Performing on a New York stage is the ultimate dream for most dancers, and one that several UALR students are hoping to see come to fruition this summer, thanks to professor Stephanie Thibeault.
Thibeault received a research grant from UALR to choreograph and direct a project, which is how her five-piece work, “State of Being,” began. From there, she determined that her dancers would benefit from taking the show on the road, gaining exposure to the larger dance world, which required raising separate funds for travel and lodging.
As the recipient of an Arkansas Arts Council fellowship, Thibeault was able to promote her work on USA Projects to raise a portion of the travel funds – enough to get a dance troupe of 10 to Baltimore for a performance at Theatre Project in June. Now the group is looking to raise an additional $6,000 for a New York leg to the tour.
“Being in a major metropolitan area with a strong dance community is vital for any dancer,” Thibeault said. “That’s why at the heart of this project is the touring itself.”
There is also a need for validation, Thibeault said, emphasizing that touring in larger cities would “help dancers understand that what they’re doing and what they’re getting [in Arkansas] is on par with other parts of the world.”
A Jonesboro native, Thibeault danced in New York and the D.C. area before becoming a “nomadic” dance professor, returning to her home state to help create Arkansas’s only Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance.
“I wasn’t looking to move at the time, but Little Rock is two hours from my hometown, and the prospect of developing a stellar B.F.A. dance program in my home state was irresistible” she said.
Her project, “State of Being,” brings together 10 dancers, at least six of them with the UALR dance program. They are all busy raising funds for the trip, doing everything from selling sweets for Valentine’s Day to offering aerial silks workshops at an area gym.
“We are grassroots about the whole project fundraising thing,” Thibeault said. “This way, dancers won’t have to pay for their meals while we are on tour for 13-14 days.”
The UALR dancers are Olivia Perry, Elizabeth Hartzell, Rachel Powell, Emily Karnes, and Danny Jimenez. UALR alum Sean Porter, who is a dancer with Ballet Arkansas, will also be in the company, along with Arkansas native Kris Waltermire who recently returned home after dancing in New York, among other places. The two final positions have yet to be filled.
Thibeault said the trip will begin in June, with three weeks of intense rehearsals leading up to that. The company will be performing two new works by Thibeault as well as three to five other pieces by her, all of which explore what it means to “be” – whether something, somewhere, or someone.
While in New York and Baltimore, the 10 dancers will also take classes at various studios, honing their craft and receiving instruction from the best in the business.
Donations are welcomed. For more information or to make a private gift to help fund the tour, go to www.teebodans.org.