The following article is from the Massachusetts Cultural Council newsletter and highlights Amherst Ballet’s receipt of the MCC Gold Star Award.
Amherst Ballet’s performance of “Classical and More” supported in part by the Amherst Cultural Council
Last year, 45% of Local Cultural Council funds, almost $1.4 million, went toward projects that benefitted young people in school, out of school and after school. Because programming for young people is a core element of the LCC Program, this year we will be highlighting examples of successful, high-quality arts and arts-integrated education programs from around the state. The Amherst Ballet’s performance of “Classical and More” is an example of how dance can help to teach poetry, literature and music to students and members of the community.
“Classical and More” is also the recipient of a 2011 MCC Gold Star Award, which recognizes exemplary cultural programs funded by LCCs throughout the state.
The Amherst Ballet was founded in 1971 and teaches classical ballet to children and teens. Many graduates of the school go on to have professional dance careers, and others go on to college and incorporate dance into their lives in other ways. The organization has a strong educational mission and does outreach to and performances in local schools. The ballet also has a history of collaboration with other cultural organizations in the area and it prides itself in being a central part of the community. The organization attracts young people from the Amherst area and surrounding communities, and remains accessible to under-served, low-income students through its scholarship program.
In May 2010, the Amherst Ballet performed “Classical and More,” featuring excerpts from the original ballet “Emily of Amherst,” which came out of a four-year collaboration between Amherst Ballet director Catherine Fair, and director of the Emily Dickinson Museum, Jane Wald. The music was written by local composer Ted Trobaugh, and was based on the personal music library of Emily Dickinson. The ballet illuminated the unique life of Emily Dickinson, and the role that the town of Amherst played on her life and poetry. The performance was a unique blend of narrative and choreography, with Wald providing interesting facts about the poet’s life and art throughout the ballet. The ballet was well received by a wide cross section of the community, and people reported that they developed a real appreciation for Emily Dickinson as a result of the performance.
The performance also included a lecture, demonstration and concert by the Arabic musical ensemble, Layaali, which educated the audience about Arabic instruments, history, musical structure and culture. The lecture and concert by Layaali allowed local audiences to experience Arabic music, which is not often performed locally, and served to increase awareness of Arabic arts and culture. Many audience members said that they had never heard Arabic music and were unfamiliar with the musical forms and instruments prior to the lecture.
“Classical and More” was a unique blend of traditional European style ballet, local history and modern Arabic music. It appealed to the culturally diverse populations of the five-college area and the town of Amherst. It also contributed to the strengthening of existing ties between the Amherst Ballet, local public schools and the cultural organizations within the community.
© 2001-2011 Massachusetts Cultural Council .