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From blues to ballet
One night, two cultures
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The Richmond Ballet II performs Saturday night at Martinsville High School. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, March 10, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Nobody could say there was nothing to do in Martinsville on Saturday night, whether their taste was classical dance or drums and harmonicas.

First, more than 670 people filled the Martinsville High School auditorium for a performance by the Richmond Ballet II. The evening ended with a concert by Moreland & Arbuckle, a blues/rock band from Kansas, at the Rives Theatre.

The ballet was comprised of eight professional college-age dancers from the State Ballet of Virginia. There actually are 10 members of the troupe, but two were unable to take part in the Martinsville performance, according to Barbara Parker, director of programs for Piedmont Arts, which sponsored the event.

Both classical and contemporary ballet was performed. The dances were fast and slow, serious and whimsical, graceful and carefree.

The crowd did not wait until performances ended to applaud the dancers’ special feats. Parker said dancers told her backstage that they appreciated the impromptu expressions of gratitude.

One of the performances was “Fairy Doll,” which takes place in the 19th century in a French toy shop where dolls magically come to life. The fairy, dressed in a frilly pink outfit, dances with and is chased by two male dolls dressed in white outfits with large black buttons.

The male dolls, portrayed by John Brewer of South Carolina and Richmond native Ira White, vie for the attention of the fairy, portrayed by Carrington Lorenz of Vermont. One of the males gets gloomy when the fairy seems to give him her heart, but then he opens his hand and her heart is not there.

The performance ends on a higher note, though, with the male dolls enchanted by the fairy and her dancing.

Violet Mazurek of Martinsville said the dancers were as good as any she has seen in previous ballet performances which she has attended.

Her friend, Andrew Mize of Martinsville, never had seen a ballet before. He said he would enjoy seeing more ballet in the future.

Phillip Campbell of Bassett also had never seen a ballet before Saturday’s performance. He said he was glad that Piedmont Arts is able to bring high-quality performing artists to the community.

“It’s something different here,” Campbell said, adding that it is good for children to be able to see the performing arts.

Parker said the Richmond Ballet II has traveled worldwide and recently had a London performance. But it strives to perform as much as possible in smaller-sized rural communities such as Martinsville to bring ballet to people who may not be able to easily travel to large cities to see it.

A Virginia Commission for the Arts grant enabled Piedmont Arts to bring the troupe to Martinsville, Parker said.

She added that the troupe has gained “such an unbelievable reputation” in the ballet world. She thinks it has become so popular because regardless of what styles of dance people like, they can find something to like about the Richmond Ballet II because of the variety in its performances.

Preceding the ballet was a performance by the Minds In Motion Team XXL, comprised of dancers from Henry County and Martinsville elementary and middle schools.

Parker mentioned that White, the male doll dancer, got some of his first experience in dance as a member of a Minds In Motion group in Richmond.

A smaller crowd attended the Rives Theatre concert. An informal headcount revealed about 150 people in the audience there.

Members of Moreland & Arbuckle performed songs using guitars, drums and a harmonica.

Area residents Lynn Ward and Pam Mason were among the people who attended both performances. They said they enjoy a variety of music and dance.

“I didn’t want to miss” either performance, Ward said.

“I take advantage of these opportunities (to see performing arts) when they are presented in Martinsville,” Mason said.

“I would love to see more” performances locally, she said.


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