portrayals of nursery rhymes such as “Little Miss Muffet,” “Jack and Jill,” and Three Blind Mice.”  She stressed the importance of children getting involved in the arts at a young age.

“It opens up your mind. It makes you inquisitive,” she said.

The ballet will have question and answer sessions at the end of each performance to give the community a chance to get to know them.  She said she feels that the ballet will have a chance to become a part of the Tarboro community during their short visit.

“We’re really excited about how generous everyone in the community is being to us,” said Byer. “This is the first time in 30 years the community is hosting us. We’re staying in different people’s homes.”

Members of the trust are among those hosting members of the ballet. Since its creation in 1990, the trust has funded primarily “performance and literary-oriented events” of such high-caliber that they would normally only come to major cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh, said Marrow. Other cultural events the trust has funded over the years are a performance by B.B. King, appearances by poet Maya Angelou and writer Nicholas Sparks, and a concert featuring the East Carolina Symphony Orchestra. The Trust will have the orchestra back at ECC in the spring of 2013.

The trust works closely with the production staff at ECC to bring the special cultural events to Tarboro. Like all the events the trust underwrites, the upcoming ballet performance will be “top quality,” said Marrow.

“We’re very grateful to the Trust for underwriting this,” said Ferrell. “I think this is something that will be very interesting and entertaining for the people of Tarboro.”

To reserve tickets to the New York Theatre Ballet performance, call the box office at 823-5166, ext. 187. The Oct. 18 show starts at 7 p.m.