When you're an emerging choreographer, nothing's better than free space, beautiful dancers, exposure to artistic directors and a chance to showcase your work. From now until December 15, Ballet Arkansas is accepting applications for its Visions Winter 2017 Choreographic Competition. The competition, which will be held on March 3, gives dancemakers five days to choreograph on Ballet Arkansas dancers, culminating in a public performance in front of a panel of judges (which includes Kansas City Ballet artistic director Devon Carney). The winner receives a contract to produce their completed work at a Ballet Arkansas main stage performance. Chosen applicants must be available for rehearsals February 25-March 3 and will receive a travel stipend during their stay.

Members of Ballet Arkansas in a piece by 2016 Visions Choreographic Competition winner Jimmy Orrante. Photo by Cranford Co, Courtesy Ballet Arkansas.

Visions, now in its third year, has expanded into a semi-annual event, with its winter competition held at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville and its summer competition held in Little Rock. (Applicants not selected for the event on March 3 will be automatically added to the summer applicant pool.) It's just one of several signs of growth for Ballet Arkansas since coming under the helm of artistic director Michael Bearden in 2013. In addition to adding resident choreographer Kiyon Gaines to the roster, the company has expanded its touring, increased its board membership and acquired new rehearsal space in downtown Little Rock. For more information on how to apply, click here.

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When former Ballet West principal Michael Beardon took over Ballet Arkansas in 2013, he wanted to find ways to connect the small, 13-member company to the greater dance world and help its young artists develop. “The more interaction they have with knowledgeable and talented choreographers, the faster they’re going to grow,” says Beardon. To do so, he initiated Visions: A Choreographic Competition, an event that also aims to nurture emerging dancemakers and educate audiences. Next week, the second annual Visions competition is set to hit Little Rock’s Center for Performing Arts University Theatre, showcasing the works of five choreographers in an interactive, “So You Think You Can Dance”-style setup.

 

This year’s competitors were selected from 31 candidates, and include Boston Ballet corps member Boyko Dossev, former Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Barry Kerollis, former Ballet West principal and Visceral Dance Chicago dancer Tom Mattingly, Post:Ballet’s Aidan DeYoung and former Houston Ballet soloist Ilya Kozadayev. The choreographers have one week to create a 4–6 minute selection on Ballet Arkansas dancers before a public performance on August 22. A panel of three judges, headlined by Hubbard Street Dance artistic director Glenn Edgarton, will evaluate each work, with the winner receiving a commission to complete their new ballet for the company’s spring program in May 2016.

 

Beardon set up the performance much like an episode of SYTYCD: A short video shot during the rehearsal process introduces the featured choreographer, followed by a performance of his work. Immediately afterward, the finalist takes the stage, where the judges provide live feedback. “The competitors get input on how to make their craft better, but it also educates our audience about what makes good dance,” says Beardon. Each judge receives 25 percent of the vote, but the audience collectively determines the last 25 percent. “They can definitely influence the outcome,” says Beardon, who admits the process also helps him crowd source what his community responds to. “I love to know what they like, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past.” Seems like a smart way to build a devoted audience. For tickets and more information, click here.

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