Central Ballet Theatre of Greeneville will bring the beloved story of Cinderella to the stage Jan. 21-23 with some novel and interesting twists to the classic tale.
More than 100 local and professional dancers will bring the exciting, original ballet for all ages to the stage in the auditorium of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building on the Tusculum College campus. Four performances are scheduled: 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 21, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23.
Adapted and choreographed by Central Ballet’s Artistic Director Lori Ann Sparks, this specially created ballet is based on the familiar children’s story of a virtuous young girl who suffers hardships and injustice but endures and is miraculously rewarded for her courage and goodness.
While writing the storyline of “Cinderella,” Sparks read every version of the fairy tale she could find. Finding interesting additions helped her turn a simple character into a young woman with great depth and generosity. Some interesting twists added to the story include a tree branch collected from Cinderella’s travels that the young girl asks to plant on her mother’s grave, an injured bluebird rescued by Cinderella that turns into a fairy god-mother and a funny dragon that lead the Prince into a glade to find a kind and beautiful girl.
The ballet begins with scenes between a young Cinderella and her mother, illustrating a relationship that creates a loving environment for training a child to travel the path of goodness and kindness. Upon her mother’s death, a wise nurse servant gives Cinderella her mother’s special slippers. As the ballet progresses, Cinderella grows in character as she faces the death of her mother, the marriage of her father to a proud and arrogant new wife and life with the taskmaster and her two ugly stepsisters.
The stage is then set for the Prince to recognize her beauty inside and out as he comes upon her in a glade and watches as she cares for an injured bird and poor beggar lady. And then comes the ball, when the two get to dance together and Cinderella’s dreams come true.
The ballet will feature two new guest professional dancers, Ryan Carroll and Ashley Cunningham. Carroll, a freelance dancer from New York City, will portray the Prince. After dancing with Cuballet and with the Alabama Ballet, he went on to dance soloist and principal roles with American Repertory Ballet. Carroll was principal soloist with Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico in San Juan. As a free-lance dancer, he is a guest artist with Northwest Florida Ballet, Alabama Dance Theater, Western Ballet of Puerto Rico, New England Dance Theater and now Central Ballet Theatre of Greeneville.
Cunningham will dance the role of Cinderella’s father. Cunningham previously danced with Ruth Mitchell Dance Company, Jacksonville Ballet Theater, The Florida Ballet and Bay Ballet Theater. He is the founder of his own school, Lakeway School of Ballet and Dance, in Morristown and is also artistic director of Downtown Dance Theater.
Sparks, the company’s resident professional dancer, will be returning to the stage in the role of Cinderella’s mother. In addition to serving as artistic director, storywriter and choreographer, Sparks is the founder of Central Ballet School and Central Ballet Theatre and is the ballet mistress.
Central Ballet company dancer, Parke Brumit, will be playing the role of Mrs. Tempest, Cinderella’s wicked step-mother. Brumit majored in business administration, training in ballet technique under Sydney Warren at Virginia Intermont College. As well as dancing with the ballet, she serves as Central Ballet’s board president and has accomplished much to garner financial support from the generous donors from the community. The ballet company appreciates all who have given of their time and financial resources to make such performances as “Cinderella” possible.
Katie Sanders of Johnson comes to the production as a guest dancer. She has danced for the past two years with Mountain Movers, a modern-based dance company at East Tennessee State University. Sanders is formerly from Greeneville and trained with Central Ballet.
Talented local artists have again added their artistic touch to the production. “We are so blessed to work with Sam Lane who has painted our backdrops and Barbara Badenhope who has overseen set design and also painted the Cinderella figure on our posters,” said Blair Berry, production manager of Central Ballet. “Brian Sparks, Lori Ann’s husband, along with their son, Ben, have done a fantastic job of building several complicated sets, and we are always thankful for Frank Mengel’s (technical director and stage manager for Tusculum College Arts Outreach) technical oversight and brilliant lighting design.”
This is the eighth production for the company, and continues a tradition of performing story ballets. Sparks enjoys these types of performances “because the pieces are highly educational and fulfilling in the sense that they encompass every part of a dancer’s being - physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Dancers not only learn how to produce movement in a specific way, they learn the art of discipline, how to relate in space, and how to cooperate with others. The most important lesson is for the dancer to realize that God gives us the beautiful art of dance to glorify Him and to share His story with the community. We strive for excellence in all we do to honor Him. My goal is to see the audience and dancers alike leaving the theater uplifted and joyful from watching and participating in the ballet.”
The production of “Cinderella” is based on the verse, Isaiah 61:3: “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” The overall philosophy of Central Ballet School and Theatre is based on Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise His Name with dancing.”
Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors 60 and over. Tickets are now available for purchase at On the Verge Gallery, James-Ben Art Gallery, the Oak Tree Gallery, General Morgan Inn, Three Blind Mice and Tusculum Arts Outreach. You may also reserve your tickets by calling 423-330-2258 or 423-798-1620.
This project is funded by Arts Build Communities, a program funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and administered in cooperation with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Johnson City Area Arts Council, the Greene County Commission, and Tusculum College’s Acts, Arts, Academia.